5 things every employer should make sure employees know about their workplace rights

September 30, 2015 | 10:18 am


NOTE: The article below, written by Chain | Cohn | Stiles workers’ compensation attorneys James Yoro and Beatriz Trejo, appeared in the August/September 2015 issue of the Kern Business Journal. The Kern Business Journal is a bi-monthly publication of The Bakersfield Californian, showcasing business and industry developments across Kern County.

It is important for employers to talk to their employees about their rights at the workplace before an incident occurs. The personal injury and workers’ compensation* law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles reminds employers to discuss regulatory issues, industry trends and state requirements with their employees.

To see the entire publication online, click here. To see the article only online, click here

 

For employers, knowing information about regulatory issues, industry trends and state requirements is crucial to the success of a business. Business owners can even find themselves in regulatory trouble if they don’t follow new rules.

For example, it’s especially important and required, for California employers to post workplace information to inform their employees of their rights.

These postings must be in an area frequented by employees where it may be easily accessed and read during an average workday. Common locations for postings include a company break room, near an employee entrance, kitchen or copy room. Employers are required to post information about wages, hours, working conditions, unemployment insurance, and disability insurance and paid family leave.

Although additional posting requirements apply to certain employers, the basic posting requirements are clear for all employers. Here are just a few of them:

1) Essential notices

The California Department of Industrial Relations requires that most employers post the state’s minimum wage, provide information about paid sick leave, its entitlement and usage. An employer must also provide information indicating its regular paydays, including the time and place of payment.

2) Safety first

Although safety notices vary greatly depending on the employer, all employers must have pertinent information regarding safety rules in English and Spanish and have emergency responders’ phone numbers. Employers in certain industries, such as employers who use hazardous material or equipment or who employ more than a specified number of employees, may have additional posting requirements.

3) Benefits postings

All employers must post workers’ compensation information and benefits notices. There is no set format for providing this notice, so long as all necessary information is contained in it. Although an employer may elect to send their notices to the administrative director of the California Division of Workers’ Compensation for review and approval, most employer’s workers’ compensation insurance of claims administrator will often provide this service and will supply the employer with a professionally printed copy of the poster and worker’s compensation claims forms. Other forms or pamphlets might also need to be provided to new hires or in certain situations.

4) When to post

Employers need not replace the postings every year. Postings need to be revised and replaced when the content changes. Most postings do not change once the language has been established. The California Department of Industrial Relations will announce posting updates on its webpage – dir.ca.gov – when they occur.

5) Get some help

There are several agencies that help employers navigate through the posting requirements at no cost. The California Department of Industrial Relations provides a list of industries and occupational groups from which an employer can get information about specific posting requirements. The Industrial Welfare Commission also has an alphabetical index of businesses and occupations that provide employers information as to which wage order governs them. Cal/OSHA can also give employers a list of health and safety notices. Once an employer is registered with the California Employment Development Department, it will receive a notice to post from that agency. A comprehensive list of postings requirements can also be found at the California Tax Services Center website. Employers may also elect to use a private vendor to assemble packages of required posters.

– James Yoro is senior partner at Chain Cohn Stiles, where he manages the law firm’s workers’ compensation practice, and has nearly 40 years of experience in Kern County in his field. Beatriz Trejo is an associate attorney in the workers’ compensation department at Chain Cohn Stiles.

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For more information and tips on workers’ compensation or if you’ve been hurt while on the job, contact the Bakersfield workers’ compensation attorneys at 661-323-4000. Also, visit Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ specialized workers’ compensation website — for frequently asked questions and answers, and other information — by clicking here.

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

Lawmakers, attorneys battle for fairness in workers’ compensation cases

May 12, 2015 | 10:50 am


Several recent news stories in Kern County and California have raised debate about workers’ compensation* issues and how workers can be more fairly compensated for job-related injuries and illnesses.

Workers’ compensation and women

California lawmakers approved a bill recently that would update state’s workers’ compensation law so that medical problems affecting mostly women will no longer be considered pre-existing conditions in calculating the compensation for job-related injuries and illnesses, the Associated Press reported.

Women often receive less pay than men for suffering the same injury because the law allows discounted rates for pregnancy, breast cancer, menopause, osteoporosis or a psychiatric disability related to those diagnoses.

Bakersfield workers’ compensation attorney James Yoro says that the out-of-date state law discriminates against women in the workplace. Yoro is a Certified Workers’ Compensation Professional in California, and is one of the most veteran and most respected workers’ compensation lawyers in the San Joaquin Valley.

“We should reduce the effects of the recent legislation that has caused hardships for injured workers by proposing additional regulations that would prevent this type of thing happening,” said Yoro, with the law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Yoro sits on the Board of Governors for the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association, which is working to minimize the harsh effects of the law.

