More People Die On Rural Roads Than City Streets. How To Make Kern County’s Rural Roads Safer For All Travelers

January 19, 2022 | 5:00 am


The year 2021 was one of the deadliest years on Kern County’s rural highways, according to California Highway Patrol.

In June 2021, for example, western Kern County saw eight fatal accidents on rural roads when CHP officers normally see 12 to 15 per year. This scary trend is not necessarily a local one: Nearly half of the more than 36,000 traffic fatalities in the United States each year occur on rural roads, even though only about a fifth of the population lives in rural areas, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. More than 16,000 people died in a crash on U.S. rural roads in 2019.

“Improving safety on … more than 20 other two-lane rural roads in Kern is needed,” said Kern County Supervisor David Couch in the Delano Record. “Prioritizing rural road safety helps rural disadvantaged communities that use these roads the most while helping all our family and friends come home safely.”

Chain | Cohn | Stiles is joining roadway safety advocates and other officials in calling upon our city and county leaders to make Kern County’s rural roads safer for all travelers.

 

RURAL ROAD PROBLEMS

Transportation experts say a combination of higher speeds, narrow shoulders, lack of lighting and lots of curves contribute to the problem. Additionally, emergency responders may be farther away from crashes and can take longer to arrive at the crash scene, and transport injured drivers and passengers to hospitals.

In 2019, the fatality rate on rural roads was nearly twice as high as on urban ones, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, even with the increase in bike and pedestrian incidents. In 2018, 58% of drivers in rural areas died on the way to hospitals compared with 41% in urban areas, according to the federal highway safety agency.

Nine out of 10 rural traffic fatalities occur on two-lane roads, according to a May 2020 report by TRIP, a national nonprofit transportation research center.

The statistics are especially alarming for Kern County, which is the third-largest county by area in California. Thousands of county residents live in areas categorized as rural, and the county itself stakes its economic health primarily on two industries in rural areas, agriculture and oil, centered in rural Kern County.

 

WHAT’S BEING DONE

The $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill the U.S. Senate passed recently touches on the problem. It would require a study of the issue and launch a new rural road grant program that includes $300 million for high-risk rural road safety programs, according to Pew Charitable Trusts.

Relatively simple engineering changes, such as rumble strips, median barriers, pavement markings, better lighting and wider shoulders could make a big difference in rural road safety, transportation experts and advocates say. The idea is to anticipate human errors by road users, then redesign or add safety features to reduce or eliminate risks that result in serious traffic injuries or deaths.

Some states are already tackling the problem. Illinois’ transportation agency agreed to survey and prioritize the most dangerous rural intersections. Kansas, Minnesota and South Carolina are spending significant amounts to upgrade safety infrastructure or come up with ways to prevent rural crashes — installing rumble strips, wider pavement markings, brighter signs, high-friction surface treatments, guardrails and other improvements. In Minnesota, the state transportation department has installed technology at dozens of rural intersections to give motorists real-time warnings about traffic conditions.

In Kansas, where about 90% of the roads are rural and most are owned by counties, officials discovered that roadway departures — anything that causes drivers to unintentionally leave their lane — were the biggest contributor to fatal or serious crashes. So, officials have set aside $4 million a year in federal funds for its high-risk rural roads program to help all of their counties develop safety plans for their rural roads, including flattening slopes, widening shoulders, installing pavement markings and rumble strips and removing trees that may be too close to the road.

 

KERN COUNTY

As indicated by this past summer’s statistics, the rural highway fatality rate appears to be growing in Kern County.

“There are easy things we can do in Kern County to help prevent these crashes on rural roads,” said Matt Clark, attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Things like rumble strips alert drivers that they’ve made an error, and combined with wider shoulders, could save countless lives.”

Clark added: “Safety needs to be built into every road in Kern County, whether it’s city or rural roadways, and whether it’s for maintenance or new road construction. Our lives depend on it.”

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Chain | Cohn | Stiles Provides Insight On Impaired Driving Crimes In Kern County Following Tragic Fatal DUI Crash

December 15, 2021 | 6:00 am


A walk home after school turned into tragedy when an impaired driver took the lives of a 19-year-old and 10-year-old brother and sister.

Lisa Core was arrested on second-degree murder charges when she jumped the curb while allegedly under the influence and ran over the siblings on the sidewalk. She had been arrested several times before for driving impaired, according to media reports.

