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Friends slip away after head injury

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It is not just friends who slip away but marriages end and families break up, simply because the non-injured are not able to cope with the behavioural changes in their loved ones. It seems easy to judge and think that the non injured are fickle, shallow or cowardly but until you have been in that situation and seen first hand the devastating effects of serious injury no one should judge.   I have acted for families were fathers have gone from being dynamic individuals who were out with their children every weekend and the life and sole of the party to being verbally and physically aggressive without any apparent cause,  who swear at their children because they make too much noise or do something that annoys them.  The children become scared of their father and worry what he will be like when they come home from school or Dad comes in from work.  The families describe living on egg shells and never knowing who or what is going to come through the door.   This is made worse by the fact that the injured individual may have no or only limited insight into their behaviour.  They do not think they have changed, they can not understand why the family are complaining and see nothing wrong with their behaviour.
 
I have also acted for people who have become disinhibited.  They swear inappropriately, make racist or sexist comments or can grab a women who walk past.   Can you imagine sitting in the park, going to the cinema or to a restaurant and your partner, parent or friend making  very loud personal comments about someone nearby. People who suffer brain injury are often known as the walking wounded.  To see them you would not know they were injured.  This means that to you and I they look healthy or "normal" so you jump to the conclusion that they are rude or offensive individuals capable of understanding what they are doing rather than someone who has been seriously injured.   This can get them into difficulty or place them at risk of further injury.   Those suffering head injuries , particularly young men can often find themselves in trouble with the police for anti social or aggressive behaviour or get into fights as a result of comments made. 
 
I acted for a young man who had very antisocial behaviour.  He was injured in a car accident though no fault of his own.  The Defendant Insurers argued that his future care and loss of earnings claim should be reduced because he was likely to spend time in prison as a consequence of his behaviour.   How can that be right?  The premise of compensation is to put the injured party back into the same position  they would have been had the accident not occurred.  Surely the Defendant should pay for the care needed to protect that individual and keep them safe rather than taking advantage of their poor behaviour and trying to reduce the amount of compensation they pay out and passing the responsibility onto the state! 
 
As a solicitor who acts for head injured individuals,  I view my role as not only being there to help the injured person but also to support the family and friends as well.  I try and ensure that a case manager is appointed to act as the individuals advocate, but also for them to be on hand to support the family and answer questions.  Training can be given so that family and friends have a better understanding of the damage caused to the brain and why their loved one is acting as they do.   They can also be taught techniques to try and spot problem situations before they arise.   This has enabled friends to understand the changes and has on occasion made it easier for them to stay around. 
 
It seems as a society we are more tolerant of physical disability. You can see the injury and understand it. There may be no alteration to the individuals personality so their sense of humour, intellect and outlook on life stay the same.   Brain injury is very different.  The person who survives the injury may be very different.  Clients have described to me that their loved one died the day of the accident and now they have to learn to love a completely different person.   Can you imagine how hard that must be?
 
To read Edwards article, click on this link .
 
 
Claire Howard
Head Injury specialist

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