Traumatic brain injuries are heterogeneous. That means that symptom burden and outcomes depend upon multiple variables relating to the cause of the injury, the amount of force that caused the injury, the extent of rotational forces causing the injury, the areas of the brain suffering acute and secondary injury, the scope of physical, cognitive, emotional injury, and sleep disturbances. If you’ve seen one brain injury, you’ve seen one brain injury, because each brain injury is unique.
Like the singularity of the injury itself, the severity of manifestation of symptoms and problems will likewise be unique, although there are many symptoms and difficulties often found following brain injury. One very important role of the trial lawyer in handling acquired brain injury claims on behalf of an injured client is to identify the problems being experienced by the brain injured client and to use appropriate resources to document limitations, in order to achieve full and complete compensation for the client.
A diverse lineup of health care providers and experts will often document the burden of brain injury related problems. However, a thorough trial lawyer cannot always count on providers and experts to perform a thorough job. For example, in a recently concluded trial, my client was exposed to two separate neuropsychological evaluations – neither of which qualified as a complete forensic neuropsychological evaluation. Had I been unfamiliar with the neuropsychological evaluation process, I might have accepted conclusions that did not seem to fit my client’s presentation and accepted conclusions that were at odds with the evidence. By searching for consistent answers, I was able to refer my client for a conclusive and thorough neuropsychological evaluation that fully documented her impairments. The best way for a lawyer to maximize a result for a client is to stay abreast of developments in the brain injury field.
I recently came across a research article published in the British Journal of Occupational Therapy that addresses issue relating to the ability of adult brain injured patients to use “everyday technology” that people routinely encounter in public areas. See “The match between everyday technology in public space and the ability of working age people with acquired brain injury to use it”, British Journal of Occupational Therapy, vol. 79(1) 26-34 (2016). We take for granted many technological advances that make our lives easier every day. In doing so, we might overlook the obstacles presented by physical and/or cognitive sequelae of TBI in using self-service check-in kiosks in airports; ATM machines; internet banking; cell phones; vending machines; computers; credit and debit cards; codes to use automatic doors; payment devices for parking lots and meters, and other automated equipment including toilet facilities, bus signals and other self-serve or operate equipment.
If someone suffers from the inability to use or has difficulty using electronic equipment, such a deficit may be addressed through appropriate therapy – often with an occupational therapist and/or a rehabilitative neuropsychologist who can recommend appropriate compensatory strategies. In addition, public facilities that maintain such equipment will often have accommodations or handicap accessible or alternative equipment. In any case, if a person who has suffered any type of traumatic brain injury experiences such difficulties, the problem should be made known to your health care providers and your other representatives as well.
By Stewart M. Casper. Posted February 1, 2016