JJ Malone, 19, and 10-year-old sister Caylee Brown died in the crash. JJ had just met Caylee at the school bus drop-off when Core’s sedan veered across the eastbound lanes of Panama Lane, jumped the curb, and mowed them down on the sidewalk.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles representatives joined the Bakersfield and Kern County communities in mourning the deaths, and in admonishing the DUI driver and ongoing the DUI problem locally. Attorney Matt Clark appeared on several local news media outlets to discuss the criminal and potential civil case, sentencing guidelines for DUI crimes in California, and impaired driving epidemic in Kern County. Clark is a board member for the local chapter of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and is a recipient of the “Pursuit of Justice” award by MADD California.

Law firm marketing director Jorge Barrientos joined Spanish language news media as well — Barrientos is also a board member for the MADD Kern County Advisory Board and is the planning committee chairman for the annual “Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash,” the local chapter’s annual fundraiser of which Chain | Cohn | Stiles is presenting sponsor. Barrientos is also the 2015 “Volunteer of the Year” for MADD California.

Clark shared with local media the following statistics and information about impaired driving crimes locally:

  • “There is only one other county in the United States where you are statistically more likely to be killed by a drunk or impaired driver than you are in Kern County,” Clark told 23ABC News. “That is embarrassing. That is a disgusting statistic.”
  • “When it comes to a death in a drunk driving case or in this instance, a drugged driving case, you can actually charge someone with murder,” Clark told 23ABC News. “We’re one of the rare states where you can do that. That law actually originated out of Kern County.”
  • The penalties can vary for DUI. At a minimum, DUI offender who causes a death and is charged with negligent-vehicular-manslaughter while intoxicated, can face up to a year in jail and a maximum of $1,000 dollars in fines. A conviction of second-degree murder can result in 15 years to life in prison.
  • Clark told local media even with a misdemeanor, “slap on the wrist” may not solve the issue. “In our community, what you typically see happen in a DUI of a misdemeanor case the person receives a minimal sentence, and on that first DUI, it means they are certainly not going to do any jail time, they’re going to pay a fine, they’re going to be placed on probation, their license is likely suspended. The second and third DUI are more severe. But none of it is apparently severe enough to change people’s behavior.”
  • Kern County averages 4,000 arrests per year, an astounding number based on our population. Kern County has the second-highest odds in the country for someone to be killed by a drunk driver while on the road.
  • “In the DUI cases that I have been involved in, it is rare that an injury or a death DUI crash occurs that it’s the persons first attempt. It’s almost always the second, third, the fourth, or the fifth,” Clark said.

You can view all the media reports at the links at the bottom of this page.

According to KGET-17 News, Malone’s and Brown’s deaths were Kern County’s 52nd and 53rd pedestrian fatalities in 2021.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Chain | Cohn | Stiles Responds To Most Recent Arrest Of Former McFarland Coach As Sexual Misconduct Civil Case Continues

December 8, 2021 | 11:13 am


Editor’s Note: A former McFarland High basketball coach was sentenced to state prison after he promised a 15-year-old boy a spot on the varsity team in exchange for sexual favors. Chain | Cohn | Stiles is representing the victim in his sexual misconduct civil case. The former coach, Fernando Pruneda, was recently arrested again for allegedly attempting to contact an underage person for sex. Attorney Matt Clark provided a statement in a press release sent to local media — it is below. For full media coverage, please scroll to the bottom of the page.  

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In light of the most recent arrest and probation violation by former McFarland High School basketball coach Fernando Pruneda for alleged sexual misconduct, Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Matt Clark provides the following statement on behalf of the victim from Pruneda’s previous arrest regarding the ongoing civil matter:

“We feel it is necessary to bring light to these cases where local school districts are employing sexual predators. In our case, McFarland Unified High School District employed Pruneda, and there are allegations that the school district knew or should have known of his impropriety, including such things as calling the student out of regular class for massages. This should serve as a reminder to all schools that their employees are mandated reporters, and if someone is calling a student out of class without substantial justification, it is cause for concern. It’s incumbent on the schools to investigate any suspicion of abuse, especially sexual abuse by a school employee.

In light of the most recent allegations, it appears Mr. Pruneda has not learned his lesson. Based on our firm’s history of handling these types of cases, Mr. Pruneda’s conduct is consistent with other sexual predators, as he is alleged to have continued with the same bad conduct. The civil case is ongoing, and despite the alleged criminal acts, the McFarland Unified School District has yet to accept any responsibility for its employee’s abhorrent conduct.”

According to reports, Pruneda was arrested by the Kern County Sheriff’s Office on Nov. 13 for allegedly attempting to arrange a meeting with a minor to commit a sexual offense. The civil suit is based upon the same wrongdoing.