Insurance fight

BakersfieldNow.com recently highlighted the story of a man who was injured badly in a big rig explosion and fighting with an insurance company over workers’ compensation.

Donovan Dixon, of Bakersfield, was left in critical condition after a crash on Highway 710 in which a vehicle in front of him lost its rear axle and got stuck underneath Dixon’s tanker, carrying crude oil. He suffered major injuries, including burns and a broken pelvis, and spent two and a half months in a coma.

The insurance company denied to authorize physical therapy, Dixon said, and also a bed that doctors said he needed to sleep comfortably. The insurance company could not comment to BakersfieldNow.com on the specific case. Dixon said he was sick of big companies gaming the system to deny people like himself.

“It’s unfortunate what happened to this individual,” Yoro said.

Additionally, Yoro said, Dixon hired an attorney outside of Bakersfield, which could cause some hardships. The law allows victims to file lawsuits in their hometowns, and not where accidents have taken place.

“Accident victims don’t have to go outside of this area to get representation. We have specialists here,” Yoro said.

New workers’ compensation battle

Lastly, a new workers’ compensation bill has sparked a new battle in California, according to The Sacramento Bee.

Senate Bill 563, by Sen. Richard Pan, would partially undo the 2012 legislation by softening “utilization review” of medical treatments, aimed at approving only those deemed to be medically necessary. Sponsors contend that without changes, the current system denies injured workers badly needed treatment.

To read more on this, click here.

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If you are ever involved in an accident due to the fault of another, or are injured at work, contact the personal injury and workers’ compensation lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at 661-323-4000 or visit the website chainlaw.com. Or visit the law firm’s specialized workers’ compensation website by clicking here.

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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.

10 things every employer should know about workers’ compensation

March 25, 2015 | 9:37 am


Note: The following article was published in the April/May edition of the Kern Business Journal, which you can view by clicking here. The Kern Business Journal is a bi-monthly publication of the The Bakersfield Californian, showcasing business and industry developments across Kern County.

By James Yoro and Beatriz Trejo

Responsible employers and responsible employees want the same thing: to work in a safe and healthy environment. But despite the best efforts of all involved, accidents can and do happen, and a work injury is an unfortunate incident for all parties involved.

The workers’ compensation* system is based on a trade-off between employees and employers – employees are supposed to promptly receive the benefits for on-the-job injuries, and in return, the workers’ compensation benefits are the exclusive remedy for injured employees against their employer.

An employer should respond quickly and appropriately to an employee’s work injury claim so as not to unnecessarily delay the provision of the needed benefits.

But the process can be more complicated than that. Here are five things employers should consider when dealing with on-the-job injuries:

1) The employer has a duty investigate.

The law requires that when an employer has been made aware of any facts which would lead to a conclusion that an injury has occurred on the job, the employer must investigate the incident. Being made aware of the incident can be any reporting or complaint made to a supervisor, foreman, manager, administrator or any person of authority.

2) Provide a “claim form” to the employee.

Unless the injury resulted in first aid only, within one day of having knowledge of the injury, the employer must provide a “claim form” to the injured worker. Once an injured employee completes and returns the claim form to his or her employer, workers’ compensation benefits should start flowing quickly if the injury is industrial.

3)  Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system.

An injured worker will be entitled to workers’ compensation for injuries arising out of, and in the course of, employment. The injured worker does not need to prove that anyone was at fault for the accident.

4) Workers’ compensation is a benefit delivery system.

There are five types of benefits to which the injured worker may be entitled: temporary disability, permanent disability, medical treatment, vocational rehabilitation services, and death benefits.

5) There are two ways to settle a workers’ compensation case.

Once the case is ripe for settlement, the case may be settled by way of “Stipulation with Request for Award,” where the employee is paid a small weekly benefit ($230 to $270) for the percentage of permanent disability that a doctor has assigned to the injured worker, and is also entitled to any continuing reasonable and necessary medical treatment. However, the medical treatment is still under the control of the employer’s insurance company. The other type of settlement is called a “Compromise and Release.” In this case, the employer through its insurance carrier negotiates to buy-out the insurance carrier’s obligation to the injured worker for benefits and future medical care for a lump sum settlement paid to the employee.

As a bonus, here are five more general tips employers should consider when dealing with on-the-job injuries.

1) No employee wants to get hurt on the job.

If you have good employees then give them the benefit of the doubt when handling their claim.

2) Employees don’t plan on getting hurt on the job.

