Traumatic brain injuries also referred to as TBIs, are a common occurrence that can have life-altering repercussions. In the United States, there were over 220,000 TBI-related hospitalizations (approximately 611 per day) in 2019 and over 69,000 TBI-related deaths (about 190 per day) in 2021, according to the CDC. Brain injuries can occur due to several reasons, including, but not limited to:
motor vehicle accidents
slip and fall accidents
penetrating or non-penetrating (blunt) trauma
The most common causes of TBIs are falls, firearm-related injuries or deaths, assaults, and motor vehicle crashes. TBIs affect people of all ages and ethnicities, though some demographics have been found to be more impacted by brain injuries than others.
Do I Need a Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyer?
If you or a loved one has suffered a traumatic brain injury, the effects of the injury could be far-reaching and long-lasting. Depending on the severity of the injury, side effects of brain trauma can include any of the following:
Internal hemorrhaging or swelling
Short-term memory loss
Long-term memory loss
Loss of motor skills
Cognitive or personality changes
Full or partial paralysis
If another party was responsible for your injury, you might think it’s time to look into hiring a brain injury attorney. The following are some reasons why you may wish to contact an attorney and the qualities you should look for when picking a brain injury lawyer.
Exorbitant Medical Expenses
A moderate to severe brain injury is sure to result in multiple doctor visits, scans, and ongoing evaluations and monitoring. Surgery or long-term care may even be necessary in some cases. Medication for pain management and other side effects will also likely result. All of these things cost money. Even with insurance, medical bills can become crippling. If some other entity was responsible for your injury, they should be responsible for paying your medical expenses, not you. Insurance companies will make you jump through hoops to prove the severity of your injuries and the necessity of any and all related medical visits or procedures. A well-qualified lawyer can help you push back and get the compensation you deserve.
Chronic Pain and Suffering
With something like a brain injury, there are varying degrees of pain and suffering that accompany such an event. Of course, there is physical pain and suffering, which may or may not be able to be treated with medicine or medical procedures. It is also important to consider mental and emotional pain and suffering. A brain injury can be life changing. Aside from the trauma related to the accident itself, which can cause PTSD, there is also the trauma of living a life as a person who is entirely different from the person you were before the injury. Memory issues, personality or cognitive changes, motor skill difficulties, and vision, hearing, or speech impairments can profoundly impact your quality of life going forward from a physical, mental, and emotional standpoint. You deserve to be compensated for your suffering, but it can be challenging to prove the degree of your pain and suffering when there are no visible traces of it. When it matters most, a competent brain injury lawyer can fight on your behalf.
Lost Wages and Loss of Potential Future Income
If, as a result of your injury, you are temporarily or permanently unable to work or earn the level of income you were able to make before your injury, someone needs to be held accountable for covering that financial loss. An experienced attorney who knows the letter of the law should be adept at negotiating fair compensation on your behalf so that your quality of life does not have to be further impacted by financial strain.
Qualities of a Good Brain Injury Attorney
Hiring an attorney can feel daunting. When your future livelihood is on the line, you want to ensure you are hiring someone who has your best interests at heart and knows how to skillfully navigate difficult conversations about complicated matters. You don’t have to go with the first attorney you speak with. There are qualities you should be looking for in your attorney and questions you can ask that will help you determine if they possess those qualities.
How many years have they been practicing law? How much experience do they have specifically working on TBI cases? Every type of case for a lawyer is different. For best results, you’ll want a lawyer who has direct experience arguing on behalf of brain injury victims, as they’ll be well versed in related medical terminology and insurance rules and tactics and will not scare easily.
Commitment and Availability
What is their current caseload? How committed will they be to your case, and how quickly can they get to work on it? When it comes to getting fair compensation in personal injury cases, timing can be crucial. Make sure you find a lawyer who can and will get to work on your case as soon as possible and who will treat your situation as a top priority.
What is their track record for winning cases and/or getting fair compensation for their clients? A high quantity of cases does not necessarily indicate high quality. The success rate of an attorney who advocates for brain injury victims is a crucial factor. Consider other options if they frequently settle for less than their clients deserve.
