Head injury: a client's guide

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Who are BL Claims Solicitors

BL Claims Solicitors specialise in personal injury, clinical negligence and travel claims, providing our clients with hands-on support, nationally.

We are rated as one of the top firms in the UK and believe in speaking to our clients in jargon-free language and ensuring you're speaking to a highly qualified lawyer right from the outset

What is it and how does it occur?

It is estimated that approximately 1.4 million people attend hospital as a result of suffering a head injury every year.  This does not always involve damage to the brain itself.  The injuries  vary from the relatively minor incidents with symptoms lasting only a few hours or days to the most serious which could involve a fractured skull or penetrating damage to the brain itself that may have life changing consequences.

They can result for a multitude of reasons the most common being:

  • Road accidents
  • Injury at work
  • Physical assault
  • Incident in the home.

However when they happen, we know that the impact on the individual, their family and friends can be immense and here at BL Claims Solicitors we always put you first to ensure that you receive the right advice, access to rehabilitation, the right compensation and support throughout the life of your claim and beyond.  Head injuries can have life long, life changing consequences and BL Claims is here to manage that life long journey with you.

We are also very aware that not all individuals sustain their injury through circumstances that allow them to claim compensation. We therefore work closely with local brain injury charities to assist and support those who may not have the financial means to gain access to private resources.

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Consequences of head injury

This depends on the severity of injury.  An individual may be knocked unconscious but that does not necessarily mean the consequences will be serious.  When attending hospital you might hear the medical staff taking about Glasgow Coma Scores (GCS) as well as pre and post traumatic amnesia. 

The GCS is a medical test which scores an individuals response to certain stimuli. It is marked out of 15. 15/15 means someone is completely alert, where as 4/15 reflects someone who is unconscious. However, just because the initial GCS was low, does not necessarily mean that the consequences will be serious and vice versa.

Pre and post traumatic amnesia refer to loss of memory.  Pre is before the accident and post is after it.  The medical team will therefore want to establish the last clear memory the injured person had before the accident and their first after it.  

Common complaints following a head injury are:

  • headaches
  • mood swings,
  • problems with memory and concentration
  • difficulty with multi-tasking or word finding
  • dizziness
  • altered personality
  • inappropriate behaviour
  • epilepsy
  • being short tempered or less tolerant of others and their views 
  • fatigue or having no motivation to do normal activities or hobbies.

These are just a few of the possible symptoms of head injury. They could also just be a reaction to the accident, pain or immediate financial hardship. Therefore, these symptoms need to be kept under review and monitored.

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Medical treatment and rehabilitation

If you suffer a head injury it is best to get it checked out either at the local A&E department or with your GP.   You may be referred for further tests such as an x-ray, CT or MRI scan.  You may be admitted to a ward and kept in for treatment or observation. 

Your initial immediate treatment will always be provided by the NHS. Following hospital discharge you may require specialist rehabilitation which is not always available on the NHS to meet your specific requirements and level of need.

Specialist head injury rehabilitation is scattered across the UK and what is available in your area may be limited.  It is often only available privately.  We can step in and arrange this for you.  At BL Claims we will ensure you receive the best care and obtain interim funds through a compensation claim to make sure that you have every opportunity of achieving the best outcome possible.

We can appoint a case manager to oversee your rehabilitation and they will co-ordinate your private and NHS treatment to ensure they compliment each other.  

The case manager will ensure you have help at home and at work if necessary, arrange transport and delivery of equipment.  The case manager acts as your advocate throughout the rehabilitation process.

Rehabilitation may take a few weeks or it may last a life time.  We have vast experience in appointing the right case manager for you, getting you placed at the right rehabilitation unit or setting up a community program if that is more appropriate.  We will assist the case manager in setting up care/ support regimes, adapting your home or if necessary locating and purchasing a new property and adapting it to meet your needs and your families specific needs. 

We act for clients nationwide and therefore can ensure you receive rehabilitation and have access to medical experts that are local to you.  We try and prevent the amount of disruption to you and your family as much as possible. 

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Can I claim compensation?

That depends on how the accident occurred and if we are able to blame someone else for your injury. To bring a claim for compensation you have to prove:

  • a) Someone was at fault, another individual such as a car driver or your employer.
  • b) That person or company breached a duty that was owed to you. For example, in a road accident, you have to prove that another driver was to blame or if you were hurt at work, that your employer did not keep you safe. They may not have provided the right equipment or failed to train you properly;
  • c) That you suffered your injury as a consequence of the breach of duty.