Just because there are no witnesses to the employees accident or injury doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. The vast majority of on-the-job injuries are not witnessed by anyone. In addition, most employees are reluctant to report injuries unless they are serious or until they become so.

Consider the following scenario:

A warehouse worker who is required to unload trucks has a particularly busy shift on a Friday when he suddenly tweaks his back lifting a load in the afternoon. Rather than stopping work and reporting it at that time, he decides to try and finish out his shift and see if he can rest it over the weekend in the hopes of alleviating his pain. However, despite resting his back over the weekend, it does not get better and when he reports for work on Monday morning, he is unable to do his regular duties and then reports his injury to his foreman.

Once again, if this person is a good employee, then give him or her the benefit of the doubt and process the claim.

3) Injured employees do not get rich off of workers’ compensation benefits.

If an injured worker is placed on temporary total disability by the company doctor, the benefit is paid at two-thirds of the employee’s average weekly wage. This benefit is only available for a total of 104 weeks. This means that if an employee has a serious injury that requires hospitalization or multiple surgeries, they may run out of benefits before they have had a chance to recover. Thereafter, the maximum benefit the employee would be entitled to receive is $230 to $270 per week for a limited period of time. In addition, all medical treatment that the injured worker receives is controlled by the insurance company. Injured workers are not entitled to receive any monetary benefit for pain and suffering, lost wages and future earnings.

4) Do not discriminate against the injured worker.

Labor Code section 132a makes it unlawful for an employer to discharge, threaten to discharge, or in any manner discriminate against an employee because that employee has filed a workers’ compensation claim, or has made known his or her intention to file such a claim or has received a disability rating, award or settlement. Whenever possible, the employer should make good-faith efforts to determine whether or not the employee can be returned to work with reasonable accommodations.

5) Treat the injured worker the way you would want to be treated if you suffered an on-the-job injury.

Employers should try and follow the Golden Rule whenever an employee suffers an on-the-job injury.

– James Yoro is senior partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, where he manages the law firm’s workers’ compensation practice, and has nearly 40 years of experience in his field. Beatriz Trejo is an associate attorney in the workers’ compensation department at Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

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For more information and tips on workers’ compensation, visit Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ specialized workers’ compensation website — for frequently asked questions and answers, and other information — by clicking here.

And if you’ve been hurt while on the job, contact the Bakersfield workers’ compensation attorneys at 661-323-4000. Also, visit Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ specialized workers’ compensation website — for frequently asked questions and answers, and other information — by clicking here.

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

Failing workers’ compensation system ‘adding inequality to injury’

March 10, 2015 | 10:25 am


Note: The following article was written by Chain | Cohn | Stiles senior partner James A. Yoro, who manages the Bakersfield-based law firm’s Workers’ Compensation* Department, for publication into The Bakersfield Californian’s “Community Voices” section. You can the full article in the Kern County Journal here

By James A. Yoro

One of the most important protections that employees have is a workers’ compensation system that is supposed to provide them with minimum necessary benefits when they suffer an injury on the job.

This system was predicated on a “Grand Bargain” that was initiated during the Industrial Revolution to deal with the rising tide of work-related injuries and death. The injured worker gave up the right to sue the employer for civil damages. In exchange, the employee would receive medical treatment and a sufficient amount of monetary benefits to help them get by during their recovery period. If their injuries caused some permanent limitation or restriction on their ability to function, additional benefits were paid to reflect their level of disability. If they were unable to return to their usual and customary job, they would be provided retraining to help them adjust to other more suitable employment within their limitations.

Workers’ compensation was a progressive idea that came to fruition at a time when we as a society recognized that it was not fair to treat injured workers as if they were nothing more than a piece of broken machinery – something to be discarded and replaced. Human capital is a valuable commodity that contributes to the success of our economy. Therefore, when workers get injured, they should be helped and cared for and not marginalized. Originally, this was the goal of the Workers’ Compensation system. At the beginning of the 20th century, all 50 states adopted such a system in accordance with this philosophy.

But in the last 15 years, things have gone horribly awry for the injured worker.

Within the last week, two investigative reports and several news articles – including by OSHA and the U.S. Department of Labor, National Public Radio and The Washington Post – reveal how poorly injured workers are now being treated in the Workers’ Compensation system and the effect this cost shifting of the burden has affected our economy and our society.

The Department of Labor report titled, “Adding inequality to injury: The costs of failing to protect workers on the job,” summarized its findings as follows:

“The costs of workplace injuries are borne primarily by injured workers, their families, and taxpayer-supported components of the social safety net. Changes in state based workers’ compensation insurance programs have made it increasingly difficult for injured workers to receive the full benefits (including adequate wage replacement payments and coverage for medical expenses) to which they are entitled. Employers now provide only a small percentage (about 20 percent) of the overall financial cost of workplace injuries and illnesses through workers’ compensation. This cost-shift has forced injured workers, their families and taxpayers to subsidize the vast majority of the lost income and medical care costs generated by these conditions.”

