By Brent L. Handel Q.C.
Communicating with People with Brain Injuries
Communicating with people with brain injuries presents significant obstacles which a lawyer must overcome in order to ensure that the victim receives proper compensation, which can only be done if a lawyer fully understands the situation of the brain injured victim.
Injury lawyers must remember that a traumatic brain injury victim may have a lot of functional challenges impacting their communication, but it does not mean they are necessarily any less intelligent. The best place to start is by asking where to start. Not all individuals with a brain injury have the same problems.
Central Alberta Brain Injury Society
The lawyer should be aware of the client support network and work with that support network to ensure proper communication with the brain injury victim. In the Red Deer and area the Central Alberta Brain Injury Society has been helping individuals and families deal with the effects of traumatic or acquired brain injury. Founded by families whose children sustained brain injuries. The Central Alberta Brain Injury Society is a registered Charity which provides support and services free of charge to individuals and families who are living with the effect of acquired brain injury.
Their address is: CABIS #202 4805-48th Street
Red Deer, Alberta
Phone: (403) 341-3463
Figuring out what works best for both sides is essential. The injury lawyer should be aware that typically it takes longer for a brain injury victim to get information in, to understand it, sort it out, and come up with a response. Thus telephone calls should be kept short and simple, it is better for the personal injury lawyer to communicate with the brain injury victim in person.
When communicating in person it is important that there be a quiet and uninterrupted environment as distractions or noisy environments can cause far greater disturbances for the brain injury victim than for the average person.
Finally, memory can be affected in individuals with a traumatic brain injury and there are several approaches which may be taken to alleviate this problem. One, ask the brain injury client to write down any issues or questions they have in advance of the meeting so nothing gets overlooked. Two, the injury lawyer should not rush. Rushing is not an option when a person has a brain injury. Extra time will be required to ensure the brain injury victim is fully informed and understands what is going on.
In communicating the lawyer should maintain a natural volume of voice and natural relaxed rate of talking. At the same time the victim should not pretend to understand when they didn’t understand. Seek clarification from the lawyer. The lawyer should recap what has been talked about. If necessary the lawyer should repeat the message as required or present the message in a different way.
Finally, it is always helpful for the brain injury victim to have the trustee or guardian present or if there isn’t one appointed then to have a friend or family member there to assist with the understanding and communication process.