In the previous criminal case from 2018, Pruneda pleaded no contest to contacting a minor to commit a sexual offense, was sentenced to two years in prison, and was required to register as a sex offender. Investigations revealed Pruneda was attempting to get sexual favors from a junior varsity basketball player and threatened not to put him on the varsity team if the player resisted. That civil case against the school district is ongoing. A trial date is scheduled for April 25, 2022.

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Here’s what you can do if you’ve been sexually assaulted or abused:

  • Call for help: Always call the police, a rape hotline or both following any form of sexual assault or abuse. This can be difficult to do, but the sooner you get in touch with someone, the sooner justice can be served.
  • See a doctor: Seek immediate medical care following a rape or sexual abuse scenario. Hospitals often have specialists trained to help in these types of situations and they often have someone on staff that can help with the stress.
  • Contact an attorney: After you have taken all the aforementioned steps, contact a legal professional, who has understanding of sexual abuse law.

If you or someone you know experienced sexual assault and is seeking resources, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673). If you are in immediate danger, call 911.

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2018 ARREST MEDIA COVERAGE

2021 ARREST MEDIA COVERAGE

What Red Flags Should You Watch Out For Before Choosing A Lawyer To Handle Your Case?

October 20, 2021 | 6:00 am


There are countless personal injury law firms out there, but not all of them are reputable. Some of them advertise themselves to be “local,” but they are not. Some of them never actually work on your case once hired, or speak to clients about their cases. And some of them have no real expertise in your type of case.

Here, attorney Matt Clark of Chain | Cohn | Stiles answers the question: What red flags you should know when choosing a lawyer to handle your case? There are four red flags you need to know when choosing an accident or injury lawyer:

 

1) You’re not meeting with a lawyer from the first meeting.

If you’re not meeting with your attorney from day one, the likelihood of you actually talking to your lawyer throughout your case is essentially zero.

During your first meeting, your attorney should listen to the details of your case and provide you with some important information, and after your initial consultation, you should be able to determine the following:

  • Whether you have a valid claim: The initial consultation should include a discussion of the facts and potential legal claims surrounding your issue. The lawyer should be able to tell you, based on the law and the information you provide, whether you have a legitimate case from a legal standpoint.
  • Whether you need a lawyer: The attorney should be able to tell you whether you need the services of an attorney or whether you’re better off resolving the case on your own. This decision often involves weighing the potential damages you can recover against the financial cost of hiring an attorney.
  • Whether the attorney can help you: The attorney should be able to tell you whether they handle your type of case or whether you need to seek out a different type of attorney. In some cases, the attorney may provide you with a specific reference to another attorney who can better meet your needs.
  • What their services will cost: An initial consultation should include a discussion of the fees that the attorney may charge. In addition to providing some idea of overall cost, the attorney should explain the fee arrangement, such as contingency fee, flat fee, or hourly fee.

If, at the end of your initial consultation, both you and the attorney want to form an attorney-client relationship, the attorney will provide you with an agreement to sign, or take your contact information and send you an engagement agreement to sign later. Once the agreement is signed by you and the attorney, an attorney-client relationship is formed.

 

2) You only speak to the lawyer on the phone.

Same as the first red flag: It’s not likely you’ll ever meet your lawyer in person, and it may be possible the attorney isn’t actually licensed. Be sure you are able to meet your attorney in person if you deem necessary. Additionally, if a lawyer doesn’t have time to meet with you in person about your case, how will the attorney have time to actually fight your case?

 

3) They’re an out-of-town law firm, but advertise themselves to be local.

In these cases, the odds of you ever meeting your attorney face-to-face are very, very low. When searching for a lawyer, take note of the actual address for the lawyer. Many times, lawyers from big cities and surrounding areas will purchase “virtual” offices in other areas, which will show Google and other online map systems they have offices in other areas. In fact, the attorneys almost never show their faces in these offices. Such is the case with several law firms who advertise heavily in the Bakersfield area, and hold virtual offices at 4900 California Avenue and 1430 Truxtun Avenue. If you can’t trust them to be honest about where their offices actually are, or if they’ll be available to meet with you in your city, how could you trust them to do a good job on your case?

 

4) They say they “do it all.”

If you want a lawyer who is an expert in your type of case, you want an attorney who only handles your type of case. That is, if you want a lawyer to handle your accident and injury cases, you don’t want a lawyer who also handles family law or bankruptcy law. Accident and injury cases are extremely complicated cases that require years of focus and experience to develop expertise, and be able to really serve clients appropriately.

