‘Look Twice And Save A Life’. Sharing The Road Is Vital For Motorcycle Safety

May 19, 2021 | 6:00 am


Preliminary state data shows that more than 500 people were killed in motorcycle-involved crashes in 2020, and more than 11,500 people were injured in California, according to the CHP’s Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System.

In all, California has more than 1.4 million licensed motorcycle riders, and Kern County riders certainly make up a large percentage. So, with May being Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, Chain | Cohn | Stiles reminds us all to make sure motorcyclists and drivers stay safe on the road, by sharing the road.

“Motorcyclists are some of the most vulnerable people on our roadways, which is why it’s vital for us all to be mindful of all riders, as we are drivers,” said Matt Clark, senior partner at accident attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “For drivers, taking the time to look twice for motorcyclists can save a life.”

Accidents involving motorcycles account for nearly 15 percent of all traffic fatalities in the United States, but motorcyclists make up just 3 percent of all registered vehicles, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

One way to make sure motorcyclists stay fresh on riding safety is to enroll in the California Motorcyclist Safety Program, which trains about 55,000 motorcyclists each year. To find a training site near you, visit motorcyclesafetyca.com.

To help drivers and motorcyclists alike on the road, here are some tips to prevent motorcycle-related collisions.

DRIVERS

  • Always us a turn signal when changing lanes or merging with traffic.
  • If you see a motorcycle with a signal on, be careful. Motorcycle signals are often non-canceling and could have been forgotten. Always ensure that the motorcycle is turning before proceeding.
  • Stay alert. Check all mirrors and blind spots for motorcycles before changing lanes or merging with traffic.
  • Follow at a safe distance when behind a motorcycle. This gives them more time to maneuver or stop in an emergency.
  • Never drive distracted or impaired.
  • Motorcyclists can increase their safety by following these steps:

MOTORCYCLISTS

  • Wear a DOT-compliant helmet and other protective gear.
  • Ride safely when lane sharing and always proceed at safe speeds.
  • Get properly licensed, and obey all traffic laws.
  • Use turn signals at every lane change or turn.
  • Wear brightly colored clothes and reflective tape to increase visibility.
  • Ride safely when lane sharing and always proceed at safe speeds.
  • Never ride distracted or impaired.

 

MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT Q&As

In times of tragedy, clients often have a number of questions regarding their case. To better accommodate our clients’ needs, we have compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions and answers for many of the practice areas that the firm specializes in, including motorcycle accidents. Here are a few of the questions and answers:

Is an investigation of my motorcycle accident case important?

It is critical. Since there is almost a presumption in the general public that motorcyclists assume the risk for their own injuries and they are usually at fault for causing accidents, it is essential that a quick and thorough investigation is performed to establish fault on other responsible people or entities and to establish that the motorcyclist did little or nothing to contribute to the accident.

Investigation should consist of an examination of the scene, an examination of the instrumentalities that were involved in the accident, obtaining statements from witnesses and obtaining the reports from investigating agencies. Of prime importance is maintaining the motorcycle and helmet in the exact condition they were in at the moment when the motorcyclist came to rest after an accident.

How long do I have after my accident to file my motorcycle injury case?

A motorcycle accident or wrongful death action, under California law, must be brought within two years of the date of the accident.

In cases against public entities, a claim must be filed against the public entity within six months from the date of the accident. If the plaintiff is a minor, a minor has until their 19th birthday to bring a case unless there is a government claim in which a minor should bring the claim within six months of the accident, or one year at the latest.

Is it important to retain an attorney for my motorcycle accident case?

Yes, if the motorcycle accident has resulted in a serious injury or death. Without an attorney, there will always be an assumption that the motorcyclist was at fault and evidence will be gathered by the other side to support that contention. You need to hire an attorney to perform investigation and retain the right experts to prove your case and your injuries. Further, through the litigation, an attorney will be able to cross-examine witnesses against you and hopefully turn their testimony to your favor.

 

KERN COUNTY CASES

The attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles have successfully represented people who have been seriously injured in motorcycle accidents. In fact, we have obtained more multi-million dollar personal injury case results on behalf of our clients than any other law firm in Kern County.

In one recent case, the defendant entered the roadway and did not allow enough room for the plaintiff on a motorcycle to enter with traffic approaching, causing him to be hit by crane. The plaintiff in that case lost his right leg, and Chain | Cohn | Stiles helped resolve the lawsuit for $10 million.

In another case, the plaintiff was riding a motorcycle when the defendant in a truck that was parked on the side of the road pulled out in front of the motorcyclist. The crash caused the plaintiff to be thrown 50 yards down the road, and suffered severe injuries. That case resolved for $4.5 million.