The study concluded that the “failure of many employers to prevent millions of work injuries and illnesses each year, and the failure of the broken workers’ compensation system to ensure that workers do not bear the costs of their injuries and illnesses, are truly adding inequality to injury.”

I have represented injured workers for more than 25 years and I’ve seen firsthand this slow deterioration in the system and how it has affected those most vulnerable in our society – the injured, the handicapped and disabled – in their struggle to obtain the benefits they deserve and achieve some measure of dignity. At times, my level of frustration is overwhelming as I gaze into the eyes of my clients and see the look of quiet desperation in their eyes as they struggle to avoid near poverty, bankruptcy and sometimes divorce simply because they got injured on the job.

Franklin Roosevelt once said, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

If this is the measure for progress then the workers’ compensation system is in a period of regression. The “Grand Bargain” is no longer a bargain.

– James A. Yoro is a certified workers’ compensation attorney with nearly 40 years of legal experience, and partner at the Bakersfield-based law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

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Learn more about the recent reports on the workers’ compensation system:

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If you’ve been hurt while on the job, contact the Bakersfield workers’ compensation attorneys at 661-323-4000. Also, visit Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ specialized workers’ compensation website — for frequently asked questions and answers, and other information — by clicking here.

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

New attorney joins Chain | Cohn | Stiles workers’ compensation department

February 3, 2015 | 9:13 am


The Bakersfield-based personal injury and workers’ compensation* law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles has welcomed a new attorney to its team.

Beatriz Trejo has joined the firm’s workers compensation department as an associate, where she will represent injured Kern County workers alongside veteran attorney and Chain | Cohn | Stiles partner James Yoro.

“I’m very excited to join Chain | Cohn | Stiles in representing injured workers in Kern County,” Trejo said.

Trejo is joining a team of attorneys who, like her, grew up or have called Bakersfield home for decades. Trejo graduated from Highland High School in northeast Bakersfield, and earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from Cal State Bakersfield. At CSUB, she was part of Pi Sigma Alpha, a political science honor society.

She earned her master’s degree, also in political science, from Cal State Northridge, where she was vice president of the Pi Sigma Alpha chapter.

She earned her Juris Doctorate at University of Akron School of Law in Ohio in 2011. While she was there, she participated in the Trial Team Honor Society, and competed in several statewide and national trial competition. She was also vice president of the Akron Asian-Latino Law Student Association.

In Ohio, Trejo worked for Thomson Reuters, West, conducting legal research for Westlaw.com, and also worked as a law clerk for Akron-based law firm.

After earning her law degree, she returned to Bakersfield 2011, and worked for more than three years in the local office for a statewide workers’ compensation defense firm.

Outside of the office, Beatriz enjoys taking part in CrossFit, an intense fitness program. She’s also a fan of basketball, and cheers for the Los Angeles Lakers. Trejo is also fluent in Spanish.

If you’ve been hurt while on the job, contact the Bakersfield workers’ compensation attorneys, including Beatriz Trejo, at 661-323-4000. And visit Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ specialized workers’ compensation website — for frequently asked questions and answers, and other information — by clicking here. See Trejo’s profile on Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ website by clicking here.

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Beatriz Trejo was featured in the Feb. 3, 2015 issue of The Bakersfield Californian in the “People in Business” section. Click here to see the article of Trejo about her addition to Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

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

Work-related illnesses, Valley Fever, could result in workers’ compensation claim

January 20, 2015 | 10:22 am


Some people wouldn’t consider getting sick on the job as a workers’ compensation* injury issue.

“But you could be entitled to benefits under the workers’ compensation system if you get ill on the job, and the illness is as a result of the job,” said James Yoro, workers’ compensation attorney and partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Yoro recently spoke about this issue with radio deejay Sheri Ortiz on her show on The Groove 99.3. You can listen to the full interview by clicking here. Yoro and Chain | Cohn | Stiles associate attorney Beatriz Trejo also published an article recently in the Kern Business Journal focused on valley fever. To read that article, click here.

Specifically in the radio show, Yoro spoke about Valley Fever related to the workplace.

Under California law, Employers have responsibility to immediately report to Cal/OSHA any serious injury or illness, or death (including any due to Valley Fever) of an employee occurring in a place of employment or in connection with any employment, according to the California Department of Industrial Relations. Employers also have responsibilities to control workers’ exposure to hazardous materials.

