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Anatomy of a Medical Malpractice Case

 About Bruce Jacobs

medical malpractice attorney Bruce Jacobs

The lead attorney on the Dawson case was Bruce Jacobs. Bruce has practiced personal injury law in New Haven for more than 30 years. He has represented thousands of people who were injured in automobile accidents, through medical malpractice, or as a result of an unsafe condition or product.

Many of Bruce’s clients are referred by other lawyers who know the success Bruce has had in trying and settling major cases.

Bruce is a member of the New Haven Bar Association, the American Association for Justice, and the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association, where he is a member of the Medical Malpractice Committee.

Bruce served as president of the Greater New Haven JCC, where he was the first person to hold that position twice. He is a former president of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and former member of the Committee of Trustees at the Hopkins School in New Haven.

(The names of the clients and their family members have been changed to preserve their privacy.)

It started out like a lot of medical malpractice cases for attorney Bruce Jacobs— an unsolicited and unexpected phone call. The call, from a fellow New Haven attorney, Geoffrey Hecht, was the launching pad for a grueling three-and-a-half-year fight to secure the future of a person who was the victim of medical malpractice.

Geoff Hecht had been the Dawson family’s attorney for many years in matters ranging from wills to real estate. One day, they called Geoff with terrible news: Paul Dawson, a family member who was recuperating from an illness in the hospital, had been given improper medicine.

Because of that mistake, Paul had suffered a stroke, was now in a coma, and the hospital felt that Paul would probably not survive. The family was being asked to consider pulling the plug on Paul. The family wasn’t ready to give up on Paul, and they were praying for his recovery. They asked Geoff’s advice as their trusted attorney: What should we do?

Geoff decided that a referral was in the best interest of the client. The injuries were so severe that a large verdict or settlement would be necessary to provide the resources Paul would need as he recovered from his brain injury.

Geoff explains his decision to refer the case this way: “Years ago I participated with my partners in medical malpractice cases and we’ve done a fair amount of personal injury. But I wanted to get someone who lives and breathes these types of cases. I’m not that type of attorney.” Geoff thought of Bruce Jacobs and his firm, Jacobs & Jacobs. Geoff says, “First and foremost, Bruce knows how to handle these cases. There was a lot on the line here. My job was to get the best person to handle it.”

Although there are a number of personal injury lawyers in the New Haven area, Hecht knew that he made the right choice with Bruce Jacobs. “Bruce is my kind of person. No airs. He is a very good person with very good instincts. I knew he and I could work well together.”

Working with the Family

After choosing Bruce Jacobs to be the lead attorney on the case, Geoff and Bruce visited Paul and his family.

Susan, Paul’s sister, explains how upset the family was before Bruce became involved in the case. “The hospital had asked us to consider pulling the plug on my brother Paul, but my mom wouldn’t think of it. The hospital also told us we had to think about making funeral arrangements for my brother.” Susan continues, “After being in a coma for several months, my brother woke up on his own by the grace of God. But Paul has brain damage from the accident in the hospital. He is now significantly mentally impaired.”

Bruce and Geoff met with Paul’s parents and they agreed to let Jacobs & Jacobs handle the case. Susan met Bruce for the first time when he was sitting next to her in a meeting with hospital officials.

“Bruce Jacobs didn’t know me at all,” Susan relates. “It was very emotional for Dad and me to talk with the people at the hospital. I remember at one point, Bruce grabbed my hand and told me, ‘It will be okay.’ That’s when I knew Bruce was going to be good for Paul.”

How Jacobs & Jacobs Prepares for a Personal Injury Case

Many referring attorneys choose Jacobs & Jacobs to handle complex personal injury cases because of the firm’s meticulous case preparation and ability to provide for all the needs of their clients.

Jacobs and Jacobs employs innovative techniques which helps them present their clients’ cases in the best possible light including:

  • Videotaping of client depositions.
  • Videotaping of “day in the life” stories showing how clients are dealing with their injuries.
  • Videotaping of clients’ friends and families to show how their clients lives have changed due to injuries.
  • Focus groups to determine what arguments will work best with juries.
  • Working with experienced medical doctors and lifestyle experts to determine what clients’ future needs will be.
  • Working with economic experts to determine current value of future monetary needs of our clients.

In addition to helping secure the best possible verdict or settlement in a case, Jacobs & Jacobs specializes in handling the day-to-day needs of its clients, including help with the medical system and bills, handling questions about the injured person’s current care, and providing advice on clients’ financial concerns.

From both a personal and strategic viewpoint, Jacobs & Jacobs is focused on obtaining the best results possible for its clients.

Bruce says, “We were trying to resolve the case without litigation with the hospital. The hospital wanted to formally apologize to the family and we had a meeting where the hospital did that. But we got to the point where we were not going to resolve the case amicably, because the solution proposed by the attorneys for the hospital was to get the patient eligible for Medicaid, put him in a nursing home, and put some money in a special needs trust to make the patient more comfortable for the rest of his life. That was not the best solution for Paul.”

Susan was happy that the hospital admitted liability from the start. But she agreed with Bruce’s recommendation to seek out better options for caring for her brother.

The next step in the process of determining the best place for Paul was to determine the extent of his brain injury. Bruce and the hospital jointly hired a neuropsychologist to evaluate the patient. “The neuropsychologist determined Paul’s level of functioning after the injury,” says Bruce. “We also hired a life care planner to look at the medical records to determine what Paul would need for the rest of his life, including his living situation and medical devices like wheelchairs.