 

In summary, make sure you hire a lawyer who is an expert in your case, has vast experience, meets with you in person during your first consultation and throughout your case, and has an actual office in your area.

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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, text, or chat with us at chainlaw.com.

MADD Kern County to host 8th annual ‘Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash’, presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles

August 25, 2021 | 3:18 pm


For the eighth year, Kern County will come together on Saturday, Sept. 25, in the fight against impaired driving to proclaim, “No More Victims!”

Bakersfield’s Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash — presented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles — is Kern County’s chance to do something about drunk and drugged driving in our community. In what has become one of the largest fundraising walks and runs in town, the event brings together people from our community – surviving victims of crashes, families and friends of injured and deceased victims, law enforcement, prosecutors, first responders, advocates, and community leaders and members – to march, rally and run for the cause.

Learn why local residents are participating in the “Why We Walk” video series at bit.ly/whywewalk2021.

Our community has seen at least 4,000 DUI arrests made each year, according to the Kern County District Attorney’s Office – nearly 12 DUI arrests per day. Kern County ranks worst in the state for DUI crashes resulting in injuries, and second most in the United States. And during this pandemic, fatal crash rates have spiked, with speeding, lower seatbelt use, and impaired driving to blame.

“Impaired driving continues to be one of the leading causes of fatalities and injuries on our roadways, with devastating consequences for all involved, especially innocent bystanders,” said Carla Pearson, MADD Kern County’s victim services specialist. “Let’s all remember and remind our loved ones that these crashes are 100% preventable.”

Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash has three main components:

  • Remember: We walk for those who no longer can and alongside those who are learning to walk again.
  • Inspire: We walk empowered even when we feel powerless, as survivors when we have been victimized, and with purpose when we have lost our way.
  • Commit: We walk with supporters who share our vision of No More Victims.

At the state level, the MADD Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving calls for high-visibility law enforcement, ignition interlocks or “in-car breathalyzers” for all convicted drunk drivers, and support for the development of advanced technology.

Funds raised in Kern County’s event funds local educational programs and prevention services, raises awareness of the DUI problem in our local communities, and provides support to local victims and survivors of impaired driving crashes.

Presented by the local law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, it’s also supported this year by Chevron, Valley Strong Credit Union, Kern County Prosecutors Association, Sally Herald Accountancy Inc., and others. Since the first Bakersfield Walk Like MADD in 2014, thousands of local residents have made their voices heard while raising more than $400,000 for MADD Kern County.

  • When: 7-10am on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021
  • Where: Park at River Walk in Bakersfield
  • Packet Pick-Up: 3-7pm on Thursday, Sept. 23, at Action Sports (9500 Brimhall Road, #400)
  • Register / Information: walklikemadd.org/bakersfield

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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 and regularly speaks to DUI offenders during the MADD Victim Impact Panels, and law firm marketing director is the planning committee chairman for the annual. Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash. For its work has been recognized and honored on several occasions:

  • MADD Kern County honored Chain | Cohn | Stiles with a “Community Champion” award during the 2018 Kern County MADD Law Enforcement and Prosecutor Recognition luncheon ceremony for the law firm’s work toward raising awareness locally and helping victims.
  • The law firm was also nominated in the “Corporation of the Year” category for a 2018 Beautiful Bakersfield Award, which recognizes a company whose volunteer hours and/or financial donations have made a meaningful difference.
  • Jorge Barrientos, director of marketing and public relations for Chain | Cohn | Stiles, was awarded California’s “Volunteer of the Year” award by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, California, at the “Celebrating California’s Heroes” law enforcement and community recognition event in Sacramento.
  • Matt Clark received the “Pursuit of Justice Award” during Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s 2019 “Tie One On for Safety” Gala Awards. The event annually recognizes supporters of MADD Southern California – the regional area for MADD Kern County – which also includes Los Angeles and San Diego chapters.

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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, text, or chat with us at chainlaw.com.

Free Consultation? Keep These Points In Mind When Meeting With A Lawyer On Your Injury Case

June 16, 2021 | 6:00 am


You always hear about “free consultations” by lawyers, but what does that really mean, and what should a great consultation look like for someone who needs legal help?

Accident and injury attorney Matt Clark of Chain | Cohn | Stiles answers this frequently asked legal question in a new video below, and we share everything you need to know below about consultations from an accident and injury lawyer.