If you are able to prove a, b and c above then you are entitled to claim compensation.

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What can I claim?

Compensation is awarded for the physical injury you sustained (this is known as General Damages) and also your financial losses (known as Special Damages).

Your General Damages will be based on what injuries we can prove were caused or contributed to by the accident and how these impact on your daily life. This is based upon expert medical opinion. For head injuries, reports may be obtained from the following medical disciplines:

  • neurology or neurosurgery
  • neuropsychology
  • neuropsychiatry
  • ENT consultant or audiology
  • neuro radiology
  • neuro rehabilitation
  • physiotherapy
  • speech and language therapy.

Depending on the severity of your injury you may have to see the consultants more than once as your recovery period could take 2-3 years to stabilize. It is only at that point that the experts can predict the future.

Your Special Damages are all the financial losses you have incurred as a direct result of the injury. These can be:

  • lost earnings (past and future)
  • care, provided by your family and friends as well as paid carers or support workers
  • medication (over the counter or prescription)
  • treatment, such as the specialist rehabilitation or on going physiotherapy, chiropody etc
  • therapies, such as art therapy or hobby classes
  • retraining costs
  • travel expenses for those visiting you in hospital, taking you to medical appointments etc
  • equipment costs
  • house adaptations (which may include the costs of buying a new home
  • case management
  • deputy costs, if you need someone to help you manage your financial affairs
  • additional costs to enable to go on holiday or participate in sports or hobbies previously enjoyed.
  • we may need to obtained expert reports to help us calculate the cost of these losses and the experts could be:
  • care expert
  • employment consultant
  • accountant.

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How will my case be funded?

There are various options open to you and we will discuss them all. We choose the most appropriate for you:

  1. Legal Aid, since April 2013 - this is only available for children who have suffered severe disability due to neurological injury. Legal Aid is not available for any other personal injury claim, even those involving children which occurred during the mother's pregnancy, the birth or within the first eight weeks after the birth.
  2. BTE insurance - this is before the event insurance. You will have needed to take out specific insurance to cover legal costs in case you ever had an accident. This may be attached to your car insurance, home insurance or contents policy. It will be called, something like, legal protection or family legal cover. You usually have to pay an additional premium to have this. Most policies have a costs indemnity of between £50,000 – £100,000 and is there to cover your own and your opponent's legal costs.
  3. Conditional Fee Agreement – this is also known as the "no win no fee" agreement. We act for you on the basis that we only get paid if you win your case. Your costs will then be paid by the person who was at fault or more usually their insurers. The legal costs are paid in addition to your compensation. We can take out insurance, at no cost to you if the case is unsuccessful, to cover your liability for your opponent's costs. If you win your case you will need to pay for the insurance out of your compensation. We will explain this to you and provide the costings. This is known as ATE Insurance (after the event).
  4. Privately paying – you can pay us privately on an hourly rate basis or we agree a budget to investigate the case.

Most personal injury claims are funded by options 2 or 3. We discuss all of them with you and you choose the one that is right for you.

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When can I claim and when do I appoint a solicitor?

A compensation claim usually has to be commenced within 3 years of the accident date or when you discovered you had suffered a serious injury. In a head injury case, this is likely to be the date of the accident. Your claim does not have to be concluded within 3 years, we just have to start court proceedings by the third anniversary of the accident. For a child, the 3 year limitation period starts on their 18th birthday.

In head injury cases it might be possible to extend the usual 3 year period. This will apply if the person is so badly injured that they no longer have capacity to manage their own affairs and a Deputy has been appointed to look after them. In these circumstances the 3 year period does not apply. However, it is invariably best to start pursuing a claim as soon as possible. This is when the evidence about how the accident occurred is most fresh in people's memories. The more time that passes the more likely it is that people will forget things, or witnesses move away and documents are lost.

It is also important to appoint a solicitor straight away. They can advice you on what evidence needs to be obtained, can arrange rehabilitation and obtain funds to help cover household bills when a person is in hospital or recuperating. For a head injury claim, make sure you appoint a specialist. Someone who knows about head injury and who can ensure you not only receive compensation, but that you get the right award as well as the support and assistance from the very beginning.

