The brain is the centre of command of the human body. It gives instructions to the rest of the body in order that one to walk, eat, talk; with it we can think, we control our emotions and are able to maintain socially acceptable behaviour. It helps us plan our day, and memorise events. If it is damaged, the superb machinery of the human body goes wrong.
The sequelae of a victim of a TBI (traumatic brain injury) aren’t always visible at first hand, as opposed to for example someone paralysed using a wheelchair ; this is why a TBI is called an invisible handicap.
But these sequelae aren’t invisible to those who are close to, or live with, the person with the TBI; they are very diverse in nature, as can be seen:
- Executive dysfunction: (before called ‘frontal lobe dysfunction’ because it occurs frequently as a result of damage to the frontal part of the brain). For example a person suffering from TBI may have difficulty planning a task, or checking that it has been carried out, or changing strategy in case of failure, or carrying out more than one task at a given time;
- Tiredness: this is a common symptom,
- Language difficulties: aphasia, or on the contrary extreme verbal fluency,
- Memory problems: not being able to ‘register’ an event that occurs, or to be able to spontaneously remember it. Some can even lose the ability to remember faces.
- Hemispatial neglect: the patient ignores one side of the spatial environment, usually on the one on the left (but sometimes for children it is the right side). It is a peculiar type of attention disorder.
- Behavioural disorders: after the accident the victim can be very passive and unable to take an initiative, or on the contrary very disinhibited. The patient even can be rather aggressive, and prone to compulsive behaviour,
- And a whole lot of other sequelae : anosognosia (ignorance of one’s state), difficulties to move, or of fine coordination of the movements, sight problems, loss of appetite, or loss of sense of smell, and so on…
Frequently a TBI patient will wake up from a coma to find himself on a hospital bed without knowing why he is there, the memory of events being obliterated due to impact at the accident. It is a difficult moment for him to go through, as is the realisation, for both him and his relatives, that his life has changed and that it will not be the same as before.
The victim will be taken care of by a medical team, and a period of physiotherapy and rehabilitation will follow. Unfortunately some TBI victims go out of the ‘radars’ of the medical teams when they go back home after the accident : they will be left to their own device.
In order to obtain the best compensation possible, the victim will have to be helped by a lawyer who is not only specialised in the field of personal injury, but one who is also familiar with the particularities of brain traumas.
This lawyer will have to work with, and be able to recommend, members of a team of professionals whose intervention will help better define the extent of the injuries – which aren’t always obvious as already explained - and therefore obtain a better compensation. The assistance of a specialised doctor is mandatory in order to counsel the victim and assist the latter during the medical assessment(s). The lawyer will see to it to recommend to his client, as the case may require, a neuropsychologist, or a psychiatrist, or an occupational therapist, or another professional.
The victim must not go on his own to a medical assessment organised by a doctor appointed by the insurance company of the liable party (or by a governmental body such as the CIVI or the CRCI). He must be accompanied by his own specialised doctor, in order to ensure that his injuries are taken into account and that they will be correctly assessed. Unfortunately too often the victims go on their own to see the medical expert.
The medical appointment for the purposes of medico-legal assessment is a fundamental phase in the compensation process of a victim. This type of medical assessment must be distinguished from other types of assessments of the patient undertaken during his physiotherapy or rehabilitation (whether it be by the hospital team during hospitalisation or during a later visit, or by the doctor who (in France) ensures that you are fit to return to work, or by the social security doctor, …)
Mr. VAN TESLAAR has for policy to attend the medical assessments, together with a specialised doctor he will have recommended. He has obtained two university degrees related to brain injuries: one on the medico-legal assessment of the victims, and the other one on the medical and social treatment of victims of a brain injury. Being experienced in the defence of victims of brain injuries, he will be a great help to them and will know how to assist them in the compensation process.