If you or a loved one faces severe changes to your lifestyle after a severe head injury, you are not alone. You may be reading this site to understand more about the effects of head injuries on a person’s well-being. Decades of medical research now helps us to understand better why brain injury patients undergo severe changes in their personality and living standards.
You may be in the middle of a court case and wonder why you incur all of these medical and other experts’ costs. “Why can’t I just hire my family doctor to prove my brain injury damages?,” you ask. Let’s try and answer all these questions and help you get through this tough time in the evolution of your lives as a couple.
There is a high chance that the accident affected aspects of your brain function. Medical science is now catching up with the many effects of head injuries. This especially goes for cases in which a patient suffered multiple brain impacts of head injuries over a short or long period. Such Traumatic Brain Injuries, or TBIs, are essential in understanding how the brain works and how to recover after them. I am a California brain injury attorney, Michael Ehline.
As part of my legal practice in Los Angeles County, I hire expert witnesses to prove damages in brain injury lawsuits. Some of these experts are brain injury physicians and neurologists. Others are life care planners, economists, and other top-notch physicians accredited in their area of medicine, engineering science, or other specialties.
These are the people we hire to help us calculate and determine within a degree of expert certainty that it is more likely than not that the accident caused your brain injury, that you will have X amount of expenses. Sometimes we use experts to help us calculate the value of a person being forced to endure pain and suffering over the rest of their actuarial life and that you will lose a sum certain.
Over time, I have become a legal expert with authority in brain injury lawsuits for civil courts’ negligence. Below I will discuss one of the many types of damages in an injury case. In this blog post, I will tell you about claims for loss of love, affection after someone you love suffers a severe brain injury in some accident.
One of the most common causes of brain injuries is a concussion. Any number of events causes concussions. Some include sports injuries, car accidents, slips, falls, and accidents at work. Concussions are much more severe than previously understood. Doctors now understand that even one concussion can have long-term effects on an individual. It is often not just the case of “ sleeping it off.” Multiple concussions run the risk of dramatic changes to a person’s mood or ability to run their life.
Below are the CACI Jury Instructions, along with various case law that jurors and courts use to determine if you are entitled to loss of consortium damages. The jury will weigh the evidence. And a lot of the weight given or considered will be your experts’ believe-ability and whether you can meet your burden of proof-based upon the preponderance of the evidence legal standard.
Under CACI jury instruction 3920 the Non-Economic Damage of Loss of Consortium is defined as:
[Name of plaintiff] claims that [he/she] has been harmed by the injury to [his/her] [husband/wife]. If you decide that [name of injured spouse] has proved [his/her] claim against [name of defendant], you also must decide how much money, if any, will reasonably compensate [name of plaintiff] for loss of [his/her] [husband/wife]’s companionship and services, including:
1. The loss of love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, moral support; and
2. The loss of the enjoyment of sexual relations [or the ability to have children].
[[Name of plaintiff] may recover for harm [he/she] proves [he/she] has suffered to date and for harm [he/she] is reasonably certain to suffer in the future.
For future harm, determine the amount in current dollars paid at the time of judgment that will compensate [name of plaintiff] for that harm. This amount of noneconomic damages should not be further reduced to present cash value because that reduction should only be performed concerning economic damages.]
No fixed standard exists for deciding the amount of these damages. You must use your judgment to decide a reasonable amount based on the evidence and your common sense.
Do not include in your award any compensation for the following:
1. The loss of financial support from [name of injured spouse];
2. Personal services, such as nursing, that [name of plaintiff] has provided or will provide to [name of injured spouse];
3. Any loss of earnings that [name of plaintiff] has suffered by giving up employment to take care of [name of injured spouse]; or
4. The cost of obtaining domestic household services to replace services that would have been performed by [name of injured spouse].
Science shows that for people who sustained repeated blows to the head, there were severe effects. This often happens due to specific circumstances. In some cases, people who sustained severe head injuries due to car accidents are likely to change their personalities. They may be disoriented or display signs of depression or aggression. Perhaps the most famous example includes sports players, mainly the sport of football. Recent scandals in the NFL show the effect of long-term severe head injuries for players.
There have been multiple cases of players dying due to CTE or having severe changes to their personality. These examples give us a better understanding of how the brain works. But I digress, you need to hire an expert in brain injuries to prove these damages. And the victim’s loss of consortium damages remains only one of the many types of damages he can recoup. But it’s significant and will require proof that his or her accident caused the conditions preventing the loving relationship that had existed previously.
So no, you cannot rely upon your family doctor or GP to testify or even qualify to discuss your case in court. It requires a specialist who has done extensive research. Such research is essential for treating patients’ future treatment and forming opinions on the reasonableness or necessity of undergoing a particular form of treatment and the costs involved. Also, many aspects are brand new. Our site shows several effects of brain injuries. So to recap, the issue patients face are typically from being injured in car accidents, a slip, and fall, or even losing their arm in a woodchipper while working.
And your experts are the ones responsible for proving, with the help of a lawyer, that you are entitled to be paid a certain amount and how much. Let’s say you had brain surgery. Let’s assume the other side says you didn’t need the surgery because their paid medical expert said you are ok at the Defense Medical Examination. You’d think you could call in your family physician to testify that you needed the surgery.