And on July 14, 2015, Larry Maharrey was driving his motorcycle eastbound on Norris Road, when a Kern County Sheriff’s deputy abruptly made a left turn against a red light onto Airport Drive directly into Maharrey’s path. Maharrey was unable to avoid the collision with the deputy’s patrol vehicle, and died as a result of the crash. The deputy violated KCSO policies and procedures by failing to pre-clear the intersection before turning left against a red light. Chain | Cohn | Stiles filed a wrongful death claim against the County of Kern on behalf of Maharrey’s wife, Paula, and other family members. A settlement was reached in April 2018 for $3.8 million.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.

Distracted driving injures 400,000 people and kills 4,000 each year. Here’s how to avoid driving distracted, and save lives.

April 7, 2021 | 12:21 pm


We all know to buckle up when we get behind the wheel of a vehicle, because we know seat belts save lives. But did you know another step could save thousands of more lives?

Chain | Cohn | Stiles is joining law enforcement and safety officials in asking drivers to give it a rest — your phone, that is. Stashing away your phone while driving can help you avoid distractions, and avoid crashes.

In fact, each year more than 400,000 people are injured and more than 3,000 people are killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers, making up nearly 10% of all fatal crashes, according to the latest figures from The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In California, nearly 20,000 crashes took place that involved distracted driving, which resulted in more than 100 deaths and 13,500 injuries, according to CHP.

Distracted driving is anything that takes your eyes off the road. This includes adjusting mirrors, eating or drinking, using the audio or multimedia system, and adjusting the heating and cooling systems in a car.

But phones, by far, are the biggest distractions.

“Any distraction can cause a crash. We strongly urge drivers to focus on what’s most important, and that’s the road in front of them,” said David Cohn, managing partner and car accident attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “When you are driving, give the phone a rest. Together, we can save lives and eliminate this dangerous behavior on our roadways.”

 

IT’S THE LAW

Law enforcement officials this month specifically are hoping to raise awareness and increase enforcement of distracted driving violations. CHP is teaming up with the California Office of Traffic Safety and “Impact Teen Drivers” for Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

A new law that will take effect in July 2021 in California, violating the hands-free law for a second time within 36 months of a prior conviction for the same offense will result in a point being added to a driver’s record. This applies to the violations of talking or texting while driving (except for hands-free use). Drivers under 18 are not allowed to use a phone for any reason, including hands-free.

A 2020 California public opinion survey found that more than 75% of surveyed drivers listed “distracted driving because of texting” as their biggest safety concern.

CHP will conduct several distracted driving enforcement operations through September 30. Funding for distracted driving enforcement operations are provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

 

HOW TO AVOID DISTRACTED DRIVING

Did you know the time it would take to write a text going 55 miles per hour, you travel about the length of a football field? Texting also increases the risk of a crash 23 times, according to Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. Scary, right?

Here are a few ways to avoid distractions while driving:

  • Place your mobile device out of sight to prevent temptation, perhaps in the trunk, glove box, or back seat.
  • If using a navigation system, program the destination before driving.
  • If you must call or text while on the road, pull off the road safely and stop first.
  • Do not eat, drink or smoke while driving.
  • If riding with someone, seek their help to navigate, make a call or send a message.
  • Be a good passenger. Speak out if the driver of your vehicle is distracted.
  • Don’t be a distraction. Avoid calling or texting others when you know they are driving.
  • Activate “Do Not Disturb.” Setting up this feature on iPhone or Android device will prevent calls from coming in while you’re driving.
  • Just as drivers need to pay attention, so do pedestrians and bicyclists. Never call, text or play games while walking or cycling.
  • Properly secure your kids or pets. Make sure everyone is properly buckled in and retrained.
  • Avoid grooming, reading and applying makeup while driving.
  • Drowsy driving is distracted driving, so never drive when you’re too tired.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.

Holiday giving tips during this pandemic year of need

December 16, 2020 | 5:00 am


The holidays are a time for giving, and it’s needed now more than ever.

Traditionally, about one-third of all charitable giving is done in the last three months of the year, and of those donations, nearly 20 percent are given in December alone. But the end of this long, difficult year has seen millions of Americans unemployed and struggling to get food on the table. For those who are able, you may feel moved to be extra generous this holiday season.

For the Bakersfield-based injury and accident law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, the law firm, its attorneys and staff supported dozens of worthy causes, nonprofits and charitable organizations throughout Kern County during the year.

“Kern County is the home of our law firm, but it is also the home of our clients, friends, and families,” said managing partner David Cohn. “It’s important we all come together to help our neighbors, especially during this pandemic year.”

As we enter the holidays and near the New Year, Chain | Cohn | Stiles would like to recommend local causes and nonprofits you may consider supporting, as well as provide some giving tips, courtesy of Charity Navigator, at the bottom of this article. For a full list of causes supported by the law firm, visit our “Community” page at chainlaw.com.