When it comes to doctors, skill and experience are the first things we look for when we want to make sure we are going to get excellent care. How a doctor interacts with their patients can set them apart as either simply competent or outstanding. The same concept is true with lawyers. If you’ve suffered a traumatic brain injury, you will likely be navigating difficult and sensitive roads ahead. Lawsuits can be arduous and time-consuming. Having a lawyer who is not only highly skilled but capable of putting you at ease when it comes to any stress or anxiety you may be experiencing as a result of your injury or the lawsuit will mean the difference between a good lawyer and a great lawyer.
Whether or not you can afford an attorney will play a part in whether you hire them. Be direct in your initial consultation when asking about their rates. You can read more about lawyer fee structures below.
How To Hire a Brain Injury Lawyer
Now that you know what qualities you are looking for in a lawyer, let’s get into how to hire a lawyer.
Research Ahead of Time
This does not have to be overly time-consuming. Speak with friends and family to see if they know of or have direct experience with any lawyers that they can recommend. You can also search online to read about their specific expertise or to check out their reviews.
Schedule Initial Consultation
Consulting with a lawyer before committing is relatively standard. Some lawyers offer free consultations for new clients, but this is not a guarantee. You could find yourself paying a consultation fee to compensate them for their time. On average, depending on their level of expertise, you can expect to pay anywhere between $150 and $350 an hour just for that initial consultation, so be prepared. Ask up front whether or not they have a consultation fee.
Prepare for Consultation
When you meet with your potential lawyer, you’ll want to bring as much pertinent information about your case as possible. Medical records, bills, doctor’s notes, recommendations, evidence related to the accident and injury, and anything you can bring to provide a solid picture of your circumstances will be helpful.
Hire an Attorney
Once you’ve selected the attorney best suited to your needs, you will likely enter into a formal contract with them. This may involve paying a retainer fee to lock down their services. Be sure to ask them directly about what their fee structure is. Do they work on contingency? Or do they charge a flat rate? It can be challenging to get a clear picture of how much you will spend on attorney fees overall in advance of a lawsuit, but you should make sure you understand how your lawyer plans to bill you and what, if anything, you will need to pay upfront.
Resources for Victims
Figuring out how to live your best life after a TBI is no easy endeavor. If you need help filing for disability benefits, getting financial guidance, or finding legal aid, check out some of the links below.
Disability and Temporary Disability Benefits
There are various factors that can affect your eligibility for government-funded disability benefits, such as the extent and seriousness of your brain injury, your age, financial status, and your ability to work in the future. While you wait for the results of your lawsuit, these benefits may provide you with financial assistance.
If you meet the following requirements, you may qualify for SSDI benefits:
You are unable to work due to a medical condition that is expected to last at least a year or result in death.
Your disability is not partial or short-term.
You meet the Social Security Administration’s definition of disability.
You are younger than your full retirement age.
For SSI benefits, the following requirements must be met:
Are age 65 and older, blind, or have a disability.
Have limited income (wages, pensions, etc.).
Have limited resources (the things you own).
Are U.S. citizens, nationals of the U.S., and some noncitizens.
Reside in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia or the Northern Mariana Islands. It does not include Puerto Rico, Guam, or the United States Virgin Islands. Exception: The children of military parent(s) assigned to permanent duty outside the U.S. and certain students temporarily abroad may receive SSI payments outside the U.S.
Are under age 18 and have a physical or mental condition(s) that very seriously limit their daily activities for a period of 12 months or more or may be expected to result in death, and
Live in a household with limited income (benefits based on need) or resources.
To determine which of these benefits you may qualify for, you can reach the program at 1-800-772-1213 or go to https://ssabest.benefits.gov/benefit-finder/.
As part of the National Disability Institute, the Financial Resilience Center is an online hub of information that provides guidance about how to become financially resilient during tough times for people with disabilities and chronic health issues.
Free Legal Aid
The American Bar Association Free Legal Answers is a virtual legal advice clinic that provides an online version of the walk-in clinic model. Users may request brief advice and counsel about a specific civil legal issue from a volunteer lawyer by posting their civil legal questions to their state’s website. Lawyers will then follow up with basic legal advice and information without the expectation of long-term representation. This is an excellent resource for people who are seeking advice and information about non-criminal legal matters and cannot afford a lawyer.
You can contact the ABA through the ABA Service Center Hotline at (800) 285-2221 or email them at Service@americanbar.org, Monday - Friday, 9:00 AM - 6:00 PM ET.
(Other sources for this article)
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