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Do head injury lawyers do more harm than good?

Posted May 16 2010 12:00am

In my travels, I come across a lot of people with a lot of different skills and abilities, difficulties and challenges. Every now and then, I’ll come across someone who has experienced a brain injury, and they retained a lawyer to represent them and recoup damages. Unfortunately, I have rarely come across anyone who has actually won their case, or gotten as much compensation as they felt/told they were entitled to.

Having worked with lawyers a lot in the past, I can say that I have rarely seen clear-cut cases which turned out the way people expected/hoped them to. And I have seldom seen results which truly matched the circumstances. Either the lawyer had to work a lot harder and longer than they expected and their fees went way up. Or the other side had a great lawyer, too, and they prevailed in at least slashing the damages to what was after all was said and done a pittance.

The problem is/was, that one of the main components of the cases I’ve heard about was often the “injury” or “damage” piece of the story. The damages had to be justified by the degree of the damage done. So, in order for the case to proceed, the injured party had to live, breathe, eat, sleep their injury. And they had to present plausible evidence that they were severely harmed enough to justify a sizeable amount.

And in the meantime, valuable time and recovery were lost, in the initial weeks and months sometimes years that could have been used to get the victim back on their feet and take them from being a victim to a survivor. They lost critical windows of time in which they could have be rehabbing themself they had to maintain the appearance of damage, until the lawyers were done with their part of the business. Which always took much longer than expected.

Or (almost worse), the person decided that they couldn’t wait for the litigation to be concluded before they started rehabbing themself, they got help from qualified professionals, and they made good progress. But by the time they got to trial, they were well enough restored to what looked like full functionality, that nobody would believe that they had ever had problems, and the court didn’t think it warranted damages being awarded.

I have huge issues with litigation as a way to right the wrongs of the world. It’s often demeaning and dismissive to everyone except the attorneys and court, and it’s expensive and rarely produces the results the victims anticipate. Even defending yourself against an accusation with the help of a lawyer can be an exercise in abject humiliation no matter how innocent, justified and/or exonerated you are. It’s expensive. Lawyers bill by the hour. And you never know exactly how things are going to turn out.

Losing all the time that a court case takes to your recovery can be a terrible blow. And let’s not even discuss the blow to your dignity. Litigation always takes longer than expected. And it is more expensive and more taxing on the parties involved, than anyone believes it will be at the inception. And in that prolonged waiting period, when it’s critical that the victim obviously be victimized, valuable time and opportunity to heal and recover are lost.

Now, I’m not saying that the results/symptoms of tbi from a car accident or other mishap can eventually be addressed by rehab. I’m not saying that healing isn’t possible on down the line. I firmly believe that it can. I’m living proof that you can recover and get back on your feet, even years on down the line. The problem is, people who have been injured can end up sacrificing not only their health and well being, but their employment, their savings, their families, their relationships… because it’s incumbent upon them to present plausible evidence that damage has been done to them as a result of their accident.

By the time you start to recover, it can work against your credibility in injury damages litigation

And while the attorneys are drafting and filing their motions and briefs, valuable time and opportunity to get back what was lost, to cultivate necessary relationships, to readjust to your new world… slips away. And in the end, you can sit there in court being told, “Well, you don’t look that bad off to me!”

Now, I don’t for a minute think that this MUST be the case all across the board for every TBI case in the book. But at times, “going the attorney route” is not the way to go. And anyone who’s seriously considering it needs to carefully weigh the pros and cons of appearing injured and getting on with their life.

For if you wait and delay your recovery until after your case has settled, you may end up losing even more than you originally did. And all the money in the world won’t be able to replace at least some of what you’ve lost, because your lawyer told you that it will be in your favor if you look the part of an injured party.

Now, admittedly, I’m not a definitive subject matter expert on this subject. I’ve never been embroiled in a personal injury case over my tbi’s. But I have worked with a lot of lawyers, and I have seen how the court system works very, very slowly. My recommendation to anyone seeking legal assistance to recoup damages after a head injury is to only get into it if you can afford to live without your whole self for as long as it takes to settle the case. No lawyer is going to tell you they’re incompetent and can’t bring the bacon home. They may reset your expectations along the line, but too often I’ve seen that reset happen long after everyone has passed the point of no return, and the only thing anyone can do is press on… and hope for the best.

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