  • The Hub of Bakersfield: The local nonprofit is committed to redefining and revitalizing Bakersfield’s urban core through various programs, events, and projects. As part of the nonprofit, the new Bakersfield Innovation Lab is a 10-month program where a select group of participants, who are passionate about the place they call home, come together to develop an impactful project to make the greater downtown Bakersfield area a more desirable place to live, work and be for all. Why is this relevant for Chain | Cohn | Stiles? Well, associate attorney Tanya Alsheikh was part of the inaugural Innovation Lab class, and marketing director Jorge Barrientos is a program facilitator and a member of the board of directors for The Hub! Not to mention, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has called downtown Bakersfield home for 85 years, so this is an important program. Learn more about Hub of Bakersfield and the Innovation Lab at thehubofbakersfield.org.
  • Bakersfield Museum of Art: Year-round, Chain | Cohn | Stiles supports the local art museum and its educational programs.
  • Bike Bakersfield: This nonprofit is a local bicycle advocacy coalition providing family friendly bike rides, bicycle safety education, and bike repair. In particular, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has partnered with Bike Bakersfield as part of its mission to reduce the number of accidents in our community, giving away hundreds of free bicycle lights and safety helmets throughout Kern County through “Project Light Up The Night”.
  • Bakersfield Homeless Center: Efforts by City of Bakersfield and Kern County to tackle the issue homelessness are underway. To help, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has donated $10,000 to the Bakersfield Homeless Center’s job skills training program and street cleaning team. The program helps homeless center residents move forward with their lives while making a difference in our community. The program is designed to be a transitional program, where participants gain real-world skills, build confidence, and develop experience to find long-term employment.
  • MADD Kern County: Since 2009, our community has seen at least 4,000 DUI arrests made each year, with nearly 4,400 DUI arrests in 2018, according to the Kern County District Attorney’s Office. That’s 12 DUI arrests per day. For the rate of DUI-related fatal collisions per 100,000 people, Kern County ranks highest in the state and second highest in the nation. Each year in Kern County, dozens of innocent lives are lost – plus hundreds more injured and thousands of friends and families affected – from this 100 percent preventable crime. We can all play a part to help make sure our streets are safe. Chain | Cohn | Stiles for many years has partnered with MADD Kern County to combat DUI crashes. Attorney Matt Clark sits on the MADD Kern County Advisory Board, regularly speaks to DUI offenders during the MADD Victim Impact Panels, and is the recent recipient of the “Pursuit of Justice” Award by MADD Southern California. Law firm marketing director Jorge Barrientos is the planning committee chairman for the annual “Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash“, in which the firm is presenting sponsor.
  • Valley Fever: California experiences more than 2,000 new cases of Valley Fever each year, and most were reported in the southern Central Valley regions of Kern, Tulare, Kings, Fresno, Madera, and Merced counties. Chain | Cohn | Stiles along with California health officials warn people about Valley Fever year-round.
  • Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce: The law firm sponsors several Hispanic chamber events throughout the year, which support local businesses, bring cultural awareness, and raise funds for scholarships, among other things.
  • California Highway Patrol CHiPs for Tips: The fundraiser supports the California Association of Highway Patrolmen Widows and Orphans Trust Fund, which goes toward to families when a loved one is killed in or off the line of duty.
  • CSU Bakersfield Alumni Association: The association’s annual event raises funds for alumni scholarships, membership outreach, and mentoring opportunities for current CSUB students. Attorneys Beatriz Trejo and Chad Boyles are alumni of CSUB, and Boyles is a member of the alumni association’s board of directors.

 

Giving Tips

  • Before you give to any charity, examine the charity’s finances. Make sure the group is a financially healthy organization, sustainable, accountable and transparent. Look for signs of effectiveness. The charity’s ability to bring about meaningful change is the key reason for their existence and for your donation. These websites will help you check on your charity:
  • Give to an organization that matches your beliefs and goals. There is a charity out there that matches your intentions. Take the time to find it and confirm it offers the programs and services that match your charitable interests.
  • Take the time to research your charity so that you can trust them, and then give an unrestricted gift so the charity has the flexibility to respond to changing demands for its services and to spend the money where it is most needed to continue their day-to-day good work. Don’t put strings on your gift.
  • If you gave earlier in the year to an organization helping in a disaster, go back to that organization and give more. Much of the need from any disaster comes later, during the recovery period.
  • Giving before the year’s end can get you a tax break. Check with your tax planner to see if you’ll benefit. This year, as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, taxpayers who take the standard deduction are allowed an additional deduction of up to $300 for charitable donations made in cash.

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Chain | Cohn | Stiles resolves Nancy Garrett wrongful death case, the last in a series of fatal crashes involving Kern County Sheriff’s personnel

July 8, 2020 | 6:00 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles has resolved a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the family of 72-year-old Nancy Joyce Garrett, who was killed when a Kern County Sheriff’s Office deputy struck and killed her in September 2014 while in his patrol car.

The family settled the lawsuit against the County of Kern for $2.5 million. The resolution of this case represents the culmination of nearly a decade of work representing not only the family of Nancy Garrett, but the families of Daniel Hiler, Larry Maharrey and others who have been killed in crashes involving Kern County Sheriff’s Office personnel

“This case resulted in five years of protracted litigation in federal court,” Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Matt Clark told The Bakersfield Californian. “We are pleased with the outcome especially in light of the fact that the civil rights components of the case were fought at every turn … This case is an example of how the wheels of justice do in fact grind slowly. We appreciate that we had patient clients who believed in the civil rights aspects of the case to see if through to the end.”

