Brain injury law is a highly specialized area of law, for good reason. A couple who have developed one of America’s leading brain injury law practices, Michael Kaplen and Shana De Caro developed their area of specialty when they found few lawyers who had the necessary expertise.
De Caro, of the firm De Caro and Kaplen at Pleasanville, said the field is complex and lawyers need to understand the medical as well as legal aspect of the law. “There’s the medical aspect as well, so you have the complexity of law combined with the complexity of the field of neurology,” she told Fairfield Business Journal.
She is also chairperson of the traumatic brain litigation group of the American Association for Justice, an industry group representing trial attorneys.
In the course of their practice, they found that clients who had been injured had healed well to outward appearances, but as time went on, evidence of brain injuries that would require long-term care crept out.
“They went back to work and they had a whole host of different problems that weren’t apparent until they started to use their brains,” said Kaplen, who teaches a course in brain injury law at George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C. “They couldn’t do the normal day-to-day things. This is an injury that you can’t see just by looking at someone.”
Often, people with traumatic brain injuries face issues in their daily lives that Kaplen says are overlooked — issues regarding insurance coverage, access to care and housing and civil rights.
“It’s not only what you think of with cognitive functions,” De Caro said. “They have memory issues. But they often also have emotional issues that interfere with their relationships with their families and co-workers. There are all kinds of things that affect people’s functioning on a day-to-day basis.”
In addition to representing clients, De Caro and Kaplen also consult with other attorneys in cases where clients have suffered traumatic brain injuries — cases ranging from domestic violence to car accidents to the current class-action litigation pitting the National Football League against its former players.
In domestic violence cases, matrimonial attorneys often don’t have a deep understanding of brain injuries, Kaplen said. “But if they had a client who was a victim of domestic violence, 90 percent of those victims have a traumatic brain injury.”
And in domestic violence victims, De Caro said, “Ninety percent of the injuries are from the neck up.”