The brain is the command centre of the human body. It provides the rest of the body with instructions for walking, eating, and talking. It enables us to think, to regulate our emotions, and to behave in society. It allows us to plan our day and memorise events. If it is damaged, the entire fine mechanics of the human body become disrupted.
The after-effects of an injury to the head are not always apparent immediately, unlike, for example, a quadriplegic in a wheelchair. This is why it is often referred to as an invisible impairment.
However, these after-effects are not invisible to the relatives living in daily contact with the head injured person. They can vary greatly; consider the following:
Cognitive disorders, so-called ‘executive functions’. These were previously referred to as ‘frontal disorders’ because they often occur as a result of damage to the front part of the brain. For example, a person with a head injury may have difficulty planning a task, checking that it has been carried out correctly, changing strategy if it fails, or having difficulty performing two tasks at the same time;
Severe fatigue is a very common disorder;
Language problems, aphasia, or, on the contrary, verbal profusion;
Memory problems such as the inability to ‘record’ an event that has occurred, or to recall it spontaneously. Some people with cerebral damage may lose the ability to recognise faces.
Unilateral hemineglect. The head traumatized person ignores a part of their visual field, namely the one on the left, but for children sometimes the field on the right. This is a very specific attention disorder;
Behavioural problems. After the accident, the victim may become quite passive and unable to take any initiative, or on the contrary, very uninhibited. They may even be quite aggressive and prone to compulsive reactions;
There is a whole range of other consequences such as anosognosia – ignorance of one’s condition, difficulties in locomotion or precise coordination of movements, vision problems, loss of taste and smell, etc.
Time for rehabilitation and compensation
Often a head injured person coming out of a coma will wake up in a hospital bed without knowing why they are there because the shock erased all memory of the accident. This is a difficult time, as is the realisation for them and their loved ones that their life has been turned upside down and that it will never be the same again.
The traumatised person will be looked after by the medical team. A period of re-education and rehabilitation will then follow. Unfortunately, it can happen that a head injury patient ‘goes off the radar’ of the medical team if they return home shortly after the accident. They are then left to their own devices.
In order to receive the most appropriate compensation, the victim should seek the advice of a lawyer. This lawyer should not only specialise in personal injury compensation, but also be familiar with the specificities of head injuries.
This lawyer should work with and be able to recommend members of a team of professionals whose involvement will enable the extent of the after-effects to be better identified. Some injuries may not be readily apparent, as has been said, thus enabling better compensation to be obtained. The assistance of a specialised doctor is essential in order to advise the victim and assist during the medical expertise process. The lawyer will refer the client to a neuropsychologist, a psychiatrist, an occupational therapist, or another professional, depending on the case.
If the victim is summoned to a medical examination by a doctor
If the victim is summoned to an expert examination by a doctor appointed by the insurance company of the party responsible for the accident or by a body such as the CIVI or CRCI, the victim should not go alone. They must be accompanied by their own expert doctor to ensure their injuries are taken into account and assessed correctly. Unfortunately, all too often, victims appear before the expert doctor alone.
The medical expertise is an essential stage in the compensation process of the traumatised victim. It is important to distinguish this type of expertise from other cases where the victim underwent examinations during their re-education and rehabilitation. This applies whether it was done by the health care team during hospitalisation, follow-up in a day hospital, by the occupational physician, or by the social security physician, etc.
After-effects to a traumatised infant
The after-effects of a traumatised baby are particularly serious as they can lead to major brain damage. Because of its young age, the victim will have to be monitored by the law firm over the long term, for some twenty years.
VAN TESLAAR AVOCATS can recommend a specialised doctor who shall accompany the head injury patient to the medical examinations, delegating a member of the firm to also attend such assessments. The firm includes lawyers who have obtained the Inter-University Diploma “Evaluation of Head Injuries”.