People suffering traumatic brain injury (TBI) can appear normal. TBI victims may look perfectly fine. That’s why this condition is often called the “invisible injury.” Because TBI victims can look fine on the outside, these injuries present many special challenges. Because TBI is an “invisible injury,” friends, family and even medical professionals often fail to understand the injury or support the victim. This leaves many TBI victims suffering largely in silence.
Brain injuries can cause many different cognitive, emotional and behavioral problems affecting relationships and work. In our law practice, we have seen many of these impacts on individuals, families and jobs. One ability sometimes impacted by brain injury is referred to as “Impartial third-party punishment (TPP).” TPP is the ability to judge the severity of conduct and assess reasonable punishment. People suffering this problem — are more prone to misjudge when faced with situations involving disputes or requiring discipline.
In the larger context, patients suffering an impairment in TPP may also struggle with evaluating the intentions of others around them as well as with making other rational judgments. As humans, we are required to make these rational judgments throughout the day. This ability is necessary to function in every family and in many jobs. That’s what makes this injury very serious. As the director of brain research at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago says:
The ability to judge such things as a business dispute, family argument or a child’s misbehavior and then assess reasonable discipline is fairly indicative of one’s ability to rationally and socially integrate within society, . . .
Problems with these skills can greatly affect family and work. The cost of disability from TBI in the United States is tremendous. On an annual basis in the U.S., TBI costs are estimated to be $60 Billion. Patients who have lost the ability to judge rationally these situations may face difficulty returning to work long-term. These patients can suffer substantial wage losses due to their vocational disability. The absence of skills, which regulate behavior, indicate poorer outcomes for resuming normal work, school, and family life. I’ve seen this numerous times in my law practice.
In my practice, I encourage family involvement in documenting and discussing the symptoms of TBI. Many people who suffer a personal injury to the brain in a car accident or workplace accident do not even realize the extent of their injuries. If they do realize their problems, they may feel uncomfortable discussing them. Yet, family understanding is important in cases where early treatment holds the potential for rehabilitation.
Understanding is also important even where the problem may be long-term or permanent. In these cases, TBI specialists and vocational counselors can help the affected patient with opportunities to live and work to the best of his/her ability.
In all cases, family involvement helps the process of documenting and proving these difficult injuries. Because TBI is often misunderstood, often undocumented and often undiagnosed, victims face challenges simply obtaining compensation. If you or a loved one suffered head trauma, talk to your family. Talk to medical professionals. Talk to those who can give you good advice. This is crucial to acceptance of the injury, to rehabilitation of the condition and to compensation of the damages.