Choosing a solicitor for someone who has suffered a brain injury
News article published on: 22nd May 2020
According to the organisation Headway, more than 1 million people attend Accident and Emergency Departments with a head injury every year in the UK, and of these around 130,000 are severely injured enough to warrant admission to hospital.
Head injury, traumatic brain injury, non-traumatic brain injury and acquired brain injury
In general terms, brain injury is an injury that causes destruction of brain cells, due to an interruption of the oxygen supply to the brain. While the term ‘head injury’ is a broad category that includes damage to the scalp, skull and brain, traumatic brain injury pertains to injury of the brain itself, caused by an external force. There are a wide range of causes and types of traumatic brain injury, including falls, violence, and road traffic accidents. In addition, brain injury can be caused by non-traumatic events, such as strokes, brain tumours and other medical complications. The umbrella term for all types of brain injury is ‘Acquired Brain Injury’.
Brain injury complications
There may be short, medium, or long-term consequences of any brain injury, depending on the severity of the initial trauma.
In the short term, symptoms of a severe brain injury may include loss of consciousness, seizures, problems with speech, hearing and vision, and difficultly walking. Within the Accident and Emergency setting, healthcare professionals use the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) to determine the immediate impact of a brain injury. This is one of a few quick ways to assess whether a brain injury may be present, whereby someone with a GCS of 15 is fully alert, and someone with a score of 3 is unresponsive. The extent and effect of brain injury is usually further assessed using specialised tests, such as CT and MRI scans.
Medium to long-term consequences depend on the severity and location of the injury, as well as the general health of the patient before the injury occurred. Not all brain injuries result in long term impairment and some severe injuries respond very well to rehabilitation. Long term disabilities range from problems with thinking and memory, to communication difficulties, disrupted behaviour, and impaired senses. Some people may remain in a long-term coma or with a significant disorder of consciousness. In the most severe cases, people who survive a brain injury may remain dependent on the care of others for a lifetime. Most people though make a good recovery, but access to sufficient rehabilitation is crucial, and this is often unavailable through the NHS.
Claiming compensation for a brain injury
If someone else was responsible or even partially responsible for your brain injury, you may be able to claim compensation.
The most important initial step in making a claim for compensation for a brain injury is selecting the right solicitor. He or she must be highly experienced and understand the complications and impact that your injury has on your life, and on the lives of your family members. You will then be able to gain the compensation that is just and meets your needs now and into the future.
Finding a solicitor who specialises in brain injuries will mean that your claim will be handled correctly. This is crucial. For example, my client who was being pressured to accept a £250,000 offer following a brain injury came to me, from another solicitor, and we recovered £2.3 million for her significant injuries and care needs.. See the full case study for further details.
You may find organisations that can help you in your search for the right solicitor. For example, Headway has a Head Injury Solicitors Directory. The firms listed there have agreed to work within the Headway Personal Injury Lawyers Code of Conduct. Other firms, like Osbornes, go further. For instance, the firm is additionally accredited with the Brain Injury Group.
Be aware that no matter which solicitor you opt for, you should engage them as soon as possible, because there is usually a time limit for claiming personal injury compensation, including compensation for brain injury. More importantly, the sooner a solicitor can contact a defendant and their insurer, the sooner they may be able to obtain funding for rehabilitation and other assistance such as with care or home adaptations.
Questions to help you choose a brain injury solicitor
A specialist solicitor will be glad to answer any questions you have, in a completely honest manner. Questions I would recommend you ask, include:
- Do you belong to a professional body, such as the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers?
- What is your experience of handling brain injury cases?
- How many brain injury cases do you currently have?
- Do brain injury cases represent a large proportion of your usual workload?
- What type of settlements do you typically achieve in brain injury cases?
- Will you handle my case yourself, or do you intend to pass it onto a more junior solicitor?
- What funding options are available for me to support my case?
- Will you act on a no win no fee basis?
- When will you apply for interim payments?
- What cost deductions will come from any compensation I receive?
- Will you come to my home to discuss my case, or do I have to travel to see you?
- Is your firm a traditional law firm, or a company owned by shareholders or insurers?
- Will I be reassured when I search the internet/google about you and your firm?
What is the claims process?
- Once you have chosen the specialist solicitor that is right for you, you can be confident that you will receive appropriate support and guidance through the personal injury claims process.
- To proceed with your claim, your solicitor will gather evidence around the causes and consequences of your brain injury. This could include obtaining witness statements, medical reports, and police reports. You will likely have to be examined by one or more medical experts.
- When your case is ready, your solicitor will submit a letter of claim to the defendant. Depending on the details of your case, you may not have to go to Court to receive a settlement. Any costs awarded must cover for personal injury, financial hardship due to the injury, and any costs that may be involved in future loss of earnings, future support, and rehabilitation.
- Remember, if fault has been admitted by the defendant, you do not necessarily have to wait until the end of the case to receive much needed money. Your solicitor can apply for interim payments to help you pay for bills, treatment, and any additional support you and your family require.
Getting people justice and putting their lives back on track is always front and centre of the work we do at Osbornes.
Ben Posford, Head of Serious Injury is one of the country’s leading brain injury lawyers and accredited by The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) as an advanced specialist in the field of brain injury. He is also an assessor for APIL’s accreditation scheme.