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The Knock On Effects Of A Catastrophic Brain Injury

Sep 11, 2008
Go to any business directory, whether on the internet or through the phone book, and you will find a whole host of personal injury lawyers waiting to take up your compensation claim for you. Most of these will deal with anything from a broken fingernail to whiplash to broken limbs. However, when it comes to cases of severe head injury, is a lawyer well versed in everything as good as an expert in the one thing?

This cannot be so. To spend all their professional lives dealing with one type of injury would surely make them know their area more efficiently. It would make them better at sealing compensation claims for the high amounts that severe head injury claims call for. But why would a head injury require a specialist as opposed to a run of the mill personal injury lawyer?

Firstly, severe head traumas are a complicated business. Even the medical professionals cannot easily give a prognosis, other than to classify as a severe injury then the chances of a full recovery are virtually nil. This leaves the need to understand the extent of the injury as much as possible and to ascertain the effects it will have on everyday life now and in the future.

All brain injuries that fall into the severe category will undoubtedly be catastrophic. Coma and/or disability are sure to follow and the prognosis may well be sketchy for several months with few favourable outcomes. A patient can be in a coma, a vegetative state or a permanent vegetative state. This is the first thing that will be established before a prognosis can be made.

In the first of these categories, the coma would probably last no longer than three to four weeks but there are no set rules to this. When the person regains consciousness, then the specialists are in a better position to access the impact that the injury has had on the patient. The vegetative state is rarely recoverable from and quality of life is guaranteed to be severely impaired. The permanent vegetative state means that there is no chance of recovery.

To assist in the prognosis, doctors will use the Glasgow Coma Scale which is a series of tests run on the patient to determine responses to different stimuli. CT scans are then used to determine the extent of the injury, the amount of pressure the brain is under from swelling and also the electrical activity. Time is also a key factor, given that the longer period of time a person stays in a coma, the less favourable the outcome.

Something that few people other than personal injury lawyers and doctors understand is the effect of a brain injury on the rest of the body. The body may look completely intact but brain injury and immobilisation for any length of time will have the knock on effect of disabling muscles and sparking extra bone growth on joints. These are often irreversible affects and will have a huge impact if the patient is able to get back to the new 'normal' life they will have.

Severe brain injuries will also affect hormone related issues. As the body and all its functions are controlled by the brain, any catastrophic brain injury will have a massive impact on the quality of life of a survivor. A personal injury lawyer would need to have advanced knowledge of all these effects in order to make an adequate claim for the patient or their family and certainly not something that our average whiplash lawyer could fully understand or do justice to.
About the Author
Compensation expert Catherine Harvey looks at how a personal injury lawyer would need to be specialised to deal with brain injury victims.
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