Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Beatriz Trejo leads local group advocating for injured workers

May 11, 2016 | 8:15 am


The California Applicants’ Attorneys Association is “the most powerful, and most knowledgeable legal voice for the injured workers of California,” serving the state’s injured workers since 1966, according to the organization’s website.

And in Kern County, Chain | Cohn | Stiles workers’ compensation* attorney Beatriz Trejo is leading the local Bakersfield chapter as California Applicants’ Attorneys Association president. She also serves on Women’s Caucus, Latino Caucus, and Emerging Leaders Committees, which makes a statewide impact through legal education and legislative advocacy.

“As the local president, I focus my efforts on educating and uniting the workers’ compensation community towards efficient and positive resolution of cases for the benefit of the injured employee,” said lawyer Beatriz Trejo.

Trejo has practiced in front of the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board since 2012. As a former defense attorney, Trejo is familiar with the inner workings of insurance companies, insurance carriers, and self-insured employers — all which benefit her clients now in fighting their cases.

Even more, Trejo is fluent in Spanish and can community with ease with Kern County’s large Latino population. She earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from Cal State Bakersfield and her master’s degree in political science from Cal State Northridge. She earned her law degree from the University of Akron School of Law in Ohio.

The Bakersfield chapter of CAAA, led by Trejo, has held several seminars and workshops to benefit attorneys who represent injured workers including, “Dahl and Vocational Evaluations: How to get the most out of your vocational evaluations” at Wool Growers Restaurant in Bakersfield. Those sessions are approved for Minimum Continuing Legal Education credit in the workers’ compensation legal specialization. (That workshop was made possible by a sponsorship from Gemini Legal)

CAAA has been built with the support of its members who recognized the necessity of an active voice for injured workers. The organization is instrumental in providing California injured workers the opportunity for fair workers’ compensation benefits and re-entry into the community as a productive citizen.

“The support of CAAA’s members help to provide the optimum ability for CAAA to continue its distinguished tradition,” according to the group. 

Recently, Beatriz Trejo took part in the filming of a video intended to communicate the commitment of Chain | Cohn | Stiles to serve injured workers in Kern County, including those working in agriculture and in the fields of Kern County. You can watch the videos (in English and Spanish) here:

For more on Trejo, and Chain | Cohn | Stiles workers’ compensation services, visit the law firm’s specialized site, bakersfieldwclawyers.com.

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*NOTICE: Making a false or fraudulent Workers’ Compensation claim is a felony subject to up to 5 years in a prison or a fine of up to $150,000 or double the values of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

SAFETY TIPS: A spooky time of year for pedestrians, motorists

October 28, 2015 | 3:21 pm


With Halloween here, it’s a spooky time of year. For an enjoyable and safe Halloween, it’s important to be aware of all the dangers surrounding the holiday. And perhaps the No. 1 safety concern for trick-or-treaters is traffic.

It’s difficult for drivers to see children in dark costumes, and young ghouls and goblins can also have their own vision obscured by masks.

Plus, drinking and increased pedestrian traffic on Halloween night has historically been a dangerous combination, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. For example, on Halloween night in 2012, 54 people were killed and nearly half of those deaths involved a crash with a drunk driver. That compares to about one-third on an average day. And about 28 of Halloween crash fatalities were pedestrians, compared to 14 percent on an average day. In a five-year span to 2012, 21 percent of pedestrian fatalities on Halloween night involved a drunk driver.

In all cases, it’s important for children and adults to be extra cautious while out and about on Halloween night. Chain | Cohn | Stiles reminds you to stay safe, and be sure to follow the following tips:

MOTORISTS

  • Use caution while behind the wheel:
    • Slow down and be alert in residential areas.
    • Enter and exit driveways and alleys carefully.
    • And eliminate distractions so you can concentrate on the road and your surroundings.
  • Drive sober or get pulled over:
    • Always designate a sober driver and plan a way to safely get home at the end of the night if you plan on celebrating Halloween with alcohol. Use your community’s sober ride program or take a taxi, call a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation.
    • If you see a drunk driver on the road, contact local law enforcement. And if you know someone who is about to drive or ride while impaired, take their keys and help them make safe travel arrangements to where they are going.

PEDESTRIANS

  • Make sure everyone in your foot traffic party is walking safely and using sidewalks whenever possible. Look both ways to cross the street, and be extra aware of cars parking on the street or backing out of driveways.
  • Walking impaired can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. Designate a sober friend to walk you home.
  • Help keep kids safe:
    • Children out at night should have adult supervision.
    • Kids should stick to familiar areas that are well lit and trick-or-treat in groups.
    • Choose face paint when possible instead of masks, which can obstruct a child’s vision.
    • Decorate costumes with reflective tape and have kids carry glow sticks or flashlights.
    • And always cross the street at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks, and look left, right and left again when crossing and keep looking as you cross.

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If you or someone you know is injured in a pedestrian or car accident, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at 661-323-4000, or visit the law firm’s website at chainlaw.com.

Tips: Celebrate with safety this Cinco de Mayo

May 5, 2014 | 9:30 am


Bakersfield is rich with culture, especially within our Hispanic community. This Cinco de Mayo (May 5) will undoubtedly bring celebration citywide.

It’s important, however, to keep safety in mind today whether you are celebrating around town, or are traveling through local streets during this holiday. The popularity of Cinco de Mayo celebrations, especially among young people, has brought about some problems — alcohol-involved crashes.