Valley Fever is caused by a microscopic fungus known as coccidiodes immitis, which lives in the top two to 12 inches of soil in many parts of California. When soil is disturbed by activities such as digging, driving or high winds, fungal spores can become airborne and potentially be inhaled by workers.

In Kern County, around 500 cases of Valley Fever are reported in a typical year. Of those cases, about 5 people die from Valley Fever., according to Kern County Public Health Services Department. Kern County is also a leader and resource for treating and taking care of those infected with this disease.

When fungal spores are present, any work activity that disturbs the soil, such as digging, grading or other earth moving operations, or vehicle operation on dirt roads, can cause the spores to become airborne, and therefore increase the risk of Valley Fever. All workers on sites where the fungus is present, and who are exposed to dusty conditions and wind-blown dusts are at increased risk of becoming infected, according to Cal/OSHA. Some of those workers include: construction workers and other workers on construction sites, including road-building and excavation crews; archeologists; geologists; wildland firefighters; military personnel; workers in mining, quarrying, gas and oil extraction jobs; and agricultural workers.

Because there is no vaccine to prevent Valley Fever, important steps must be taken to limit risk, especially for employers. Some of those steps are as follows:

  • Determine if your worksite is in an endemic area.
  • Adopt site plans and work practices that reduce workers’ exposure, which may include minimizing the area of soil disturbed; using water, appropriate soil stabilizers, and/or re-vegetation to reduce airborne dust; stabilizing all spoils piles by tarping or other methods; providing air conditioned cabs for vehicles that generate heavy dust and make sure workers keep windows and vents closed; suspending work during heavy winds; placing any onsite sleeping quarters, if provided, away from sources of dust.
  • Employers must develop and implement a respiratory protection program in accordance with Cal/OSHA’s Respiratory Protection standard.
  • Take measures to reduce transporting spores offsite, such as cleaning tools, equipment, and vehicles before transporting offsite; providing coveralls and change rooms, and showers where possible if workers’ clothing is likely to be heavily contaminated with dust.
  • Train workers and supervisors about the risk of Valley Fever, the work activities that may increase the risk, and the measures used onsite to reduce exposure. Also train on how to recognize Valley Fever symptoms.
  • Encourage workers to report Valley Fever symptoms promptly to a supervisor.

“It’s important that people are aware that if they work in dusty outside conditions and they acquire Valley Fever, there’s a strong possibility that it could be work related,” Yoro told Sheri Ortiz.

It’s important to note that half of all people with Valley Fever show no symptoms, or show symptoms similar to a cold. Another 40 to 50 percent develop an illness severe enough to prompt the person to go to a healthcare provider, which includes flu-like symptoms. Those symptoms typically develop between 7 and 20 days after the spores enter your body. And another 1 to 5 percent of Valley Fever cases have the fungus leave the main site (lungs) and spread to other parts of the body.

If you suspect you’ve gotten Valley Fever, or another illness, due to your job, first see a doctor to make sure diagnosis is correct, Yoro said. And if you believe you’ve contracted an illness or disease related to your profession, it’s important to retain an attorney as soon as possible.

James Yoro has been serving Kern County as an attorney for nearly 40 years. He specializes in workers* compensation cases with the Bakersfield-based law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Call him at 661-323-4000 or visit the website chainlaw.com. Viisit Yoro’s specialized workers* compensation website by clicking here.

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

Chain | Cohn | Stiles unveils new videos airing now on ChainLaw.com, local TV

August 4, 2014 | 9:39 am


Several things set apart Chain | Cohn | Stiles from other law firms in Bakersfield, Kern County and the San Joaquin Valley. It’s one of the oldest and most successful personal injury law firms in the area, for example.

But another fact that makes Chain | Cohn | Stiles stand out is that most of the attorneys and staff at the personal injury law firm are from Bakersfield, or have called Bakersfield home for many, many years.

They’ve gone through local schools, have grown up in our community and have also raised their own kids in this town.

It’s something the lawyers and staff are proud of — to be able to represent their neighbors, who also call Kern County home. We wanted to share their stories with local residents.

With the help of the Bakersfield based agency Scope Studios, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has unveiled 90-second “Meet the Attorneys” videos, to give people of Kern County a chance to meet the lawyers and staff in this firm, and learn how and why they decided to become lawyers.