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Accident and personal injury claims can be complicated, which is why it’s most important to hire an experienced and reputable attorney. There are three main points to keep in mind when beginning the hiring process and meeting with a lawyer for a free consultation:

1) Make sure it’s a reputable law firm or lawyer giving you a consultation. Do your research. Look at reviews and comments from past clients. Negative reviews and lack of client feedback is a big red flag. Remember, personal injury and workers’ compensation lawyers should be helping clients move forward with their lives. Don’t hesitate to ask a potential lawyer for references.

2) Make sure you’re meeting with an actual attorney. You’d be surprised how often injured clients never get to meet with an attorney either before their case is signed up, or during a case. That is unacceptable. A lawyer should always be available to meet with you and answer any questions you may have about your case from the first meeting on.

3) A consultation should be free, confidential, and with no obligation to commit. Anything other than free, confidential, and no-pressure meetings is never OK.

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Once you decide which attorneys you’ll meet with about your case, you’ll want to be aware of several things in preparation for the initial consultation. Most injury lawyers offer an initial consultation at no charge. Here are 5 points to keep in mind before you sit down with an attorney to discuss your case:

1) You Can Ask Questions: You want to make sure you hire someone you feel comfortable with, who you can trust, and who has your best interest at heart. Here are a few questions you can ask:

  • What is your experience with my type of case?
  • What is your success record?
  • Who will actually be working on my case? Make sure your case isn’t handed off to a paralegal or legal assistant. You want to make sure an actual lawyer is taking care of your case.
  • Who can I talk to if I have questions during my case? An attorney should always be available to answer any of your questions.
  • How long does it take to resolve a case like mine? Potential lawyers should be able to give you a rough estimate.
  • What is my case worth? A good, experienced lawyer should also have a good idea of what your case is worth. Be wary of attorneys who make estimates that seem unrealistic.

2) Fees: A consultation should always be free and confidential, and the injury lawyers should always work on a contingency fee basis. This means that you pay nothing out of pocket until the legal team recovers money damages in your case through a settlement or verdict. At that point, the lawyer is given a percentage of that award, typically between 33% and 40% if the case is taken to trial. Review the contract and agree on the structure before signing it. In this format, the attorney is responsible for any legal costs if a case is unsuccessful, not the client.

3) Gather Evidence: The lawyer, too, can decide whether or not he or she wants to take your case. Be sure to come to your free consultation with any evidence of you incident and subsequent injuries. This could include photographs of the scene or injuries, a police report, and medical records. Don’t worry if you don’t have all of the records; if a lawyer is interested in your case, the legal team will be able to gather all of that information for you. The attorney will also have some questions, including detail about any accident.

4) Legal Team: You need to feel comfortable working with and trusting the attorney and legal team you ultimately choose. Some law firms send non-attorneys to sign up your case, or even pretend to be local when their offices are actually in another city. Still others shift work to non-lawyers. Many lawyers, also, will take on too many cases, causing unnecessary delays. Lawyers should also focus on taking each to a jury trial, even this likely won’t be necessary. This guarantees each case reaches its fullest value, and your case isn’t settled for less.

5) No Agreement: While you have a choice on who to hire, the attorney too might not accept your case due to a number of factors: conflict of interest, statute of limitations expired, minor injuries and small recovery, you caused the accident, or the attorney doesn’t have expertise in your case. If a lawyer can’t help you with your case, he or she should be able to refer you to someone who could help.

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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.

How to identify, report elder abuse and neglect, and raise awareness to end these tragic cases

June 9, 2021 | 9:03 am


It’s hard to imagine that anyone would deliberately want to harm an elderly person — senior citizens, after all, are some of our frailest and most vulnerable citizens. Yet, elder abuse and neglect is a widespread problem.

California sees more than 175,000 cases of reported elder abuse cases each year, according to Kern County Aging & Adult Services. And officials estimate that for every case known to reporting agencies, 24 cases go unreported.

For Elder Abuse Awareness Month, Chain | Cohn | Stiles would like to draw attention to this problem and provide facts, prevention tips, vital resources, and other information to help reduce neglect and abuse (World Elder Abuse Awareness Day this year takes place June 15). The law firm has been at the forefront in fighting for victims of elder abuse and neglect in Bakersfield, Kern County and throughout the state.

Read below to learn more about elder abuse and neglect, and how we can work together to bring these cases to an end.

 

WHAT IS ELDER ABUSE / NEGLECT

Some instances of elder abuse are intended to exploit the person financially, including scams targeting seniors. In other cases, it’s simple negligence: Caregivers don’t provide the basic necessities, like nutritious food, appropriate medication, safety, or assistance with hygiene. Abuse can include physical, emotional, financial, abandonment, isolation, and neglect.

