‘He’s not the person he was’ – dealing with brain injuries

Sandra Patton, of Ashlton KCJ

Sandra Patton, of Ashlton KCJ - Credit: Archant

Legally Speaking with Ashton KCJ

When someone suffers a head injury the effects can be devastating and clear for all to see.

The brain is our ‘mission control’ and if it is damaged the signals to the body can be interfered with so that there is physical weakness or complete loss of function.

A person’s thinking and communication can be so badly affected that they can no longer look after themselves and they become dependant on others to keep them safe, fed and to attend to their needs.

In such cases, there is a clear path to identifying and providing for a person’s needs in a medical injury or personal injury claim. If the brain injury means the person can no longer walk for example, then the claim will include the cost of wheelchairs, single storey accommodation, technology to allow them to control their own environment and equipment to enable them to be as independent as possible.

Brain damage can, however, be much more subtle and it is in these cases that we often see claims badly handled and under-settled, as far-reaching problems are not looked for or identified and therefore not compensated for.

It is crucial that there is careful enquiry of what has changed about the person after the injury, and the most valuable information will come not from the person affected but from those closest to them.

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Comments such as ‘he is not the person he was’ should ring alarm bells in any claim. Closer enquiry will often reveal problems with memory, the ability to plan and prioritise, anger, intolerance, disinhibition, loss of motivation, depression.

This mix of loss of brain function and behavioural and emotional problems is toxic and can lead to long-term difficulties in maintaining relationships, holding down a job and returning to an independent life.

Treatment is often focussed on teaching strategies to get around the functional problems, modern technology has made a huge impact in this area. Psychological therapy and counselling can help to manage the behaviour and emotions of the injured person and give much needed support to their families. Organisations such as Headway provide invaluable help.

However, there will often be life-long needs for care and support as the injured person can no longer go back to their pre-injury life. Their daily lives are all the harder because their injuries are invisible unless you look properly.

Sandra Patton

Head of Medical Injury

T: 01842 768736

E: sandra.patton@ashtonkcj.co.uk

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