For full media coverage of the case, see the listing below.

 

THE CRASH

The crash occurred on Sept. 28, 2014, at the intersection of North Chester Avenue and China Grade Loop in Oildale. The California Highway Patrol’s Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team (MAIT) report found that Deputy Nicholas Clerico was at fault when he ran a red light at 85 mph and crashed into Garrett’s vehicle, on her driver’s side. She died from multiple blunt force trauma injuries.

“A reasonable person would have known that entering an intersection against a red traffic signal, at 85 mph, and without giving adequate warning to approaching traffic would create a danger to human life,” the CHP report stated.

The CHP report recommended that a vehicular manslaughter charge be filed against the deputy, and in 2017, he pleaded no contest to the charge and was sentenced to 240 hours of community service. He was no longer with the KCSO by the time he accepted the plea agreement.

Nancy was a friendly neighbor, a caregiver for our community, an active blogger, and the pillar of her family. She was a drug and alcohol counselor for the Kern County Mental Health Department, and also volunteered her time as a substance abuse counselor for STEPS, a local nonprofit that provides DUI awareness services. At the time of the crash, she was returning home from a Los Angeles Dodgers baseball game she attended with her family and friends.

The lawsuit, filed in 2015 on behalf of Garrett’s adult children, Mark McGowan and Deborah Blanco, asked for monetary damages as well as changes within the sheriff’s department in how deputies were trained.

 

KCSO DRIVING

In the lawsuit, Garrett’s family through Chain | Cohn | Stiles asked for changes within the sheriff’s department in how deputies are trained properly throughout Bakersfield and other communities across Kern County. The county’s policies “were not adequate to train its deputies to handle the usual and recurring situations with which they must deal, including … driving at excessive speeds, pre-clearing intersections and responding Code 3. (Kern County) was deliberately indifferent to the obvious consequences of its failure to train its deputies adequately.”

In fact, Garrett’s death came in the midst of other tragic crashes involving a KCSO. In a four-year span, Kern County sheriff’s personnel crashed into and killed four innocent bystanders in Oildale, including Garrett.

  • Larry Maharrey was killed in July 2015 when Kern County Sheriff’s Deputy Marvin Gomez abruptly made a left turn against a red light onto Airport Drive in Oildale directly into Maharrey’s motorcycle. Maharrey was unable to avoid the collision with Deputy Gomez’s patrol vehicle, and died as a result of the crash. The family, represented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles, and County of Kern settled the lawsuit for $3.8 million.
  • Daniel Hiler and Chrystal Jolley were killed in December 2011, when Kern County sheriff’s deputy John Swearengin struck and killed them as they pushed a motorcycle across Norris Road. Swearengin was traveling at more than 80 mph in a 45-mph zone, without activating his emergency lights or siren. The case settled in March for $8.8 million.

 

BRINGING ABOUT CHANGE

The case was delayed due, in part, to the Central Valley’s federal district court instituting a “judicial emergency” order due to a shortage of judges. Federal Judge Dale A. Drozd of the U.S. Eastern District Court of California, the federal judicial district that includes Bakersfield and the southern Central Valley area, stated that the judicial emergency order “will seriously hinder the administration of justice” in the district.

In the end, Chain | Cohn | Stiles was able to resolve the case for the family, and helped bring about change.

“Over all else, the family of Nancy Garrett from the outset sought change in the driving practices within the Kern County Sheriff’s Office,” Clark told The Bakersfield Californian.

The family believes their lawsuit ultimately had a positive impact in the community, evidenced by the fact that in the five years of litigation they aren’t aware of any deadly traffic collisions involving sheriff’s deputies responding to calls, Clark said.

McGowan and Blanco told The Bakersfield Californian they continue to stand behind law officers and deputies as they work together with the community to maximize vehicle safety.

“Despite this litigation,” they said in the statement, “we support law enforcement and hope it prevents future crashes and tragedies on the part of our officers and our community members.”

Following the closure of the case, Mark McGowan posted a video regarding his experience with the case, and with Chain | Cohn | Stiles. You can view that video by clicking here.

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CRASH MEDIA COVERAGE

CLAIM MEDIA COVERAGE

PRESS CONFERENCE MEDIA COVERAGE

LAWSUIT MEDIA COVERAGE

‘JUDICIAL EMERGENCY’ MEDIA COVERAGE

SETTLEMENT MEDIA COVERAGE

During pandemic, auto crashes are down throughout California, but not in Bakersfield-Kern County

May 27, 2020 | 9:25 am


The coronavirus pandemic has affected all aspects of our lives, including driving habits. In fact, traffic volume is down throughout California’s roadways, which has resulted in fewer collisions and arrests for driving under the influence across the state.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Bakersfield and Kern County.