Here are five facts about elder abuse:

  1. Elder abuse instances happen mostly in the home where the senior lives.
  2. One in every 10 elder adults experience some form of abuse in their lifetime.
  3. The most common form of abuse is financial exploitation and extortion.
  4. In around 90% of elder abuse and neglect incidents, the perpetrator is a family member.
  5. Only one of every six instances of elder abuse and neglect is reported.

The purpose of elder abuse awareness is to provide an opportunity for communities around the world to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons by raising awareness of the cultural, social, economic and demographic processes affecting elder abuse and neglect.

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed neglect and abuse tragedies in elder care and nursing home throughout the United States, including in Kern County. Local skilled nursing facilities experienced COVID-19 outbreaks that affected staff and residents alike. During the pandemic, Kern County Department of Public Health requested immediate help with staffing shortages at Kingston Health Care Facility in Bakersfield, and healthcare professionals throughout the state were sent to assist the facility.

A report by media agency Al Jazeera English highlighted how an elder care system already in crisis imploded under the weight of the coronavirus pandemic. The coverage included an interview with Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney Matt Clark, an elder abuse and neglect lawyer.

 

REPORTING ELDER ABUSE, NEGLECT

So why does elder abuse go unreported? Many times, elders have no family to report to. They also fear retaliation from “caregivers,” or they feel shame in regards to abuse. Another reason is they fear they will lose independence, or fear they will upset their own family members. Many times, however, victims simply lack understanding of how to report abuse.

Another issue lies is recognizing elder abuse and neglect. In fact, elder abuse can take many forms including:

  • Physical abuse: Inflicting physical pain or injury on a senior (slapping, bruising or restraining by physical or chemical means).
  • Sexual Abuse: Non-consensual sexual contact of any kind.
  • Neglect: The failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care, or protection for a vulnerable elder.
  • Exploitation: The illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a senior for someone else’s benefit.
  • Emotional Abuse: Inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts (humiliating, intimidating, or threatening).
  • Abandonment: Desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person.
  • Self-neglect: Characterized as the failure of a person to perform essential, self-care tasks and that such failure threatens his/her own health or safety.

So, how do you recognize elder abuse and neglect, and what are the warning signs. Here are a few of them:

  • Bruises, broken bones, abrasions and burns may be an indication of physical abuse, neglect or mistreatment.
  • Unexplained withdrawal from normal activities, a sudden change in alertness, and unusual depression may be indicators of emotional abuse.
  • Bruises around the breasts or genital area can occur from sexual abuse.
  • Sudden changes in financial situations.
  • Bedsores, unattended medical needs, poor hygiene and unusual weight loss.
  • Behavior such as belittling, threats, and other uses of power and control by spouses are indicators of verbal or emotional abuse.
  • Strained or tense relationships, frequent arguments between the caregiver and elderly person.
  • If you notice changes in a senior’s personality or behavior, you should start to question what is going on.

It’s important to alert others if you have suspicions, and to retain an attorney. In an emergency, call 9-1-1. To report cases of elder abuse, whether it is on your own behalf or that of someone you know, please call Adult Protective Services as part of the Kern County Aging & Adult Services, or contact the Long-Term Care Ombudsman.

  • Adult Protective Services responds to reports from individuals, concerned citizens, social service and health providers, and law enforcement representatives about developmental disabled adults, physically and mentally disabled adults, and the elderly who may be physically or financially abused, neglected, or exploited. Upon receipt of a referral, APS sends a social worker to make a home visit or contact the elder or dependent adult.
    • 24-Hour Hotline: 800-277-7866 or 661-868-1006
  • Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program investigates elder abuse complaints in long-term care facilities and in residential care facilities for the elderly. The primary responsibility of the program is to investigate and endeavor to resolve complaints made by, or on behalf of, individual residents in these facilities, including nursing homes, residential care facilities for the elderly, and assisted living facilities. The goal of the program is to advocate for the rights of all residents in long term care.
    • Phone: 661-323-7884

 

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Know the symptoms of abuse: Bedsores, bruises, or chafing could indicate that your loved one is being restrained to a bed or wheelchair, or otherwise physically abused. If he or she has recently lost weight, malnutrition or dehydration could be at play, while poor hygiene is also an indicator of possible abuse. Watch, too, for changes in the person’s mood; if they seem depressed, anxious, agitated, or listless, see if you can discover why. In short, any changes to an elder’s behavior, disposition or physical condition could be cause for concern.

