Posted on January 15, 2008 · Posted in Brain Injury

I have dealt with the semantics of what to call someone who suffered brain damage after an accident or injury as long as I have been represented such individuals. When I first started, there was an organization called the NHIF, National Head Injury Foundation. Then it was deemed inaccurate, or politically correct or something, and it became “required” to use the term brain injury, instead of head injury. The NHIF became the BIA, Brain Injury Association.

Then there was the controversy over to what to call someone with what was deemed to be “mild” head injury. I struggled with that label for a while and then coined the term “subtle brain injury”© at the time I first authored

I have lost more battles than I have won in the Courtroom, because jurors don’t get it, that brain injury, mild, subtle, whatever you call it is “brain damage.” I know that survivors of brain injuries don’t like the use of the word “damage” to describe what they have experienced. But I am sorry, I have to retrain myself to use the word “damage” because unless I persuade jurors that this stuff is as serious as what they think of as “brain damage”, I am not going to win for those who really need me to do so.

Why is brain damage sound more serious than brain injury? I am not sure. I could give some examples. How many people know that if your brain is deprived of oxygen for “five minutes” you can suffer permanent brain damage? Most people who pay attention I would think. (Personally, I have always subscribed to the theory that all threshold’s for damage are too high, that probably three to four minutes can cause more subtle damage.) In contrast, when people suffer an injury, they think it is something that will heal.

Don’t get me wrong, I truly hope that all of you who have suffered a brain injury, have the maximum recovery. Most of the impact of our web advocacy goes to people who will never need or call a lawyer. I have been committed to this goal since first going online with and in 1996 and 1997. Education and advocacy have been at the cornerstone of what the Brain Injury Law Office has done, and I believe largely due the assistance of Becca and Jayne, we have made a real difference.

But I have never been particularly politically correct, and my most important goal is to convince outsiders that my clients, who by definition are not people who had an injury, but are people with permanent damage, have brain damage. If I don’t train myself to use those words more often, I may lose the semantic battle where it counts the most: the Courtroom.

About the Author

Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice :: 800-992-9447