Watch each of the new “Meet the Attorneys” videos by clicking the names below:

These 90-second “Meet the Attorneys” videos have also been edited as 30-second videos, which have begun airing throughout Kern County. Watch them now throughout the day airing on Bright House Networks channels, KGET (NBC, 17), KERO (ABC, 23), KBFX (FOX, 58) and KBAK (CBS, 29). Or you can watch them here by clicking the names below:

Additionally, to help serve more of Kern County’s Hispanic and Spanish-speaking population, Chain | Cohn | Stiles and Scope Studios have also produced two 30-second Spanish language videos. They feature Chain | Cohn | Stiles marketing director Jorge Barrientos, and focus on the practices of accidents and workers’ compensation*. They are airing now on OGET (Telemundo, 17-3) and KABE (Univision, 39). You can also watch them here by clicking the titles below:

Please let us know what you think after watching these videos by commenting below.

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

Chain | Cohn | Stiles partners with correctional officers to provide legal services

July 21, 2014 | 9:39 am


Nearly 50 years ago, the Bakersfield personal injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles pioneered Group Law Services, which provides legal assistance to the working people in Kern County.

Members of Group Law Services groups and businesses can take full advantage of membership benefits including free consultations, reduced legal fees and notary assistance.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles is proud to partner once again this year with the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, which represents more than 30,000 correctional peace officers working inside California’s prisons and youth facilities, and the state’s parole agents who supervise inmates after their release.

According to the CCPOA, the group’s mission is to promote and enhance the correctional profession, protect the safety of those engaged in corrections and advocate for the laws, funding and policies needed to improve prison operations and protect public safety.

“Over the years, CCPOA has won a number of key reforms, including psychological screening for new officers, additional training and improved safety equipment and practices,” the CCPOA states on its website. “CCPOA has a long, proud history of safeguarding the rights and welfare of the men and women it represents – dedicated professionals who do a tough, dangerous and essential job.”

The lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles for decades have represented correctional officers in Kern County and across the state in various workers’ compensation* and personal injury cases. Through Group Law Services, correctional peace officers can receive these services and other benefits anytime they’re in need.

In fact, correctional officers throughout the state can see an ad for Chain | Cohn | Stiles in the PeaceKeeper, the official quarterly publication by the California Correctional Peace Officers Association. You can find the ad by clicking here.

The publication is printed to foster professionalism and communication among correctional personnel. Correctional officers who dial the number in the ad, or visit our website, get all of the legal benefits through the Group Law Services program.

If you are currently not a member of Group Law Services but are interested in becoming a member, please direct membership requests to Chain | Cohn | Stiles Marketing Director Jorge Barrientos at 661-323-4000.

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

How to handle complex oilfield accident cases

May 2, 2014 | 10:06 am


On Feb. 15, 2010, an oilfield explosion in Kern County resulted in the injuries to several local men, one of whom was represented by Chain | Cohn | Stiles. The client suffered a multitude of injuries, including an ankle fracture, and was hospitalized for 16 days at Kern Medical Center. 

The explosion occurred where a work-over rig was preparing to install a blowout preventer on the well-head.  At the time of the incident, the crew were in the process of testing the lockscrews that secured a tubing hanger into the well-head.  This needed to be done prior to the installation of the blowout preventer. 

Moments before the explosion, the crew handed over one of the lockscrews that secured the tubing hanger. The lockscrew appeared to be faulty. The engineer on scene was holding the lock screw at the time of the explosion, while knowing that the well was under pressure. The injured plaintiffs contended that the engineer either knew, or should have known, that the well-head presented a danger to all personnel on scene, once the lock screw was removed.  The engineer was in the process of showing the lockscrew to an employee of the firm that designed the well-head, in the moments preceding the explosion.  That employee also should have known about the danger, and should have exercised his stop work authority, and thus avoided the explosion.

Eventually, our oilfield accident attorneys settled the case against both the engineer and the company that manufactured the well-head for a confidential amount.

As you can see, oilfield accident cases involve a variety of complex legal issues that are often difficult to understand for clients. Our lawyers have extensive experience handling oilfield accident cases across the state of California. In fact, no other law firm in the state of California has more experience handling oilfield accident cases than our law firm. We have obtained more multi-million dollar results on behalf of oilfield accident victims than any other law firm in the state of California.

To better accommodate the needs of those who have been injured in an oilfield accident, our California oilfield accident attorneys have compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions for oilfield accident cases. If after reviewing the information here you still have questions, please feel free to call the firm at 661-323-4000.

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I was injured in the oilfields. Do I have a workers’ compensation* case?
In nearly every oilfield injury case, the injured worker has a workers’ compensation* claim.  In California, if you are injured on the job, while you are on the clock, you have a workers’ compensation* claim, and you are entitled to workers’ compensation* benefits.  Workers’ compensation* will cover your medical expenses, temporary disability, and in many cases, compensation for permanent disability.  Chain | Cohn | Stiles has a workers’ compensation* practice to assist you in obtaining these benefits.