Bakersfield Police Department and other local law enforcement has traditionally bumped up enforcement around this holiday.

In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives some sobering stats:

  • From 2008 to 2012, 233 people were killed in drunken driving crashes on Cinco de Mayo. 
  • In 2012, almost half (45 percent) of all traffic crash deaths on Cinco de Mayo involved drunk driving.

To increase your chances of enjoying a safe Cinco de Mayo celebration, the safety administration recommends that you plan ahead, and:

  • Designate your sober driver before the festivities begin.
  • If you’ve been drinking, call a friend or taxi, or use public transportation to get home.
  • Contact your local police if you see a drunk driver on the road. 
  • If you know people who are about to drive or ride while impaired, take their keys and help them find a safe ride home.

As the statistics show, DUI crashes and incidents are still bound to happen. The Bakersfield accident lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles also have some tips in the unfortunate case you are the victim in an accident.

The attorneys at CCS are passionate about keeping our streets as safe as possible. In fact, the law firm has partnered with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Kern County in the first Bakersfield “Walk (Run) Like MADD” fundraiser, which will be held this September.

Below are several “Frequently Asked Questions” and answers from the Bakersfield law firm’s website related to DUI accidents, and what you should do if you are ever a victim. And remember, if you are ever involved in an accident, call the firm at 661-323-4000.

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Does the law differentiate between people who are killed or seriously injured by drunk drivers as opposed to people who are injured or killed by people driving under the influence of street drugs or prescription drugs?

No. The law makes no distinction between driving under the influence of alcohol, street drugs or prescription drugs. That is why the term “DUI,” which means “driving under the influence” is used to describe the crime rather than “drunk driving.”

Who can sue in a DUI case?

Any person who is injured by the wrongful conduct of a person driving under the influence, or the survivors of someone who was killed by a defendant who was driving under the influence, can bring a lawsuit against the defendant driver and any other person or entity who was responsible for the accident.

Is it easier to prove a drunk driving case than a case in which a person is driving under the influence of drugs?

Yes. The relationship between a high blood alcohol level and driver impairment is well known and well established. The same relationship between prescription and street drugs has been far less studied and is not within the common knowledge of most drivers and jurors. Thus, drunk driving cases are easier to prove.

What if the person who injured me was found to be driving under the influence, but I feel like I also was probably at fault. Can I bring a lawsuit?

Yes. California is a comparative negligence State. This means that you can sue any responsible party even if you are partially at fault in the accident. However, your damage award will be reduced by the percentage of your own negligence.

How impaired must a defendant be for there to be a presumption under the law that the defendant was negligent?

A defendant will be presumed to be negligent for causing an accident if you can establish that the driver’s physical or mental abilities were so impaired by the drug or alcohol use that they could not drive with the caution or ability of a person of ordinary prudence and skill in similar circumstances. Thus, a person can have a few drinks or drive under the influence of prescription drugs without being presumed to be negligent.

Will expert testimony be necessary for me to establish that the other driver was under the influence?

Probably. Usually a toxicologist will have to be called at trial to establish the level of alcohol and/or drugs in a person’s body. In addition, a human factors expert may be necessary to testify to the relationship between the blood alcohol or drug level and driver impairment

What damages can I recover in a wrongful death or serious Drunk Driving Accidents case stemming from the negligence of a defendant who was driving under the influence?

The injured person is entitled to recover damages for past and future medical treatment, past and future wage loss, damages for pain, suffering, and emotional distress. Further, plaintiff may be able to recover punitive damages. If the injured person dies, his or her survivors are entitled to recover full compensation for their economic losses that result from the injured person’s death, as well as monetary damages which stem from the loss of society, care, and comfort of the decedent.

What do I need to establish to prove punitive damages in a case in which the defendant was driving under the influence?

First of all, punitive damages are not recoverable in California in any wrongful death case. If your loved one has died, you can only claim punitive damages if they survived for at least a few moments after the collision that killed them. To recover punitive damages in an injury or a “survivor” action against a person who was driving under the influence, you must prove that:

  • That the defendant voluntarily drank or took drugs to the point of intoxication/impairment before they knew that they would be driving;
  • That the defendant was convicted of a felony under Civil Code Section 3245(d).
  • They were aware of the probable dangerous consequences of their conduct; and,
  • They willfully and deliberately failed to avoid those consequences.

Special settlement considerations in drunk driving cases?

Whether or not an insurance company wants to admit it, the jurors’ focus in a case in which the defendant was driving under the influence will be on the reprehensibility of the defendant’s conduct more than it will be on the extent of a plaintiff’s damages. Thus, a plaintiff should never settle a case against a person who was driving under the influence for the same amount of money that they would settle any other case. The case will always be worth more money than a typical Drunk Driving Accidents or wrongful death case, and may be worth many more times the usual value of the case, depending upon the seriousness of defendant’s misconduct.

Do I need an attorney to pursue my case against a defendant who was driving under the influence?

Yes. You will need an attorney to help you establish the degree of impairment of the defendant. Further, a skilled attorney will understand that you will receive all of the benefit of the doubt that you will need in a case against a person driving under the influence and will prepare the damage part of your case accordingly. This will help you achieve a larger settlement or verdict than you would be able to achieve on your own.