If you suspect something, say something: If you do detect signs of abuse, document them. Take pictures of bruises or injuries, get a statement from the victim or any witnesses, and keep a log of any suspicious behavior or circumstances. You can then address your concerns with the manager or director of the long-term care facility or home care provider; if they do not take action, contact the police or an elder abuse attorney.

Spread the word with social media: There really is no better way to get the word out and foster awareness than through social platforms. Share informational articles and use the hashtag #WEAAD.

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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.

Video Campaign Sponsored by Chain | Cohn | Stiles Aims to Raise Awareness of Safety, Enjoyment of Bakersfield’s Kern River Parkway

May 5, 2021 | 5:00 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles has helped launch a new video campaign focused on the safe use and enjoyment for all of Bakersfield’s Kern River Parkway — a paved trail over 30 miles long that runs from southwest to northwest Bakersfield used for recreational use and commuting.

The video campaign launched in conjunction with May’s “Bike Month”, an annual observation that showcases the many benefits of bicycling. Videos will be airing on local broadcast channels and throughout social media.

“We are all very lucky to have the Kern River Parkway in our community,” said Matt Clark, accident attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “As an avid cyclist, who has ridden all around our state, I can assure you that the Parkway is a rare and wonderful commodity. We encourage everyone to enjoy the path, and use it safely.”

The three videos highlight the rules of using the Parkway safely, how the entire family – adults with children and pets – can use the Parkway, and lastly, how the Parkway is “a trail to enjoy together,” as the campaign slogan states.

“Our community, unfortunately, has some of the highest rates of pedestrian and bicycle accidents in the state, and the nation,” said Asha Chandy, program manager at Bike Bakersfield. “We want everyone to be able to enjoy our trails, roadways, and other paths in Kern County. Let’s share the road safely.”

Bike Bakersfield has several events planned for Bike Month, which can be seen below and on bikebakersfield.org.

The video campaign is a partnership between three local organizations. Kern River Parkway Foundation works to protect, preserve, and restore the open area around the Kern River for the benefit of the citizens of Bakersfield and Kern County. Bike Bakersfield is a local bicycle advocacy nonprofit and bike kitchen. Chain | Cohn | Stiles is a Bakersfield-based accident and injury law firm, which annually gives out hundreds of bicycle lights, safety helmets, and participates in local safety campaigns. Mark Nessia is the campaign videographer.

The videos can be viewed on-demand at youtube.com/chaincohnstiles.

 

BIKE MONTH

Several groups are coming together this year to commemorate Kern County’s Bike Month.

Bike Bakersfield, Kern Council of Governments and Kern County Public Works are working with a coalition of active transportation partners for a month of events to get people out on two wheels, The Bakersfield Californian reports.

  • A kick-off celebration has local elected officials and bicycling clubs enjoy a ride of solidarity from Beach Park to the Liberty Bell.
  • On May 4, Bike Month celebrates a chance to support local organizations through Give Big Kern’s day of giving. Bike Bakersfield is collecting donations now through the big day.
  • A community swap meet will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 8 outside of Cafe Smitten, 909 18th St. Participants can set up their own table with their gear and parts to sell or trade. After the swap ends, there will be a community cruise through downtown.
  • On May 19 from 6 to 9 p.m., the Ride of Silence will be held, starting at Cafe Smitten. Sponsored by Chain | Cohn | Stiles, the ride honors the lives lost to traffic violence, particularly those killed while bicycling on public roadways.
  • Whether you’re still working from home or headed to the office, you can participate in Bike to Work Day on May 21. From 6 to 9 a.m., Bike Bakersfield and Kern Wheelmen will set up along the Kern River Parkway with refreshments for those riding to work.
  • On May 22, an alley cat/on bike scavenger hunt will be held at 11 a.m. Not to be confused with the downtown bar, participants will meet at Bike Bakersfield’s shop, 1708 Chester Ave., to kick off a race to reach checkpoints in downtown Bakersfield and the Kern River Parkway leading to Snider’s Cyclery. At the finish line, winners will be announced and prizes will be awarded. Everyone wins with food and drinks from local vendors as well as a BMX and skate jam.
  • Finally a full moon ride rounds out the month on May 26. Starting at 7 p.m. at Beach Park, riders will enjoy a community sunset cruise down the Kern River Parkway to Lengthwise Brewing at The Marketplace, 9000 Ming Ave., T-1.

 

CRASH CHECKLIST

If you are involved in a collision while riding a bicycle, it’s important to know the steps to follow to ensure that you receive fair response from the police and collect information you may need for future legal issues. Even if you are not injured, follow this checklist as injuries can come up later.

