When a person sustained a serious head injury, such as a traumatic brain injury (TBI), this can have a devastating impact on the person themselves and those around them. They impact can go way beyond the physical injuries as the injured party is likely to suffer psychologically as a result of their injuries with symptoms of low mood, anxiety and depression. Experts have also found that TBI can cause emotional problems, difficulties in forming and keeping memories, and controlling impulses. The individual can often become aggressive.
Recently, BBC Online ran a story of a young man, Mr Schofield, who sustained a head injury following an unprovoked assault where he was struck over the head with a hammer. As a result of the assault, he was diagnosed with a brain haemorrhage and a skull fracture. Due to his injuries, he was required to spend 6 months in hospital as he had lost the majority of strength in the left side of his body, his short-term memory was poor and his speech was slurred. His mum required to become his carer. The injuries he sustained were life changing for himself and his family.
Upon discharge from hospital, it was recommended that Mr Schofield receive further treatment from Daniel Yorath House, which is an acquired brain injury neurorehabilitation centre. This treatment facility was recommended for Mr Schofield’s needs by his doctors however he was unable to access their services due to the limited number of places available being occupied with those who were considered to have greater needs.
A few years after Mr Schofield was assaulted, he moved into his own flat and tried to return to a ‘normal’ lifestyle of a man in his early twenties. One night, he attended a party at a friend’s house and he started a fight with a group of young men. The fight had started as the young men had resembled those who attacked Mr Schofield a few years earlier. As a result of the fight, Mr Schofield was arrested and sent to prison to await trial. While on remand, Mr Schofield came into contact with a representative from the Disabilities Trust who recognised that his actions were likely as a result of his TBI and that he required treatment rather than incarceration. Mr Schofield was given an 18-month suspended sentence and he was sent to Daniel Yorath House to obtain the treatment he required. This was the same facility recommended by doctor’s years prior.
During his time at Daniel Yorath House, Mr Schofield was able to access daily neurorehabilitation exercises and physiotherapy. His treatment involved assistance with reintegration to everyday life and development of skills to control aggressive behaviour. Mr Schofield still continues to have significant difficulties with his speech and memory. He also continues to suffer from weakness on the left side of his body but his doctors are now confident that he is able to control his impulses. He is now able to live alone again. The Disabilities Trust have said that they do not believe Mr Schofield would have committed the assault had he been admitted to a neurorehabilitation centre in the first instance.
Mr Schofield’s case, and treatment, raise some serious questions regarding rehabilitation which is offered to those who have suffered TBI. Research has been carried out by various institutions regarding the impact TBI on an individual’s life and it was found that TBI will double the risk of ending up in prison. Another study, in Sweden, found that individuals with TBI are four times more likely to end up in prison in comparison to the rest of the population. It has also found that 47% of adult male prisoners, in HMP Leeds, had a history of brain injury prior to incarceration.
While it is not being suggested that all of those affected by a TBI will go on to commit a crime, the statistics speak for themselves in showing that TBI can drastically increase the likelihood of engaging in criminal behaviour following injury unless appropriate rehabilitation treatment is offered.
It has recently been acknowledged by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Acquired Brain Injury, in their recent report, that “Acquired Brain Injury is an invisible epidemic, and we need to ensure that the neurorehabilitation services required following a brain injury are ‘fit for purpose’ throughout the UK.” The report has made a number of recommendations regarding the provision of rehabilitation to those who have suffered a brain injury, including:
- Prescriptions being issues to all brain injury patients detailing their neurorehabilitation needs;
- The shortfall in neurorehabilitation needs to be addressed;
- Trauma centre’s should have a consultant specialising in rehabilitation medicine;
- A funding review should take place; and
- Increased monitoring of those who attend A&E with a brain injury should be carried out to monitor the number of people who need, and receive, neurorehabilitation.
When dealing with those who have suffered a brain injury, it is essential that proper support is made available. Thompsons Solicitors work alongside a number of charities who provide invaluable support to individuals, and their families, who have suffered brain injuries. Some examples of the support offered includes regular group meeting to allow brain injury survivors to gather together and support each other. They also provide brain injury survivors with identity cards which can be used to show that the individual has survived a brain injury and also explain the effects of the brain injury. The cards can be used in social situations where the individual feels they require additional assistance. In addition, these charitable organisation can assist brain injury survivors with adapting to everyday life after their injury and assist them with gaining access to services they require.
When dealing with a personal injury case for those who have suffered a brain injury, it is essential that care and rehabilitation needs are considered by the solicitor. Where appropriate, expert opinion can be obtained from specialists and provisions can be put in place to obtain treatment via a private rehabilitation specialist. Cases of this nature are highly complex and require a specialist solicitor to deal with matters. If you, or a loved one, has sustained acquired brain injury as a result of an accident or assault, and want to discuss pursuing a claim for compensation, contact our specialist team on 0800 0891 331.
Blog by Eilish Lindsay, Dundee Solicitor