If I am injured on the job in the oilfields, do I have a personal injury case against someone other than my employer? 
In many cases, the answer is yes. Often times, injuries occur in the oilfields due to the negligence of someone other than your employer.  In other words, if you were injured in an oilfield because of the actions of another contractor on the job, someone other than your employer, you may have an independent personal injury case against that contractor.  We call this a “third party case.”  In making a third party personal injury claim against a contractor other than your employer, you can claim more in damages than you may recover in your workers’ compensation* case.  For example, unlike workers’ compensation, your third party case against a contractor other than your employer may result in you recovering damages for pain and suffering, as well as all of your economic losses, such as loss of earnings and loss of future earning capacity.  If you have been injured in the oilfields, and you think someone other than your employer was at fault, please call Chain | Cohn | Stiles so we may evaluate your case.

I live outside Kern County.  Will you take my case?
Yes.  Chain | Cohn | Stiles regularly takes cases outside of Kern County, California.  Given our expertise in handling oilfield cases, we are often contacted by injured rig hands, contractors, roustabouts, welders and tool pushers throughout California.  In addition, we regularly employ experts from all over the State of California and the United States.  If you have been injured in the oilfields anywhere in California, contact Chain | Cohn | Stiles and tell us about your case.

Do you take offshore oil rig cases?
Yes.  Chain | Cohn | Stiles can help you if you have been injured on an offshore drilling platform.

If I get hurt on a drilling, workover, or oil well service rig do I have a case against someone other than my employer?
In many cases, the answer is yes.  Rarely is work in the oilfields performed by only one contractor.  For example, there are often third party contractors working in conjunction with the drilling rig crew on a drilling operation, or production rig crew on a maintenance or workover operation.  If you are injured in part because of an action or failure by one of these third party contractors, you may have a case against someone other than your employer.  In our experience, it is more likely that an injury in the oilfields involves, at least in part, the negligence of a third party contractor, other than your employer.  These cases can be quite complicated.  In light of this, please give us a call so we can discuss the facts of your case.

How many oilfield injury cases has your firm handled?
Chain | Cohn | Stiles has been serving oilfield workers in Bakersfield, Kern County, and California for the last 80 years.  During this time our lawyers have handled hundreds of oilfield injury cases.  Remember, your oilfield injury case may involve both workers’ compensation* and a third party (someone other than your employer) claim.  Chain | Cohn | Stiles has attorneys that can handle both the workers’ compensation* and third party claim, and our attorneys will work together to make certain that your rights are fully protected.

Does your firm hire experts for my case?
Yes.  As part of almost every oilfield injury case, experts are an integral piece of the case.  Chain | Cohn | Stiles regularly employs experts from throughout the United States.  These experts, be it metallurgists, steam engineers, drilling and production engineers, and pipeline engineers, are all recognized as leading authorities in their fields.  We understand that retaining the right experts is often a key to our clients’ success.  In almost every instance, it is important to retain experts, and conduct inspections, as soon as possible.  With this in mind, please contact as to discuss your case as soon as practically possible after you have been injured.

If you take my oilfield injury case, does it cost me anything upfront?
No.  At Chain | Cohn | Stiles we handle your case on a contingent fee basis.  This means you pay us nothing out of your pocket.  We only get paid if we are able to resolve your case.

I was injured in the oilfields.  Can I get help with my medical expenses?
Often times, oilfield injuries will result in a workers’ compensation* claim.  In these circumstances, we can help you obtain benefits to cover your medical expenses and temporary disability benefits.  In addition, should your case result in a claim against a contractor other than your employer, you may be entitled to greater compensation, including pain and suffering.

If I am hurt in the oilfields do I have a case against the lease owner?
At times, oilfield injury cases can be filed against the lease owner.  In other words, if you were injured in the oilfields, and the lease owner did something to contribute to your injury, you may have the basis for a lawsuit against the lease owner.  This is an area of law that is constantly evolving in California.  Recent decisions like Seabright v. U.S. Airways, Inc., (2011) 52 Cal.4th 590, and Hooker v. Department of Transportation, (2002) 27 Cal.4th 198, have changed the way an injured oilfield worker can seek damages against the lease owner.  Chain | Cohn | Stiles has closely followed the changes in the law.  We have seen many successes over the years in seeking damages from lease owners, including recent successes.  If you have a potential claim against a lease owner, please contact us.

If I am injured on the job by someone other than my employer, do I have a case?
Yes.  Under these circumstances you may have both a workers’ compensation* case, because you were injured on the job, and a case against the other party who caused your injury.  The case against the other party, someone other than your employer, is called a “third party personal injury” case.  If you have been injured by a third party, please contact us to discuss the facts of your case.  A third party case often times allows you to obtain more compensation than you can recover in your workers’ compensation* claim.

