Research reveals early treatment for traumatic brain injury is an important factor in patient recovery. I’ve represented many individuals suffering from traumatic brain injury (TBI) over the years. In helping these clients, I’ve long encouraged their families to help in the process of recovery. Family members can advocate for their loved ones with medical professionals and also participate in recovery within the home.
Unfortunately, our medical and legal systems often delay or prevent TBI victims from quickly obtaining the rehabilitation needed for their recovery. What issues can delay or prevent needed rehabilitation? How can a victim’s family and legal counsel help with these issues? Here are three issues which often prevent personal injury victims from obtaining needed TBI care quickly:
- Personal Denial. Before an injury, the patient served many important roles — valued employee, devoted parent, loyal spouse. Suddenly, the patient is suffering symptoms of a brain injury that impact all these important roles. Many times, the patient does not even realize or fully understand what is happening. If the patient does understand, he or she may be embarrassed or depressed due to their problems. For many reasons, patients deny TBI injuries issues. Many TBI victims suffer in silence. Family involvement is so important.
- Lack of Physician Understanding. We expect our doctors to know everything about medicine. Yet, many do not. When it comes to brain injuries, many doctors really do not understand the symptoms, issues, or problems associated with mild traumatic brain injury. Other doctors simply ignore these problems in the hope they will resolve. I’ve seen too many cases where the treating doctor did not know how to handle these issues and ignored them. TBI patients need to see the proper specialists as soon as possible. These specialists include neurologists and neuropsychologists who can test, treat and rehabilitate the issues related to TBI. When it comes to medical treatment, family members can research the best specialists and advocate on behalf of their loved one with the medical providers.
- Insurance Carrier Cost Cutting. This is a huge issue for workers’ compensation cases in Alabama where the employer (through its insurance carrier) has a legal obligation to provide needed medical care. When it comes to Alabama workers compensation, the insurance company picks the initial doctor. This is a powerful tool for some insurance companies. Insurance carriers have a difficult time ignoring injuries that are visible or produce significant physical limitations such as broken bones, torn shoulders, and ruptured discs in the spine. However, brain injuries are a different story. Here, insurance carriers understand that many physicians are unskilled in evaluating these injuries and will ignore them. But, what if one of the physicians does note symptoms common to brain injuries? In the workers’ compensation context, many insurance carriers will still ignore complaints hoping the patient, his family, and his legal counsel will not seek care. If ignoring the problems does not work, some insurance carriers have specific specialists who will see the patient and issue a report claiming the symptoms are due to other issues such as depression, prior mental problems, or simply efforts to malinger. Insurance carriers have become very skilled in saving their money by ignoring needed treatment for brain injuries. While this saves the insurance company money in the short-term, the affected families and communities suffer tremendous costs.
Traumatic brain injuries respond best to early intervention and treatment. Unfortunately, our medical and legal systems too often delay necessary care. As a result, it is essential that patients, their families, and the legal counsel helping them, work hard to obtain needed care. Because March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, we are continuing to highlight this important issue.
From its office in Huntsville, the Blackwell Law Firm helps people across Alabama with serious personal injury claims. If you have questions about traumatic brain injuries, check out our webpage on the issue or some of the articles I’ve written on this blog.