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Brain Injury Brooke

My experience of personal injury claim expert witnesses 


Are you currently going through a personal injury claim? I went through one and whilst I wouldn't exactly call it a pleasant experience, it was one that, in the end, I am glad I went through. Due to legalities, I don't want to talk about my case, so I'll tell you more about my experience rather than the case itself.

Just to note here, my personal injury claim was handled by another law firm, and not CFG Law, so this really is just about my experience rather than about CFG – sadly, I wasn’t involved with CFG Law until sometime after my claim settled as I didn’t know about them at that time.

To be honest, this post is probably more for the benefit of parents or carers of the person with a brain injury rather than the brain-injured person themselves. I guess it's another case of every brain injury being different; I didn't know what was going on at the time of my claim.

For yourself or having somebody close to you diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury is so traumatic, shocking and involves a rollercoaster of emotions for all involved. First comes the shock of the injury itself, followed (hopefully) by the relief that they are still with us, then the frustration that survival doesn't mean a return to normality and lastly, the disappointment of realising that although they are still alive, things have changed forever. Your ability to work will likely have been affected for the rest of your life, and if it was due to no fault of your own (or even if you were partially to blame), you should absolutely look at making a claim. I was in a coma for 16 days and in hospital for almost six months, so I wasn't fully compos mentis for a long time (I didn't have full control of my mind). I was, therefore, unable to handle complex thinking for probably a few years afterwards (and in many ways still can't), so thankfully, my family took responsibility for my claim.

The whole ordeal was an extremely stressful time for us, especially at the start when we were told we should seek the assistance of a lawyer; I mean, we simply didn't know where to turn or what to look for. This was scary initially as you think of lawyers prosecuting criminals in court. We were not a family that had ever been in trouble with the police and knew absolutely nothing of the legal system. In fact, our knowledge of lawyers was limited to my sister's recent divorce and the Tom Cruise film 'A Few Good Men'!

I've since learnt that this is a totally different type of law (one is a movie) and not connected to personal injury at all; this seems so obvious to me now, but if you don't know, you don't know! The next task is to choose a solicitor; this can be massively confusing and panic-inducing, so don't worry; there is plenty of help.

To make sure that you hire a good solicitor, you should take your time, never rush into a decision and take plenty of advice. There is a time limit to making a claim, but usually, you have three years to start your case, so whilst it is something you shouldn't delay over, there is no need to panic. That being said, choosing a solicitor is something you should address as soon as you feel you are able because time flies and it's surprising how quickly three years go by. Once you have sorted out a solicitor, your claim can run in the background. But not only that, a good solicitor can massively help you with rehab, signposting and general support, so they’re good to have on hand as soon as possible and throughout your recovery.

But how do you know where to look and what to look for? A brain injury is what is called a high-value case, and for this, you want someone with experience, a firm that specialises in brain injury and has done this type of case many times before. Due to the value of the case, there will be inexperienced law firms happy to take on the case, but this won't be the best scenario for you.

A good way to check if a law firm has experience in head injuries is to check if they are listed in the Headway Head Injury Solicitors Directory. Anyone who has been listed is a trusted law firm with specialist experience in head injury claims. A good solicitor will guide you through the next phase and once the legal side is in hand, it won't solve all your problems, but it will be a relief and a (little) bit less for you to worry about.

When my case started, it was not a time of my life that I look back on with any fondness; it was a couple of years after my initial injury and my fatigue levels were horrible. I had started to take an interest in what it meant to have a brain injury, and the more I learned, the lower my mood became. In fact, the area that I lived in at the time I still dislike to this day, as I associate it with what I used to feel at the time. That was when I started the most stressful part of the case for me, which was seeing the various experts.

During this time, my life was so dull; for a start, I was always exhausted, and I mean really next level exhausted, to the point that I didn't want to do anything. So, for a long time, the things I looked forward to most in life were visiting the various 'experts' on a range of subjects that provided evidence for my claim. Not because it was a particularly pleasant experience but because it meant a break from my mundane life. The odd expert would come to my home to assess me, but more often than not, it meant going on a road trip to visit them wherever they were based. These experts would spend an hour or so with me and make an assessment of my life; it sounds terribly condescending, but that's the way the courts work.

