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Traumatic brain injuries (TBI), which are head injuries that disrupt brain function, can impact people at any point during their lives. These are caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head and can result from a number of unexpected situations, such as slip-and-fall injuries, workplace injuries, traffic crashes and domestic abuse incidents. Some brain injuries, like mild concussions, can be temporary, while others leave individuals with lifelong cognitive disabilities.

According to the Brain Injury Association of American (BIAA), 5.3 million Americans are living with a disability related to a TBI. On top of that, approximately 137 people die every day in the U.S. due to TBI-related injuries. The high prevalence and severity of traumatic brain injuries makes it especially important for caretakers and providers to understand best care practices for treating and managing them. One widespread misconception is the assumption that TBI survivors either live independently or require guardianships or conservatorships, which doesn’t take into consideration their wide range in physical and cognitive abilities.

While family members usually manage decisions in the immediate aftermath of a brain injury, many people with brain injuries become able to make decisions for themselves and determine their own lives. In cases where the injury resulted in permanent cognitive or developmental disabilities, however, extra support is often needed to do so. Supported decision making, or the process of providing support to individuals with cognitive disabilities to make decisions for themselves, has emerged as a valuable way to give TBI survivors the additional support they need while recognizing their ability to live independently.

Every possible effort should be made to help brain injury survivors make decisions for themselves. This may include having conversations about big life decisions and explaining the available options, circumstances and potential outcomes. These conversations may need to happen more than once or with multiple people before a decision is made. Caretakers and providers can also help their loved one to redevelop decision-making skills.

Very few people start off well-prepared to care for someone with a TBI, but support is available for caretakers interested in learning more about supported decision making. On Nov. 6, the BIAA will be hosting an online webinar on Supported Decision Making and Independence After Brain Injury, which will help families and providers understand the range of available options to help individuals make decisions. Additionally, it will provide further information and resources for caregivers on supporting their loved one through a brain injury.

TBIs are devastating catastrophes that can result in lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering and loss of consortium. With that in mind, it is critically important to seek out legal assistance as soon as possible after sustaining a brain injury caused by someone else’s negligence — for example, due to an unsafe construction site or a car crash caused by another driver. Nobody should be forced to shoulder the burden of someone else’s negligence, especially where the brain is involved.

If you or a loved one is suffering from a traumatic brain injury, contact the attorneys at Murray & Murray Co., L.P.A. in Ohio to discuss your legal options today.

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