“The life care planner said the most appropriate option for Paul was a group home designed for people with brain injuries. Group homes like these usually have six residents with two full-time staff. Paul would also need a one-on-one aide in addition to the staff to maximize what he could get out of the treatment. Naturally, this level of care is expensive.”

Ability Beyond

After receiving the recommendation from the life care planner, Bruce met with the family to discuss Paul’s options. One choice was to keep Paul in a nursing home. But that clearly was not the best plan, because Paul wasn’t progressing in the nursing home where he was currently living. The nursing home didn’t have the staff, facilities, or knowledge to treat patients with Paul’s brain injuries.

Another option was to treat Paul at home. Medical and other help could be brought in. But because Paul’s parents were elderly (his mother has since died) with health issues of their own, this alternative did not seem feasible.

The best option seemed to be the one the life care planner had recommended, a group home. After investigating numerous alternatives, Bruce found Ability Beyond.

Jane Davis is the executive director of Ability Beyond. The organization was started in the 1950s by parents of children with disabilities. Over time, Ability Beyond gradually expanded its agenda to work with adults with disabilities as well as children. In the 1990s the organization opened one of the first group homes in the country for adults with acquired brain injuries. Today, Ability Beyond serves over 3,000 clients.

In Ability Beyond’s typical group home scenario for people with brain injuries, six adults live together in a home setting. The residents are roughly the same age and have similar abilities. The residents live with two full-time caretakers and other specialists come to the home to help them live their fullest lives possible.

Almost 95 percent of Ability Beyond’s clients are covered by Medicaid. However, that option was not open to Paul. Because of his age when he became disabled and other criteria, the only way Paul could take advantage of Ability Beyond’s services was to pay for the care privately.

Holly Schultz, Assistant Services Director at Ability Beyond, says the type of care that Ability Beyond provides depends on the resident’s needs. “Some clients are looking for employment, others for relationships, others want to improve their health. Other people we take care of are at the end of their life. We work with our team of clinicians, staff, family, and clients to develop a plan to meet the goals of the people we serve.”

Holly says the company has invested a lot of time and energy to maintain its direct support staff. The “community family environment in a beautiful setting” in the group homes reduces employee turnover and leads to much better results for the residents.

After seeing a group home run by Ability Beyond, Paul’s family was convinced that it was the best place for him. But it was an expensive alternative and Paul could not rely on Medicare to pay the bills. Paul would need a large settlement from the hospital to be able to have the benefits that Ability Beyond could provide.

The Dawson family, following a recommendation from attorney Bruce Jacobs, chose an Ability Beyond group home as the best place to help Paul Dawson progress as much as possible and lead a more active and rewarding life than being confined in a traditional nursing home.

Ability Beyond helps brain-injured patients such as Paul Dawson gain as much control of their lives as possible. All the residents engage in daytime activities or work programs, prepare meals as group, and interact with people who have experienced similar injuries.

The Jacobs firm believes that its obligation to its clients extend beyond the courtroom. They want all their clients to have the best possible chance to recover.

Securing the Settlement

Bruce Jacobs relied on medical testimony to make the case that living at Ability Beyond was the best possible outcome for Paul.

Bruce says, “We were able to get the neuropsychologist to testify that the group home situation was much more beneficial than a nursing home. We showed the psychologist info about the group home and he agreed that it was the best option even though it was much more expensive. We knew Paul was miserable at the nursing home and wanted out. For the first year and a half, Paul was basically in a hospital room by himself or sitting in the hall talking to nurses. It was a stopgap measure.

“It was unfair to Paul.

“In contrast, the group homes at Ability Beyond have comfortable areas where the residents and staff do things together. Each group home has a living room where everyone watches TV. There are computers to use if they are capable, and many residents help out in the kitchen. There is a garden to enjoy and a basketball court. Some of the clients are able are to hold supervised jobs and others go to day activity programs. The people who are there are able to live their lives to the fullest.”

Bruce hired an economist who determined, based on the life care planner’s assessment, how much money would be required to fund Paul’s care for the rest of his life.

Because Bruce was able to get the hospital to admit liability, the case came down to the amount the hospital would pay for Paul’s care. Geoff Hecht, the referring attorney, says Bruce was “relentless” in gaining the largest possible settlement to pay for Paul’s care.

Geoff says, “It wasn’t the type of case that could be settled for less than full value. The focus of attention had to be on how much money was needed to take care of Paul for the rest of his life.

“Once Bruce got the admission of liability from the hospital, he pushed for the extra money. It might have been easier to take less money, but Bruce wouldn’t give in and take less of a settlement than his client needed.

“I was very impressed with Bruce. I chose the right attorney for the case.” Susan, Paul’s sister, summed up how the family feels about Bruce Jacobs and the Jacobs & Jacobs firm. “Bruce was able to settle the case at the last minute, right before the trial. We got what we wanted.

“I love Bruce and his family.”

How Jacobs & Jacobs Handles Referrals

Jacobs & Jacobs welcomes referrals for medical malpractice and personal injury cases from other attorneys. If the referred case is accepted by our firm, we will work closely with the referring attorney to produce the best outcome for the client.

Jacobs & Jacobs has achieved some of the highest medical malpractice and personal injury awards in Connecticut (see our listing of case results here)

Jacobs & Jacobs keeps you informed every step of the way. We want your input and your expertise. Working together, we will achieve the best results for the client you refer.

If you need any further information about how Jacobs & Jacobs handles medical malpractice and personal injury cases, please call Bruce Jacobs or Steve Jacobs at (203) 777-2300.

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