Having a catastrophic injury is (hopefully) the most major thing to happen in your life and will have had a significant impact on your mental health and the mental health of those around you. Your claim, though for some, is just a process that involves large sums of money and for the duration of the case, finances will take priority over your mental health, and you have to be prepared for that. That being said, a good solicitor should get you the support you need and should always help you with any problems you and your family are facing with your mental health (as well as your physical injuries, of course!), both during your case and beyond. Although the claim is about getting you the best compensation and finances, it’s about what this can do for you for the rest of your life and why it’s needed that’s important. The right solicitor will understand this and help you through each step.

You are most probably making a claim against an insurance company - this means that there will be two sets of solicitors; as well as your solicitor (claimant), there will be an equivalent acting for the insurance company (defendant). This meant that for every expert we saw for my solicitor, we would see the equivalent for the defendant solicitor.

The expert will write a report based on a face-to-face appointment with you, which are usually about an hour long, and also take into account lots documents and records, to then write about how you are doing. Although this is all necessary for the case, it can be tough feeling like you’re being judged. You shouldn’t take it personally – easy to say I know, because I definitely took them personally, but they are just part of the claim. It's probably best not to let the injured person read these reports, as reading what will be a report which may be focussing on how badly they've been injured can definitely cause depression.

It's so easy to take these things personally and we did so many times, but you need to remember it is only about money and not a personal attack on your character, but this is just my feelings and experience of these reports. Some reports will go well, some you will even enjoy and it's interesting because you get to visit all sorts of professionals which you never otherwise would have. You're bound to get a couple of upsetting ones, though; one such report for me was a neuropsychologist for the defendant that my dad and I travelled to London to see at his home. Due to the challenges I faced with fatigue, I was interviewed first, followed by my dad. During the interview, I told the neuropsychologist about a holiday that I had just been on with four friends, who were at least five years older than me and knew of my situation, so they all looked after me. After the interview, as was to be expected, I was absolutely exhausted and whilst my dad was being interviewed, I very promptly fell asleep on the sofa in the waiting room, and the neuropsychologist was the one that woke me afterwards.

We received his report a couple of months later, which is pretty standard, and they were never a joy to read, but this one was particularly scathing, which we as a family took particularly badly. In his report, he wrote that I could go on holiday alone, despite me explaining that I was being accompanied by four older friends who were well aware of my situation. He then wrote that I showed no obvious signs of my ‘alleged fatigue!' despite falling asleep on his sofa.

To people working in this industry, this type of report wouldn't be particularly surprising, but it can be awful to a family with no experience! Not only had we been through the trauma and dealing with the residual effects of the injury, but now I felt like I was being called a liar. I remember at that time living with constant anxiety and always being paranoid about something or another. I didn't (and often still don't) understand things properly. I was told how somebody going through a claim had said they couldn't walk properly, and the defendant solicitor had hired a private detective to follow them and filmed them in the gym. The point they were trying to make with the story was about making a bogus claim, but what I took away from it was that I shouldn't go to the gym - that was the only thing I did that I enjoyed in my life, and I was so paranoid. I just didn't understand things properly; I was terrible at learning any type of new skill, now I'm just poor! I don't think you should even try to explain anything complex to someone that has had a brain injury, especially within a couple of years of the incident; I didn't understand properly anyway, and it only really caused me stress!

That report from the neuropsychologist in London has stayed with me for 13 years - he won't even remember me. To these people, it is just a job and you must remember this. You should focus on your health; money comes and goes, but your health lasts forever, so do your best to look after it!

The best advice I can give you is not to try and make your injuries look worse than they are. Always be honest and the truth will come out in the end. Try to get on with your life the best you can and remember you are dealing with people who handle this kind of situation every day and they will know every trick in the book! Don't make things up and always tell the truth; trust in the process and things will work out in the end. This quote by Mark Twain fits perfectly to this scenario: 'If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.'

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