I exercised my stop work authority on a job because I saw someone doing something dangerous.  Now, my employer has retaliated against me and fired me.  Do I have a case?
You may have a case for wrongful termination.  In addition to our personal injury practice, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has attorneys who can help you with your wrongful termination case.  If you feel like you have been wrongfully terminated from your employment, please contact us to discuss your case.

* Update: Chain | Cohn | Stiles is no longer accepting wrongful termination and sexual harassment cases *

I have a relative who died as a result of an oilfield injury.  Do you handle wrongful death cases?
Yes.  If you or your family have suffered the loss of a loved one due to an oilfield injury, please contact us so we can discuss the case with you.  Chain | Cohn | Stiles has 80 years of experience handling wrongful death claims.

I want an attorney who understands oilfield work.  Do you have attorneys who can understand what I do?
Yes.  We understand that oilfield work is unique, requires significant training, and, in some instances, can be dangerous.  We have attorneys who have prior experience working in the oilfields.  Additionally, we have over a hundred years of combined experience working on oilfield cases.  Our attorneys understand that oilfield work has a language unto itself, with numerous terms that are specific to oilfield work.  We know how important it is to understand these terms, so we can effectively communicate with our clients.

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Since California has become one of the top oil-producing states in the United States over the past century, the oil industry serves as a major source for employment opportunities in California. Even though safety is a concern of the oil industry, serious oilfield accidents still occur. Because oilfield accident cases often involve complex legal and factual issues, it is important that you hire an oilfield accident attorney that has both a strong grasp of the industry as well as the knowledge and resources to stand toe-to-toe with large and powerful oil companies.

The oilfield accident lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles are amongst the most experienced in California when it comes to representing victims of oilfield accidents. Over the years, the law firm has successfully represented countless victims of oilfield accidents resulting from negligent drilling and maintenance operations, explosions, blow-ins, OSHA violations and defective equipment. If you or someone you know has been injured in an oilfield accident, please contact an attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles immediately.

*Notice:  Making a false or fraudulent worker’s compensation claim is a felony subject to up to five (5) years in a prison or a fine of up to $150,000.00 or double the value of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles helps families with legal questions at Delano street faire

April 24, 2014 | 10:20 am


Earlier this week, Chain | Cohn | Stiles took park in the Delano Chamber of Commerce‘s “Cinco de Mayo Fiesta and Street Faire.” It was a chance for our law firm to answer local resident’s questions, share tips and information, and give out Chain | Cohn | Stiles goodies to the families in Delano and throughout Kern County.

Several Delano parents asked us about workers’ compensation cases. One Delano resident in particular hired a Los Angeles attorney to help him with his workers’ compensation case, but that attorney had done a poor job at communicating with him, and at resolving his case, he said. We explained to him that many residents in Kern County have this problem: They seek counsel from lawyers outside of our county — after getting their information from television commercials or other loud advertisements that these outside lawyers make — and quickly realize they made a mistake.

In fact, many times, the workers’ compensation*, social security disability and personal injury lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles get calls from clients who were unsatisfied with the attorneys they hired from Los Angeles, Fresno and other areas outside of Kern County.

As for the concerned Delano resident seeking workers’ compensation assistance — who was an employee of a prison in Delano — we helped him with the next steps he should take, and he vowed to call us for assistance.

Other Delano residents remarked to us that they had seen our commercials on television, and were impressed with their quality, and by the words of the attorneys.

And many others were happy to learn that the son of a longtime and well-known Delano pediatrician was one of our associate attorneys. Dr. Dilbagh Gehlawat of Delano Pediatrics Group for decades has taken care of children and families in Delano, and many times brought along his youngest son, Neil Gehlawat, to the office — from childhood to adulthood. Several people at the street fair remarked, “Is that little Neil?,” when they noticed him in brochures we were handing out. Now, Neil Gehlawat handles personal injury cases at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, while his father continues to serve families of Delano and Kern County.

The street faire — held on Main Street between 9th and 12 avenues — also featured booths from other service providers from throughout Kern County, though Chain | Cohn | Stiles was the sole Kern County law firm in attendance. Other booths included  Sunset Waste Systems and Delano Area Rapid Transit, to name a few.

Our message to the people of Delano was essentially this: We hope you never need a personal injury attorney, but if you do happen to need one, we would hope you choose a local, professional, and caring Kern County lawyer, like the ones at Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Besides at Delano events, you can also find our law firm’s and lawyer’s information at several Delano restaurants and business — including Sylvia’s Clerical Solutions and Lupe’s Restaurant, among others.

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