At BL Claims, we are known as experts in this field. We are recognised by Headway, the brain injury charity as well as the Child Brain Injury Trust and Spinal Injuries Association as experts.

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Court of Protection

The Court of Protection is an office of the High Court in London, which looks after the affairs of people who, as a result of some mental disorder are no longer able to manage their own affairs. A severe head injury can result in such a disorder. A person called a deputy is appointed to deal with all financial matters. The Court, through the Office of the Public Guardian, supervises the deputy and makes orders detailing their powers.

A Deputy can be a family member of you can appoint a professional person to deal with it. Here at BL Claims Solicitors, within our Private law team we have a dedicated unit dealing solely with Court of Protection issues. We have several partner who act as Deputies and have experience of managing individuals financial matters as well as helping them invest settlement awards at the conclusion of the case.

If you do not receive a Deputy but want assistance to help manage your finances the team can advise you on setting up a personal injury Trust a device through which your finances can be administered.

At BL Claims we can also help with the following issues which may arise as a result of your head injury:

  • Employment advice
  • Family issues such as custody rights, maintenance or divorce
  • Making wills
  • Buying or selling your home
  • Children with head injuries

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Children with head injuries

The majority of individuals who suffer a head injury are under the age of 16. We know that this type of claim requires specialist assistance. Achieving an early settlement may not be in the child's best interest. Depending upon when the injury occurs, the brain is likely to still be developing. Some problems may not materialize until the child hits puberty. Therefore settling too soon, could mean that the client is under compensated.

We also know that head injuries can significantly effect how well a child does at school. We can arrange additional support which can be given either at home or at school during this time to ensure that the child has the best possible chance of succeeding in later life.

Injuries during adolescence can present their own unique challenges. This is a time when young people are just starting to discover who they are and what they want to do with their lives. Injury at this time can have profound consequences for a young person. Ensuring they get the right help and our properly supported is essential.

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Criminal injuries compensation scheme

This is in place to compensate victims of violence.  Head injuries often result from fights or domestic assault. Special rules apply to enable someone to claim.   The violence needs to be reported to the police and the victim must co-operate with any prosecution.   The time limit for lodging an application is two years.  Compensation is awarded under a tariff scheme.  The highest award for a head injury claim is £500,000 irrespective of how damaged the individual is. 

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How long will the claim take and will I need to attend court?

The length of the case depends on a number of things. Firstly, whether or not the person who caused your injury accepts they were at fault. This is known as liability. It may be that we have to prove how the accident occurred and who was to blame before we can really start investigating how much the claim is worth.

In a personal injury claim, the person injured is called the Claimant and the person being blamed is called the Defendant.

In personal injury cases a Protocol applies to all claims. This dictates that a letter of claim is sent to the person at fault setting out not only how the accident occurred, but why consider them to be at fault, what your injuries are and basic details of what the financial losses are likely to be. The letter does not have to stipulate all losses but is aimed to give the person sufficient information to know what is being claimed. Your opponent then has 21 days to acknowledge that letter and provide their insurance details and then a further 3 months to investigate the case. At the end of that time period, they must either accept or deny liability. If they deny liability they have to state why and disclose any documents they have that supports their denial.

It is not always possible to reach a decision within that time frame as vital evidence may be awaited such as a police report or Health and Safety Executive investigation. However, the aim is to reach an early decision so all parties know where they stand.

During this time, both sides are required to consider rehabilitation. The defendant is obliged to consider it and offer rehabilitation even if liability is in dispute. The purpose of this is to try and ensure that the injured person recovers as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, in cases involving head injuries, the insurer may not be willing to fund expensive treatment. This is why it is important to appoint BL Claims as we will fight for your rights and can be negotiate with the insurers. 

Most cases settle without the need to attend trial, therefore it is unlikely that you will need to attend court. If you do, we will be there to guide you though the process.

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Other useful contacts

Headway - The Brain Injury Association
Helpline 0808 800 2244

The Child Brain Injury Trust
Helpline 0845 601 4939

Spinal Injuries Association
Helpline 0800 980 0501

Epilepsy Action

Helpline 0800 800 5050

Helpline 01752 601 318

Law Society
Helpline 0207 242 1222

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BL Claims Solicitors are here to help

If you would like to talk to someone and discuss a potential claim please call us on 0344 620 6600 anytime between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday, or if you would prefer you can email us at info@blclaims.co.uk