While California saw an 88% reduction in the number of people killed in crashes and a 62% decrease in the number of people injured in crashes from March 19 to April 30 this year versus last year, the Bakersfield area saw a 33% increase in fatal crashes from 8 in 2019 to 12 in 2020 during this same time period, according to data from the California Highway Patrol’s Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS).

California also saw a 75% decrease in the number of crashes, and the total number of truck-involved collisions also saw a 60% drop, with fatal truck-involved crashes down 88%, according to CHP. The number of DUI arrests made by officers has decreased during March and April in California, from 7,224 in 2019 to 4,223 in 2020; a decrease of 42%.

Even more, the open roads have left some drivers feeling the need for speed. CHP officers issued 2,738 citations for speeding in excess of 100 miles per hour between March 19 and April 30, which is an increase of 46% from last year. Locally, the CHP’s Central Division, which covers the Central Valley, saw a 61% increase in speeding over 100 mph tickets during the same time period.​

According to Verra Mobility, a photo enforcement company with 4,000 camera locations in the United States, speed violations were up 16%, and the number of vehicles going at least 20 miles per hour over the local limit increased 40% in April compared with the same month last year.

The surge in speeding and reckless behavior on our roadways has led to increased patrolling on local highways. A first offense for a 100 mph citation could lead to a $1,000 fine, loss of license for 30 days, or worse — speeding endangers lives of everyone on the road.

“During this time, taking care of yourself and one another goes beyond wearing a mask and physical distancing. We all have a responsibility care for each other on our roadways, too,” said David Cohn, managing partner and personal injury attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Please Slow down, take your time, pay attention while driving, and drive sober.”

Across the country too, U.S. highways have gotten emptier and they have also been more deadly, data from the National Safety Council shows. The fatality rate per mile driven went up by 14% compared with March 2019. The number of miles driven dropped 18.6% in March compared with the same month last year, but the death rate per 100 million vehicle miles driven was 1.22 in March, up from 1.07 in March 2019.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles reminds drivers to please slow down, never drive while under the influence, and always wear seat belts. And if you are involved in a car accident, follow these three steps:

1) Obtain the name, address, insurance information, vehicle identification number (VIN) and driver’s license number of any and all persons involved in the accident, as well as the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all witnesses.

2) Make sure that a report is filed with the police, sheriff, or highway patrol, but do not talk to anyone else, especially insurance adjusters, about the accident or sign anything without first consulting an attorney.

3) Seek medical attention immediately and explain to your physician or surgeon all of the symptoms and complaints you have been feeling since the accident occurred.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.

Check your (safety) list twice for an injury-free holiday season

December 19, 2018 | 6:00 am


As Santa checks his list, you also should be checking your list this holiday season — your safety checklist, that is.

The holidays are ripe with dangers, from roadway hazards during holiday travel, to dangers at home from keeping warm and holiday decorating. It’s important you and your family take careful steps in celebrating, and make it through the holiday season injury-free.

Take note of these important safety tips courtesy of the accident, injury and workers’ compensation law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

 

Holiday Travel

California Highway Patrol is conducting a DUI “maximum enforcement period” during the holidays, and encouraging Californians to use other travel options if they choose to consume drugs and alcohol, including medications, prescription or over the counter drugs that are common during the cold season.

Bakersfield Police Department, too, is helping spread the message about the dangers of drunk and drugged driving to get impaired drivers off roads. In partnership with California Office of Traffic Safety and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, officers are launching the high-visibility enforcement campaign “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over,” through January 1. During this time, more officers will be on the streets of Bakersfield conducting saturation patrols, looking for drivers who are suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, driving aggressively or distracted, and making sure drivers are properly licensed.

During the Christmas and New Year’s weekends in 2017, 25 people were killed and 643 injured on California roads, according to CHP. Don’t let yourself be a statistics this year.

“Any arrest during the holidays means a family that won’t have a loved one present during the holidays — due to an arrest or worse — because of a decision made to drive while under the influence,” said Matt Clark, attorney with Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Not only are you putting your life at risk, you are putting the lives of other innocent families at risk by driving under the influence. Just don’t do it.”

If you’re traveling long distances, plan your trip ahead of time and prepare for any potential emergencies.

 

Decorating Safely 

Decorating is one of the best parts of the holidays, but it also leads to thousands of emergency room visits every season. Here are a few tips to prevent accidents and injuries:

  • Hang breakable ornaments at top of the tree. This leaves room for kids to decorate the bottom with non-breakable items.
  • Always use the proper step ladder; don’t stand on chairs or other furniture.
  • Keep harmful plants out of reach. Some popular holiday plants are poisonous to children and pets, including mistletoe and holly berries.
  • Be aware of devices with button batteries. Keep those devices out of children’s reach.

