This week, one of our #HJHeroes is running a campaign which aims to raise awareness of brain injury and give a voice to those affected.
Run by Headway, Action for Brain Injury (ABI) Week takes place from 28 September until 4 October. The theme for this year - Memory loss: A campaign to remember - focuses on the ways in which memory problems can affect brain injury survivors and their families, exploring the impact of memory on relationships, recovery and returning to work.
Cari Sowden-Taylor is a Partner in our Neurolaw team. In this blog, she reflects on the journey of one of her clients - a 15-year-old boy who was involved in a road traffic accident - and situations he and his family experienced as a result of his injuries.
Tom* was a capable, sporty, popular, happy, much-loved son and brother but at the age of 15, just before he was about to sit his GCSEs, he was involved in a road traffic accident and suffered a severe traumatic brain injury and orthopaedic injuries.
For many weeks he was in an induced coma. When he came around, he was confused, hallucinating, shouting abuse and obscene language that he had never spoken before. All his family could do was stand by and hope that things would improve.
Physically, Tom made a good recovery and was keen to get back to the gym and his beloved football. He could eat, talk and get dressed independently but he experienced headaches, blackouts and poor balance for quite some time and so could not be left alone, which for a young man, became very frustrating.
After the accident, his short term memory was poor and he would struggle to remember what he had been doing during the last few days or week and this would impact upon his ability to take part in conversations; as a result, he started to become more and more reclusive. He became heavily reliant upon his family to remember appointments and his family noticed a change in personality; his fun-loving, cheeky attitude was replaced by flat mood interspersed with explosive temper, verbally aggressive behaviour and loss of control which appeared to be triggered by frustration as he was finding it difficult to do things he was capable of doing prior to the accident. Relationships with friends and family changed and he found his friendship group becoming smaller which caused upset and loss of confidence.
Tom would struggle to cook as he would forget how long the cooker had been left on for or he would lose track of instructions in a recipe. He would attempt to watch a film but would forget the plot and characters and then lose attention, get distracted and get up in the middle of a film.
Tom was unable to concentrate, retain and consider the information in letters and his parents had to deal with all his correspondence. He lacked concentration and motivation to deal with paperwork. He also found it impossible to manage his finances and would spend impulsively without considering the consequences and whether he could afford what he was buying.
As the injuries Tom sustained were caused by the negligence of someone else, we were able to pursue a claim on Tom’s behalf. We quickly obtained an admission of liability and then secured a large interim payment which enabled us to put in place a specialist case manager who supported Tom and his family and co-ordinated neuropsychological therapy, occupational therapy, neuro physiotherapy, and speech and language therapy for Tom. We also arranged for Tom to have support from a buddy on a daily basis which helped ease the pressure on his family as the buddy would take Tom to the gym and generally provide supervision in a friendly and productive way to ensure that Tom was given the chance to be as independent as possible.
Unfortunately, as a result of the extent of Tom’s injuries, he struggled to complete his education and was unable to secure and maintain employment but he helps at his local football team as much as possible which has helped to improve self-esteem.
Tom was assessed by medico-legal experts and it was considered that he lacked capacity to manage his litigation. Experts also considered that he lacked capacity to manage his financial affairs. Therefore, his father was appointed as his litigation friend and he supported him in making decisions regarding his claim. A deputy was appointed by the Court of Protection to manage Tom’s finances for him to ensure that they were protected given Tom’s vulnerability. Tom receives a small regular allowance which enables him to maintain independence but most of his regular payments are managed by the Court of Protection team at Hugh James. A bespoke package was put together according to Tom’s needs and this works well for him.
Throughout the claim, interim payments amounting to £200,000 were obtained to enable specialist neurorehabilitation and an independent living trial to take place. The claim was settled out of court for the sum of £3.5 million. Given that Tom lacked capacity to manage his litigation, approval was obtained from the Court to ensure that the figure which was being accepted in full and final settlement was appropriate in light of all the evidence.
It took 8 years for the claim to be finalised due to Tom’s age at the time of the accident and throughout that time we provided regular support to Tom and his family. A human brain doesn’t normally fully develop until someone is in their early 20s and so time had to be taken to allow Tom’s brain to settle after injury and to develop in the normal course. Following settlement of the claim, Hugh James’ Court of Protection continue to support Tom in relation to the management of Tom’s finances and he and his family have found the continued support beneficial.
At Hugh James we have a specialist multi-disciplinary brain injury department, to include a dedicated Court of Protection team. We are continually regarded as a leading law firm representing clients who have sustained a traumatic brain injury through no fault of their own. If you would like to receive more information regarding pursuing a claim or details about our Court of Protection services, please contact us on 029 2267 5870 to speak with a friendly professional specialist solicitor to see whether we can help you.
*Names have been changed to ensure anonymity. The claim was conducted by Cari Sowden-Taylor and Ellice Harding.