When you are injured in an accident, you need a personal injury lawyer. However, if you or a loved one is suffering from a brain injury, you need an attorney experienced in handling and trying brain injury cases. Unlike other injuries, brain injuries can cause long-term and even permanent damage. However, because of the way the brain works, it is often difficult to determine whether your specific brain injury will last a day or the rest of your life. Contact a brain injury lawyer if you or a loved one suffered any type of brain injury in an accident to make sure your rights are not violated and you get the compensation you are entitled to.
Dependent on the cause of the brain injury, life-long disabilities, a coma, or vegetative state could be the result for an undetermined period of time (in some cases, forever). You may also remain in any of these states for extended periods.
If you are completely unconscious and do not open your eyes despite prompts or medication, you are in a coma. As such, you cannot follow instructions and do not purposefully move. If you are unconscious but you open your eyes, you are vegetative. In this state, you do have a sleep-wake cycle, will open your eyes, may smile or cry, react to loud sounds and may even look at people or things. However, you cannot follow instructions, cannot move purposefully and cannot talk. If you are in a minimally vegetative state, you may be able to move or follow instructions one day but not the next.
Those with severe brain injuries who do go into a coma will go through these stages when recovering. Some may start in a vegetative state or minimally vegetative state.
Regardless of the recovery time, you will need financial and emotional support, in addition to the legal support to help ensure sure you get the compensation you are entitled to; including medical costs, pain and suffering, and punitive damages if the defendant’s actions were grossly negligent.
Those who are in an unconscious state need care by someone who has the strength and knowledge to do several things each day. Sometimes a family member may take on this role, but it usually proves to be too much for one person to handle 24 hours per day. It’s almost a necessity to hire in-home health care or leave the injured person in a hospital or a nursing home. Regardless of which choice you as a family member make, it is going to cost money.
A traumatic brain injury attorney will look at your loved one’s medical records and the level of care needed. The lawyer may also get the opinion of expert medical professionals who study and treat people with severe traumatic brain injuries. Before the attorney starts negotiations with the insurance company or files a lawsuit against the defendant on behalf of your loved one, the attorney will look at the level of care required, which may include:
If your loved one starts to recover from the coma or vegetative state, you may still need help with getting your loved one in and out of a wheelchair and doing physical therapy to work toward walking again. Just because the life-giving equipment goes away, that doesn’t mean the cost goes away. You will need additional money for physical therapy, a wheelchair, and walking aids. You may also find yourself spending more money on clothing as it wears out faster when a person is getting in and out of a wheelchair.
If you have taken on the responsibility of caring for a loved one with a traumatic brain injury, even if that person does not need the level of care involved in caring for someone in a coma or vegetative state, you still need some time for yourself. Without taking time for yourself, you will become burned out and will start resenting your loved one.
One of the better ways to avoid burning out and resenting the person who needs this care is to take some time for yourself at least once per week. However, if your loved one needs 24-hour care, you may find it difficult to find someone to take your place for a few hours.
Your best option would be to hire a home health aide to come in two or three times per week for several hours during the day. This allows you to take some time to go grocery shopping and run other errands, plus it gives you at least a day to do what you need to do for yourself, whether it’s spending the day with other family members or going somewhere by yourself to unwind.
Of course, this extra help does cost money. A brain injury attorney considers this when negotiating a settlement or preparing for trial and may ask for money for home healthcare so that you can take a break.
In a case where your loved one has a severe traumatic brain injury and must be monitored by trained medical personnel, your loved one may be placed in an acute care hospital for as long as needed. If your loved one shows improvement, he or she may be transferred to an acute rehabilitation program instead of being sent home.
If your loved one still needs more structured care, he or she could be transferred to a sub-acute rehabilitation program or a nursing home before going home with family. This could be quite costly. Negotiating with insurance companies yourself probably will not get you enough money to pay for this, especially if your loved one is expected to be in acute care for the long term.
Since you want the best care for your loved one, you will also want to be comfortable telling doctors to provide the best options, even if that means that your loved one is in an acute care hospital when needed. Even if the best thing for your loved one is to be at home, you may feel more comfortable with home health care at least three or four days per week. You want to make sure only the most knowledgeable people are caring for your loved one. This care usually costs more than basic care.
When you have a brain injury attorney fighting for you, you have a better chance of obtaining enough money in a settlement or at trial.
Before you retain an attorney, be sure the firm has handled traumatic brain injuries before. You want an attorney with a track record of success in settlements, or winning large awards if the case went to trial. Questions you should ask an attorney that you are considering should include:
Questions you should ask about the attorney’s work might include:
A personal injury lawyer who has not settled or tried brain injury cases before may not be aware of some of the intricacies of this type of case, most importantly, the length of time it could take to recover from any type of brain injury.
Even a mild concussion could lead to permanent disabling conditions. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is one example. While you might have seemingly recovered from a mild concussion, you might find yourself being treated for CTE years down the road. Doctors can only conclusively diagnose this condition after death. You may even have forgotten about that minor concussion until you start exhibiting the symptoms, which include:
A traumatic brain injury attorney will consider these things when negotiating with insurance companies or preparing for trial.
In addition to finding the money to pay for your loved one’s care, you must think about other responsibilities. If your loved one did not have a power of attorney allowing you to make medical decisions when he or she cannot, you may have to apply for guardianship over your loved one. The guardianship may be revoked once your loved one recovers enough to care for himself or herself.
Get additional help with support and finances. Your attorney may be able to give you some referrals. Those that might be in a position to help you find emotional and financial support include social workers at the hospital, therapists, the Brain Injury Association of America, your social security office, case managers, friends or family members who are disabled, and the state brain injury association.
Whether you are looking for a traumatic brain injury attorney for yourself or for a loved one who cannot take care of himself or herself, always keep your best interests or those of your loved one in mind. Get the best care possible for your brain injury or your loved one’s brain injury, even if it seems to be mild. Make sure the California traumatic brain injury lawyer you choose has a lot of experience in negotiating and going to trial for brain injury clients.
Always ask questions of doctors and legal professionals. If you do not understand something, ask for clarification. Discuss deadlines with your attorney. Discuss time frames with your doctors. Keep in mind that doctors cannot predict recovery times but may give you estimates based on other patients they treated. Even then, everyone reacts differently to injuries, so an estimated medical timeline is just that—the time the average person takes to recover from the type of brain injury you or your loved one is suffering from. Your brain injury attorney will use all of the information available to determine a fair amount in a settlement or to pursue at trial.