 

Staying Warm

Thousands of deaths are caused by fires, burns and other fire-related injuries every year, and 12 percent of home candle fires occur in December, according to the National Safety Council, due to increased usage of candles and fireplaces, combined with an increase in the amount of combustible, seasonal decorations in many homes. To prevent fires and burn injuries at home:

  • Water natural trees regularly. When needles are dry, they can catch fire easily.
  • Turn off decorative lights before leaving home or going to sleep. Regularly check lights for exposed or frayed wires and loose connections.
  • Keep candles and matches out of reach. Lit candles should be at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn, and don’t forget to blow them out when you leave the room or before you go to sleep. Store matches and lighters out of children’s reach and sight.
  • Check smoke alarms. Make sure there is a working smoke alarm on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and near sleeping areas. Review your fire escape plan with family members and guests.
  • Don’t burn trees, wreaths or wrapping paper in the fireplace.
  • Check and clean the chimney and fireplace area at least once a year

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident, contact the accident and injury lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com

Grants galore! Local agencies receive hundreds of thousands to combat unsafe driving in Kern County

November 21, 2018 | 6:00 am


Drivers beware: Local authorities have received hundreds of thousands of dollars to combat unsafe driving in Kern County.

Bakersfield’s California Highway Patrol branch recently received a grant to provide enforcement and education to local motorists about aggressive driving with the goal of decreasing injuries and deaths on our roadways. The Bakersfield Police Department received two grants recently: one aimed to teach youth and adults about traffic rules, rights and responsibilities as a pedestrian and bicyclist, and a second for a year-long enforcement and public awareness program intended to educate the public on safe roadway habits and deter people from violating traffic laws or practicing other unsafe behaviors. Lastly, the Kern County Probation Department’s grant will allow the department to focus on lowering deaths and injuries due to traffic collisions due to drivers being under the influence.

“Nearly every crash can be prevented simply with safer driving. Never drive while under the influence, and don’t speed or drive recklessly,” said Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Matthew Clark. “It’s important for us all to be educated on the best driving practices, and to share the road with our fellow motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists to make our community safe for all.”

Learn more about each of the grants below:

 

AGGRESSIVE DRIVING

California Highway Patrol grant campaign, called Regulate Aggressive Driving and Reduce Speed (RADARS) III, aims to reduce the number of crashes where speed, improper turning, and driving on the wrong side of the road are the main factors.

Speed and aggressive driving are California’s two main contributors in traffic collisions, according to CHP. Speed is a factor in about 45 percent of all fatal and injury collisions in the state.

“With this grant, the Californian Highway Patrol will strive to change this dangerous behavior through increased enforcement and education,” said CHP Commissioner Warren Stanley in a statement.

The California Office of Traffic Safety provided funding for the program through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

 

BIKE AND PEDESTRIAN SAFETY

The safety of people who use roadways to walk or ride their bike is the focus of a bicycle and pedestrian safety education program with the Bakersfield Police Department.

The $30,000 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety will fund the year-long program that includes a variety of educational activities like bike rodeos, classroom presentations and community events aimed at teaching youth and adults about traffic rules, rights and responsibilities as a pedestrian and bicyclist. And throughout Bakersfield, any efforts are needed to decrease the record number bicycle and pedestrian accidents.

Earlier this year, the City of Bakersfield announced a “Bicyclist and Pedestrian Safety Plan,” a partnership with California Department of Transportation to examine the city’s roadways and determine which are the most dangerous to bicyclists and pedestrians. The goal was to recommend design improvements, including more bike lanes, more signage, and new pedestrian and bike paths away from traffic.

Educational efforts funded by the grant will promote safe behaviors by pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers, including avoiding distractions like cell phones, looking for parked cars that may be pulling out or opening a door, and making yourself visible by wearing bright clothing during the day and reflective materials at night. Educational components on bicycle and pedestrian safety will be especially geared toward children and older adults.

These are efforts Chain | Cohn | Stiles can stand behind, and are actually helping toward. Currently, Project Light up the Night hosted by the local bicycle advocacy nonprofit Bike Bakersfield aims to make Kern County’s roads a little safer for drivers and cyclists by giving out free bicycle lights, helmets, and safety lessons at various locations throughout Bakersfield and Kern County. Chain | Cohn | Stiles is proud to support Project Light up the Night each year by providing the helmets and lights. Bike Bakersfield representatives hand out the free helmets and lights on select Thursdays in November throughout Kern County.

 

DUI & UNSAFE DRIVING

The Bakersfield Police Department has also been awarded a $405,000 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety intended to educate the public on safe roadway habits and deter people from violating traffic laws or practicing other unsafe behaviors that lead to injuries and fatalities. Specifically, the grant will provide:

  • DUI checkpoints and saturation patrols to take suspected alcohol/drug-impaired drivers – and those unlicensed or with a revoked/suspended license – off the road.
  • Traffic safety education presentations for youth and community members on distracted, impaired and teen driving, and bicycle/pedestrian safety.
  • Patrols at intersections with increased incidents of pedestrian and bike collisions.
  • Checking for seat belt and child safety seat compliance.
  • Motorcycle safety operations in areas with high rider volume and where higher rate of motorcycle crashes occur.
  • Speeding, red light and stop sign enforcement.
  • Compilation of DUI “Hot Sheets” identifying repeat DUI offenders.
  • Specialized DUI and drugged driving training to identify and apprehend suspected impaired drivers.

