The ‘new-normal’ following traumatic brain injury
When an individual suffers a traumatic brain injury, they may suffer from a number of significant and sometimes very obvious difficulties, such as:
- Speech problems
- Reading problems
- Balance problems
- Mobility problems
- Visual disturbances
- Severe fatigue
With the right intensive rehabilitation from the beginning, in an intensive care unit or brain injury rehabilitation unit, the individual may see vast improvements in their condition. Research has shown that in most cases, the greatest improvement in a brain injured person will be made in the first six months following injury. The injured person will likely continue to improve for up to about two years following their injury. After this time, whilst improvement is still possible, it is likely to be slower and less obvious.
But what about those difficulties which are more subtle? What about the changes to the injured person’s personality and how they deal with things? Once an individual’s condition has reached a plateau, this is often referred to as the ‘new normal’.
In this blog, I intend to examine the more subtle difficulties which an individual may face and how such difficulties are dealt with as part of a personal injury claim for compensation.
The title of this section is somewhat misleading. I am not sure if ‘subtle’ is in fact the right word. The difficulties which I am going to consider in this blog, whilst they are not obvious to the outside world (in most instances), there are by no means ‘minor’ or ‘subtle’ to the individual concerned or to their family and friends.
When an individual suffers a brain injury, as well as the difficulties described above they may also suffer from some or all of the following:
- Memory difficulties
- Concentration difficulties
- Difficulties controlling emotions such as anger
- Personality changes
- Slowed processing ability
- Lack of insight into their injury
As a personal injury solicitor representing survivors of brain injury, I have represented a number of individuals in their personal injury claims. Whilst the injured person will often be very aware of the obvious difficulties referred to above, they may be less aware of some of the more subtle difficulties. This can be due to a lack of insight into their injury or as the more subtle difficulties have been overshadowed by the more pressing, physical issues.
When dealing with a personal injury claim for compensation, I often speak with the friends and family of a brain injury survivor, as they are able to give their view of the difficulties faced by the injured person, which doesn’t always mirror the injured person’s account.
All too often, I hear the phrase that it is like ‘living with a different person’ or ‘living with a stranger’. It can often be difficult for friends and family to come to terms with the changes in an individual following their brain injury and often it can take a long time for everyone involved to adjust.
Unfortunately, such personality changes can take their toll on a relationship and it has been reported that the divorce rate among couples dealing with brain injury is in the region of 75%.
Olympic rower, James Cracknell suffered a brain injury in July 2010 when he was struck by the wing mirror of a truck whilst cycling in Arizona. James and his wife, Beverley, have been very open in respect of their difficulties following the accident and have written an autobiographical book looking at James’ accident and the lasting effects this has had on their lives and their relationship. Beverley comments in the book that the ‘new’ James was not the same man that she had married and that she even had concerns about leaving their children alone with him, due to his changeable moods.
This is an all too common occurrence. In my view, it is important that brain injury survivors and their families are provided with support not only for their physical difficulties, but also with the hidden aspects of their injury to ensure that they are assisted to adjust to life post injury and can move forwards together as a unit.
Subtle difficulties as part of a Personal Injury Claim
Where an individual suffers a brain injury in an accident caused by someone else’s wrongdoing, they may be able to bring a claim for compensation. At Bolt Burdon Kemp, we fight for early rehabilitation. This means that our focus from the outset, is to ensure that the injured person receives the support and treatment that they need from the very beginning, to give them the best chance of recovery. This support, however, is not limited to the injured person. I have represented a number of brain injury survivors where it has been recommended that the family engage in counselling together, so that everyone involved has the opportunity to ask questions and receive support. It can be an incredibly difficult time following a brain injury and it is important that support is offered to both the injured person and those around them.
Whilst the more subtle difficulties may be more difficult to identify, they can have a dramatic impact on how the individual functions on a daily basis and how they live their life.
A lack of insight may mean that the individual is less safe when out alone as they may not be able to easily recognise their limitations. Concentration difficulties may mean that an individual is limited in what work they can undertake. Anger or irritability difficulties may mean that they are more likely to get into conflict.
It is important that the right medical experts are instructed who can examine the individual and demonstrate all of the difficulties suffered by the injured person. Personally, I consider that providing the expert with a detailed witness statement will mean that they have a good understanding of the totality of the injury suffered, so that no aspect of the injury is missed. This type of evidence is vital, particularly if the injured person has a lack of insight into their injury and is unlikely to be forthcoming with the expert directly in respect of their difficulties.
Following a serious brain injury, an individual may be left with a number of difficulties which can remain lifelong. The injured person and their family will likely have to adjust to this ‘new normal’. With the right support, the injured person and their family may be able to recognise that just because it is different it does not necessarily mean that it is bad. At Bolt Burdon Kemp, we have access to the right experts who can thoroughly examine the difficulties faced by the injured person, to ensure that they receive the right compensation for the totality of their injury. This means that the injured person will continue to have access to funding for any additional support they may need now and in the future.