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When people think of serious injuries, they often picture physical ailments: amputations, paraplegia, broken bones. The reality is many serious injuries, and perhaps those with the most impact, can't be seen at all. 

In this blog, we discuss acquired brain injuries: an often invisible injury which can have a devastating impact on both the individual and those around them. 

What is an acquired brain injury?

An Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) includes all types of brain injuries that occur after birth. The brain can be injured as a result of a traumatic event such as motor vehicle or work accident, a blow to the head, or massive blood loss.

ABIs can often have long-lasting consequences that make it difficult for the injured person and their family to adjust to their new ‘normal’ following a catastrophic incident.

ABIs are sometimes missed by doctors, particularly if a person has been in a serious accident and has multiple other injuries. The doctors may be focussed on stitching open wounds or setting a broken bone.

Often a CT brain scan, or an MRI will show whether there has been an ABI. 

Support is imperative 

Maurice Blackburn Principal Lawyer, Jillian Barrett, says people with ABIs need ongoing support both at home and in the broader community.

“With something like a broken arm, or amputation, there is a physical impairment that people are able to see and hence accommodate.”

“ABIs can be overlooked or ignored because it might not be a visibly obvious injury. People in the community need to be aware of these unseen injuries so they can be supportive.”

Rehabilitation for an ABI takes time 

Jillian states that rehabilitation from a serious brain injury is an extremely lengthy process.

"It usually takes at least two years, often more, until the injured person reaches a point of maximum recovery. Often the person never fully recovers.”

“We support our clients throughout this entire process making sure they get the necessary treatment, rehabilitation, equipment aides and care.”

A person with an ABI will have a team of people providing them with treatment and rehabilitation. The team will likely include: a case manager, multiple doctors, occupational therapists, speech therapists, psychologist, physiotherapist, audiologist, nutritionist, and social worker.

“There are usually a lot of appointments required for a person with an ABI and due to the nature of their injury, they may not be able to keep a track of all of their appointments themselves. We ensure there is a case manager to help them through this process who can assist with arranging the appointments and reminding them where they need to be” Jillian said.

The lifelong effects can be debilitating

Long-lasting effects of ABIs include disruption to the primary senses, including a loss of taste, smell, hearing and vision. There may also be impacts on a person’s communication, memory and personality. A person with an ABI might also become fatigued easily.

This can lead to difficulty performing basic tasks around the home and can ultimately impact relationships between the injured person and their loved ones.

“People who have an ABI can be impulsive, short tempered and quick to anger - showcasing a complete change in personality compared to before their injury,” Jillian said.

“Even doing things like going to the shops, or cooking dinner – simple chores they did easily before their injury – becomes extremely difficult. This means a person with an ABI might need a loved one to supervise them while cooking dinner so they remember to turn the stove off.”

“A person with an ABI can go from being independent to being completely dependent on those around them.”

These symptoms that a person with an ABI experiences can result in loss of employment, lack of social opportunities, impaired family relationships and isolation or withdrawal from friends and family.

Brain injuries are more common than you'd think

Around 11,000 Queenslanders each year will acquire a brain injury, 4,000 of those being left with a serious disability.

Motor vehicle accidents are responsible for approximately 70% of those cases with the main demographic being young men aged between 16-24.

The Serious Injuries team in Queensland supports many clients including people with an ABI, spinal cord injury or amputation.

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Our specialist road injury lawyers are experienced in a range of claims related to road accident injuries. If you've been hurt on the road, we can help you understand your options. 

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