The Kern County Probation Department received a $150,000 “DUI Offender Grant” to focus on lowering deaths and injuries due to traffic collisions due to drivers being under the influence.

The grant will fund various education and enforcement activities, including:

  • Warrant service operations targeting multiple DUI offenders.
  • Compilation of DUI “Hot Sheets” identifying repeat DUI offenders.
  • Probation supervision of high-risk DUI offenders.
  • Referrals for services to address the needs of DUI offenders.
  • Alcohol monitoring and testing to identify intoxicated DUI offenders.
  • Collaborating with the court and district attorney to ensure DUI offenders are held accountable.
  • Standardized Field Sobriety Testing training to identify and apprehend impaired DUI offenders.
  • Participate in “stings” to cite DUI offenders found driving on suspended or revoked licenses.

If you or someone you know is involved in an accident at the fault of someone else, please contact the lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com to submit a contact form.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Wrongful death case involving speeding deputy continues after plea deal in criminal case

April 26, 2017 | 9:37 am


A former Kern County Sheriff’s deputy has pleaded “no contest” in connection with a crash that killed a 72-year-old Oildale woman in 2014, a crash also connected to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Chain | Cohn | Stiles on behalf of her family.

Nicholas Clerico will receive three years probation, must pay a $570 fine and serve 240 hours of community service after pleading no contest on April 25 to a misdemeanor charge of vehicular manslaughter.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the family of Nancy Joyce Garrett, who was killed when Clerico struck and killed her in his speeding patrol car. The filing came after the California Highway Patrol’s Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team (MAIT) report found Deputy Clerico at fault in the September 2014 crash, at the intersection of North Chester Avenue and China Grade Loop in Oildale.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Matt Clark, who is representing Garrett’s family in the case, commented to local media on Clerico’s plea and the ongoing wrongful death civil lawsuit.

“In talking with the family, they’re glad that (Clerico) has finally accepted some responsibility for what he did,” Clark told The Bakersfield Californian, adding that the family, however, has not received closure, and continues to mourn Garrett’s loss. “This was no accident. This was totally preventable.”

Family members have described Nancy as a friendly neighbor, a caregiver for our community, an active blogger, and the pillar of her family. She was a drug and alcohol counselor for the Kern County Mental Health Department, and also volunteered her time as a substance abuse counselor for STEPS, a local nonprofit that provides DUI awareness services. At the time of the crash, she was returning home from a Los Angeles Dodgers baseball game she attended with her family and friends.

Garrett’s family is seeking changes within the sheriff’s department in how deputies are trained to drive. Her death, unfortunately, is not the only one related to driving by Kern County Sheriff’s deputies.

  • Larry Maharrey was killed when Kern County Sheriff’s Deputy Marvin Gomez abruptly made a left turn against a red light onto Airport Drive in Oildale directly into Maharrey’s motorcycle. Maharrey was unable to avoid the collision with Deputy Gomez’s patrol vehicle, and died as a result of the crash. That wrongful death case represented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles, is ongoing.
  • Daniel Hiler and Chrystal Jolley were killed in December 2011 when Kern County sheriff’s deputy John Swearengin struck and killed them as they pushed a motorcycle across Norris Road. Swearengin was traveling at more than 80 mph in a 45-mph zone, without activating his emergency lights or siren. Chain | Cohn | Stiles settled that case in March 2014 for $8.8 million.

UPDATE – 2020: The wrongful death case on behalf of the family of Nancy Joyce Garrett has resolved.

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PLEA DEAL MEDIA COVERAGE

PAST CASE MEDIA COVERAGE

Week of firm philanthropy includes fundraisers for disabled residents, alumni scholarships, families of fallen officers

October 21, 2015 | 8:59 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles this month is supporting several causes throughout Kern County including an event that raises funds to provide programs and services to local children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, another fundraiser to assist families of fallen officers throughout Kern County, and an event to provide scholarships to Cal State Bakersfield students.

Learn more about these causes, and others supported by the Bakersfield-based law firm, below:

CHiPs FOR TIPS

California Highway Patrol will host its sixth “Tips for CHiPs” luncheon fundraiser on Wednesday, Oct. 21, at Outback Steakhouse in Bakersfield, and Chain | Cohn | Stiles is serving as a sponsor.

The fundraiser benefits the California Association of Highway Patrolmen Widows and Orphans Trust Fund, which helps families whose loved ones are killed in or off the line of duty. The fund is organized by the California Association of Highway Patrolmen, a nonprofit that represents about 11,000 active and retired CHP officers, and is dedicated to assisting families of CHP officers.

