Making Critical Decisions After Brain Injury – Using a Solicitor or Lawyer
Possibly the most crucial thing to recognise when making any critical decision is that your brain injury is likely to blind you from understanding that you are no longer able to make sound choices.
Where there is a loss of self-awareness, your thinking brain is unable to notice when things aren’t working or are going wrong.
Inside your head, it will still feel as though you can make decisions for yourself.
Your previous independence will still drive you and, unable to see how tunnelled your perspective has become, you will be vulnerable to making life-changing mistakes.
No one wants other people to make choices for them; you will want to be in charge because there is a part of you that recognises this is the best way to get what you want.
The problem is that your brain injury means you can no longer hold lots of complex ideas together to be able to weigh things up. It is likely you won’t know this. You may only notice feelings of exasperation or may detect that other people want to take over and do things for you.
You may also feel as though one is listening to you. These are all clues that you can no longer see things the way other people do. Even though you may be oblivious to needing to understand, try and stay open to what other people have to say.
Because you are unaware of the skills you have lost, you are likely to plough ahead and me unaware of why or how you are selecting a particular option.
Your family and friends may be unaware of how much your brain injury has affected your ability to determine a solution. They might feel that you are acting out of character or that you are rather gung-ho, but if they point this out to you, the likelihood is that you will ignore their feedback.
Other problems that the people who are trying to protect you may have include accurately understanding what you have grasped versus what you haven’t.
A common outcome of Dysexecutive syndrome is that we can present ourselves well. For short periods, we may be able to assert and opinion in a way that not only makes sense to us but will also seem reasonable to others.
It can be difficult for others to see which parts of the required thinking and data are missing. We can be convincing and tell people we have thought of something without ever realising we haven’t taken that detail into account at all.
No one wants to let go of the reins, and it can take time, sometimes many years before we become aware enough of our deficits that we start to seek help in decision making.
Because of these and other issues, many legal cases are lost or jeopardised, and we can find ourselves caught up in legal matters making appeals for years.
Trusting other people to represent us, act on our behalf, or to give advice is also problematic.
We may not know which of our thinking skills aren’t working, but the chances are you will recognise that no one knows you as well as you do and no one can ever choose the grounds that we would.
Something inside of us knows that no one else will have the perspectives we do, and this can undermine our ability to see the goal or outcome we want to achieve.
Your attorney or solicitor will undoubtedly be able to see that goal. Always select someone who has experience of working with people who have a brain injury and can prove it.
In the UK, there are many resources available to help you find a legal firm who have been specially selected; however, these resources are not always available in other countries.
It is worth speaking to a local brain injury support organisation or reaching out to others who may be able to recommend a lawyer.
Because this is such a vital step, ask your family or friends to help you.
Many people do retain insight after a brain injury, and therefore self-awareness is preserved.
This preservation of functional thinking doesn’t mean that you will be aware of all your cognitive or executive changes.
Even with good internal feedback, awareness isn’t always as good as we think. For example, you may be aware that you have problems with concentration but might not notice the problems this causes you. Alternatively, you might not relate to why it is happening.
Your thinking may not be as flexible or all-encompassing as it once was, but you may stubbornly refuse help believing you can handle something on your own.
When you can look back and see where the gaps in your thinking are you will be able to see why people were trying to help. But, until this time, without the benefit of hindsight that may take a long time or years to come, you will likely plough on stirring and muddying the waters without ever being aware this is what you are doing.
Take your time, ask for help and feedback, be open to listening and before you write something off, give it your purposeful attention.
Write out a ‘pros and cons’ lists and ask other people what they think and what they would add. This paper version of your thoughts will help you broaden your understanding and perspective.
Try to establish what goal you want to achieve and consider the sequence of steps you will need to take to get you there. Take time over the detail as you may forget some things – always sleep on everything, always revisit each point and discuss whenever you can.
When other people can see how hard things are for you, there may be a temptation to take over or conflict may arise.
Ask people to write a bullet list of their argument and to give you time to reflect on this. Again, sleep on it, take your time and avoid making brash judgements. Give your brain the time and space it needs to absorb and process different perspectives.
Things aren’t ‘normal,’ but the feeling inside your head might make you think they are. Also, your autopilot will likely work against you. It will want to continue relationships in the same way as before without realising the need to make some adjustments.