Representing the Survivor of Brain Injury – The Lawyer’s Role


Representing the Survivor of Brain Injury

The Brain Injury Survivor Is Still Very Much a Person.

There is more to the term “Survivor” than rhetoric.  While it is common for the attorney representing the survivor of brain injury case to think that the complexities of what he is going is beyond the changed cognitive abilities of the client, that is rarely the case. Even after severe brain injury, the capacity to understand is almost always returned.  One of my interviewees on the TBI Voices project makes much of survivor advocacy and his point, that survivors need to be in charge of their future, is right on.

Understanding the Brain Injured Person’s Special Needs

The second thing that an attorney must remember in representing a survivor of brain injury is that while the cognitive issues may be far less than anticipated, the emotional needs and behavior challenges may be significant.  Decisions may be particularly difficult and the lawyer must approach the representation with that in mind.

Remember the Disabilities  You Want the Jury to Accept inYour Representation.

The irony of brain injury representation is that the lawyer can often forget the disabilities the client has in his interactions with the client.  Remember, regardless of apparent cognitive functioning, information will be more difficult to absorb. Distractions and fatigue are a constant battle.  Be patient, be empathetic but never patronize.

Representing the Survivor of Brain Injury

The Lawyer Must Commit Himself Not Only to Diagnosis, but to Treatment.

The attorney is in the unique situation of all of the professionals, to have a long term/regular contact with the survivor. This gives the lawyers, and his staff, the opportunity to get the true clinical picture. If the law firm representing the survivor of brain injury can identify deficits and treatments that might have been missed by the medical community.  A lawyer should never be afraid to advance his clients recovery from brain injury.

Advocacy Must Extend Beyond Perimeters of the Courtroom.

Advocacy means more than being a courtroom adversary, it means working for the best interest of not only the individual client, but the entire community of brain injury. The attorney needs to fight toe to toe with professionals, who despite their degrees, don’t “get” brain injury.


NEXT: About Severe Brain Injury

By Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.

Call me at 800-992-9447