At the luncheon, CHP officers serve diners and wait on tables. For $25, diners can choose from a menu of steak, chicken or salmon with all the trimmings. Side dishes include bread, salad, vegetables, mash potatoes, and, of course, the restaurant’s famous Bloomin’ Onion. Dessert is also included.

In six years, the organization has raised nearly $100,000 to assist local families, making Kern County’s event the single highest fundraising event for the Widows and Orphans Fund in California, organizers say.

Tickets are $25, and can be purchased at the door starting at 11 a.m. For more information, visit the Tips for CHiPs Facebook page by clicking here.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles for years has supported CHP causes and programs. Many times, the Kern County attorneys represent CHP officers in workers’ compensation* and personal injury cases.

To see previous news coverage of the event, click here.

NEW ADVANCES FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES

New Advances for People with Disabilities (NAPD) is hosting its 21st annual Friends of NAPD “Walter H. Cochneuer Memorial,” golf tournament on Friday, Oct. 23, at Buena Vista Golf Course.

The local nonprofit provides critical services every day to more than 500 children and adults in Kern County with intellectual and developmental disabilities to empower them to live more productive, rewarding and independent lives. The golf tournament helps make sure these services continue to be provided to these people in need.

To join Chain | Cohn | Stiles in getting involved, call 661-395-1361. For more information on NAPD, call 661-327-8531 or visit the web page here.

CSU BAKERSFIELD ALUMNI ASSOCIATION ‘PARTY IN THE PARK’

Cal State Bakersfield’s Alumni Association will host its annual “Party in the Park” on Friday evening, Oct. 23, at the CSUB Alumni Park.

Funds raised from the event go toward alumni scholarships, membership outreach, and mentoring opportunities for current CSUB students.

Two Chain | Cohn | Stiles associates are alumni of CSUB:

  • Chad Boyles earned his bachelor’s degree from CSUB before attending law school at Whittier Law School.
  • Beatriz Trejo earned her bachelor’s degree as well from CSUB before getting her master’s degree from Cal State Northridge and law degree from University of Akron School of Law.

For more information on the event, go to www.csub.edu/partyinthepark.

MORE OCTOBER COMMUNITY SERVICES

Here are a few other October events and causes supported by Chain | Cohn | Stiles. To see a list of organizations supported in recent years by the law firm, click here.

  • Nathan’s Army 5K, held Oct. 3, raises money to help cure pediatric brain tumors.
  • For the entire month of October, Chain | Cohn | Stiles lights at its new building in downtown Bakersfield will be shining pink in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. See a picture here.
  • The law firm served as a sponsor for the 99 Music Fest and the Supermoto Invitational Jump Start Classic.

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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 value of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles continues fight to end drunk driving in Kern County with MADD

September 2, 2015 | 3:13 pm


California Highway Patrol gave nearly 2,200 citations for driving under the influence in Bakersfield in 2014. CHP officers in Kern County in the same year also noted 312 collisions, 422 injuries, and 14 fatalities – all involving DUI.

They are statistics, arrests and tragedies that are 100 percent preventable – choices were made by people to get behind the wheel while intoxicated. That decision affected families and communities.

In an effort to raise awareness in our own community, raise funds to stop drunken driving and underage drinking locally, and provide support to victims and survivors of drunk driving crashes, the Kern County chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving will host its second Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash 5K at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 19, at Park at River Walk, 11200 Stockdale Highway in Bakersfield.

For the second year, the Bakersfield personal injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles is supporting MADD and the event, serving as sponsor and key partner in organizing the event. Earlier this year, Chain | Cohn | Stiles marketing director Jorge Barrientos was named MADD California’s volunteer of the year for his work with MADD Kern County.

This second annual event follows the first-ever Bakersfield Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash in which 700 people attended and raised more than $46,000 to fight against drunk driving locally. That event followed a tragic 2013 on Kern’s roadways in which more than 30 deaths and 600 injuries occurred at the hands of drunken drivers.

“The fight is not over,” said Carla Pearson, victim advocate for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Kern County. “People are still making the choice to get behind the wheel after drinking, putting your life and their own life at risk. These are not accidents – they are 100 percent preventable crashes.”

The event ceremony will start at 7:30 a.m. and the race and walk will kick off starting at 8 a.m. In attendance will be surviving victims of drunken driving crashes and their families, supporters, law enforcement officers with their vehicles, a Kern County Fire Department engine and giant flag, A Life Interrupted display vehicle, an activities area for kids, advocates, and other community members rallying and running for the cause.

For more information and to register to participate, go to www.walklikemadd.org/bakersfield.

SPONSORS

The event is supported by local law enforcement and prosecutors, as well as sponsoring local companies. Sponsors include:

Local media is also supporting the cause and helping raise awareness. Media sponsors include:

Several other local groups are assisting MADD Kern County with donations and other assistance. They include:

MEDIA COVERAGE

Several local media agencies have partnered with Mothers Against Drunk Driving to raise awareness of the problems in Kern County, and support the Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash 5K. Stay tuned to this section for coverage of the event.