Immediately after a crash

  • Tell the driver to stay until the police arrive. If they refuse to stay or don’t provide ID, get their and the car’s description, vehicle’s license plate number and state of issue.
  • Call (or ask someone to call) 9-1-1, and ask for the police to come to the scene.
  • Get name and contact info for any witnesses. Ask them to remain on the scene until police arrive, if possible.
  • Ask for the driver’s license and insurance card. Write down name, address, date of birth, and insurance information.

When the police arrive

  • Ask them to take an incident report.
  • Get reporting police officer’s name and badge number.
  • If you’ve been doored, ask the officer to cite the motorist for dooring.
  • Ask the officers to speak to witnesses, if possible.
  • While a doctor’s report of your injury is important for insurance and/or legal action, you do not need to take an ambulance.

In the days after the crash

  • Contact witnesses to ask them to email you their version of what happened while it’s fresh in their mind. Email yourself a description of what happened with relevant information and capture as much detail as you can.
  • Take good photos of your injuries and any bike damage. Get an estimate from a bike shop before making repairs.
  • Request a copy of the incident report from the police.
  • Contact an attorney who has experience with bicycle accidents.

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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.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Chain | Cohn | Stiles files lawsuit in the choking death of 21-year-old at local for-profit care facility

March 31, 2021 | 8:44 am


Ryan Kowal, 21, had severe autism and required one-on-one care “at all times” when he was placed in the care of SAILS Westbrook Crisis Home in Bakersfield. That care was most important during meal times, as Ryan required a soft food-only diet due to his risk for choking.

Supervisors at SAILS Westbrook Crisis Home, a vendor of Kern County Regional Center and Golden Gate Regional Center, signed care plans confirming such knowledge. So, it was alarming to the Kowal family when Ryan choked while eating a corn dog, causing Ryan to lose consciousness and go into cardiac arrest. He had to be revived by emergency personnel, and spent days in the hospital recovering.

But it was a preventable tragedy when, 7 months later on Jan. 23, Ryan was left alone again with easy access to food that posed a choking hazard. While Ryan was left alone with no supervision, he accessed what is believed to be crackers, ate a large amount of the crackers, choked and died.

The Kowal family, along with attorney Matt Clark at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, say this is a warning to families of special-needs children and adults everywhere to beware of for-profit care facilities who sacrifice appropriate support and care, which they are contractually obligated to provide, to increase profit margins.

“SAILS Westbrook knew Ryan’s needs and care requirements, accepted him as a resident in its home, being paid by taxpayers to provide him the appropriate supervision and provide for his needs,” states the lawsuit filed by Chain | Cohn | Stiles on behalf of the Kowal family. “A lack of oversight from both regional centers, and SAILS Westbrook’s desire for profit, caused Ryan’s tragic death.”

Ryan’s parents Treena and John Kowal, along with their attorney Matt Clark, spoke with local media to discuss Ryan’s tragic death, their wrongful death lawsuit, and the state of for-profit care facilities. To see the media interviews and coverage, click the links at the listing below.

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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.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Chain | Cohn | Stiles launches new educational grant program open to all Kern County students

February 3, 2021 | 5:00 am


While schooling may look different these days, one thing that hasn’t changed is the very real costs of education, which includes computers, textbooks, college application fees, and other school supplies and needs.

In an effort to help local students with the higher costs of education, local law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles has introduced a new grant and educational video program open to all Kern County students.

The “Chats with Chain | Cohn | Stiles” educational grants program aims to give away $500 educational grants. How can students apply? Simple. Kern County students can visit bit.ly/chatswithccs, fill out the application, and ask our attorneys a question. It could be a question about the law, life as a lawyer, or anything in the legal field they may be curious about.

For the next 10 months, Chain | Cohn | Stiles will choose a question, and students will get to ask the lawyers that question on video at Scope Studios in Bakersfield. And, of course, they’ll get some cash for their education, too. Questions and answers will be posted on the Chain | Cohn | Stiles YouTube page for all to learn.

“We are especially mindful of the challenges students have faced during the pandemic,” said Matt Clark, senior partner at personal injury attorney with Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “This is our way of recognizing these challenges, and hopefully providing students with a little help, encouragement, and education.”

The scholarship application can be accessed at chainlaw.com, or by visiting the short URL http://bit.ly/chatswithccs. Scholarship program questions can be directed to [email protected]

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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.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

‘CHATS WITH CHAIN | COHN | STILES’ VIDEOS