But that’s not how any of this works. First of all, is your GP a brain injury expert? No. Now we have to pay for our medical expert and hope the jury finds our expert more believable than the other side. Proving psychological changes in a family member from a medical perspective is not so easy, and it can become far costly from a victim’s perspective. However, this does not mean you should not educate yourself on brain injuries’ signs and symptoms.
The doctor-patient relationship has changed tremendously over the years. To get good help, you need great private insurance or to pay out of pocket. Since insurance doesn’t typically cover hiring a medical expert to testify at trial, you may not even know a genuinely great expert until your lawyer helps you find one who is willing to treat you and testify at trial for you. But I digress. The TV program Marcus Welby, M.D., which aired in the 1960s and the 1970s, illustrates this point.
The show represented physicians as paternal and caring. Patients in that era treated doctors almost as if they were magical and all-knowing. Nowadays, such dependency on your physician is unrealistic and even unhealthy. This article explores these changes and how personal injury cases are the only ways to get a good doctor.
Specialization is common now. In older eras, however, general practitioner physicians outnumbered specialists. Back then, doctors projected an aura of omniscience. They seemed able to discern everything there was to know about patients’ health, and they authoritatively dispensed advice. Patients listened to them, rarely questioning the direction. Then came medical advancements that led to specialization.
Doctors’ learning curves trended upward, but patients’ expectations remained the same. It was also not a lawsuit-happy society as it is today. And with the costs of medical malpractice insurance, licensing, continuing education, and insurance regulations, it’s hard to make a decent living as an MD. So in a way, our lawsuit culture may have driven costs up, which has forced doctors to follow the money. Remember, medical school loans still need to be paid off. But from a patient’s perspective, none of that matters.
These scenarios are typical now:
With internet medical research readily available to patients, more medical knowledge and new medical procedures are everywhere. Many of us will be on overload, trying to understand what happened to their significant other after that car accident. So how do you figure it all out? It would help if you found a baseline between how your spouse was before becoming injured and your spouse’s acts now.
Your wife or husband’s lay opinion would be insufficient to get someone paid damages for the personality changes. Sure, their observations are helpful. And they are things a doctor would use to help him or her form an opinion about the cause and severity of the brain injury.
You’d think your family doctor would be enough to get you this evidence and get money. But wait, not so fast. First, is he a specialist? If not, he may not even qualify to testify. Besides, unless he has personal knowledge of before and after, how would he be a reliable and trustworthy witness?
To expand on the last point, many doctors juggle high numbers of patients. Ideally, these doctors would remember every detail about each patient while also frequently learning and practicing medical advancements. Ideal, but not realistic. Doctor-patient relationships suffer because each side does not quite understand where the other is coming from. Some patients feel disappointed and resentful. Patients have told me that their doctors do not care about them and cannot remember their case details.
It would be best to have an expert who works on a lien basis to tie their opinion to winning your case. You are relying on that doctor to be truthful in their views of the treatments being reasonable. If you had spinal fusion surgery, you need your treating physician to get on the witness stand and testify to the reasonableness. In some ways, patients do realize that they cannot be dependent on doctors any longer.
That is one reason they go online to research their symptoms and medical conditions. However, they still do not fully grasp the enormous burdens that doctors carry, and patients still have somewhat of a learned dependency on doctors. But in a personal injury case, like it or not, doctors and patients can become tied at the hip in pursuit of a money damages award. As an aside, below are some tips to improve the doctor-patient relationship, injury case, or not.
The following things should be happening more often than they are:
For example, 50 years ago, patients were likely to depend on their doctors to know all the details of medications they took, including any side effects and interactions. Only one doctor (maybe two) would prescribe these medications. Nowadays, patients must actively take charge of their health by keeping track of their medications, knowing each drug’s purpose, and noting any side effects. They should be able to provide any doctor with a list to that effect at any medical appointment. This data helps doctors decide on good courses of treatment. Plus, patients see a varied number of general practitioners and specialists, each of whom prescribes medications.
Information can slip through the cracks if patients are not proactive. The doctor-patient treatment model has shifted from a “paternal figure and dependent” to that of health partners, with patients perhaps having a more significant amount of responsibility. Patients should never assume that a doctor knows or remembers everything about their medical background. Doctors, with their vast caseloads and unrelenting demands, will be ever-thankful.
Most of all, in a personal injury case, knowing a little bit about your spouse’s brain injury and the interactions between the physicians is essential. The brain can change dramatically after an accident. Working with the treating and non-treating physician experts will go a long way to helping recover money as a brain injury victim. Moreover, working closely with all medical experts will help you maximize the damages award in their lawsuit. Loss of consortium claims may also require the testimony of experts in psychology and other areas. Please read our other brain injury articles for more info.
If you were in an accident with a severe brain injury, we offer cost-free case evaluations for local accident victims 24 hours per day, seven days per week. You can use our online contact form or call now to discuss your important matter. A trustworthy, driven, and dedicated advocate is standing by to listen. Call now (213) 596-9642.
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