I want to get the most out of my appointments with my attorneys and doctors. Do you have any suggestions for people with a traumatic brain injury in situations like these?
Frequently, appointments with people who have sustained a brain injury are not as productive as they could be because both the person with a brain injury as well as the professional are not as prepared as they could be.
Here are some practical tips to keep in mind when you see a medical or legal professional. These suggestions will work with both medical and legal professionals and will allow you to get more out of each visit:
- When you schedule your first appointment, tell your lawyer or doctor that you will require extra time. Tell him or her that you need at least an additional 20 minutes — or more if you need it — for your appointment. The challenge here is to not feel rushed since your cognition can erode when you are stressed.
- If distractions bother you, arrange with the office when you make the appointment for a quiet place to wait, such as a quiet room. If this is not possible, ask for somebody to come and get you in the foyer or your car.
- Get to your appointment at least 15 minutes ahead of time, so you can collect your thoughts, become settled, and unwind from the drive.
- To prepare for the meeting, write down everything you want to tell or ask your lawyer or doctor. Cross each item off the list once you have covered it. Write down advice your lawyer gives you and the instructions that your doctor gives. Recap at the end of each issue to make sure you understand. Bring a family member or a friend with you if you can to help you take notes and remember to ask the right questions.
- When seeing a lawyer, ask him to write down the steps that will be taken in your case, the information he wants you to obtain, and other things he wants you to do.
- Ask your doctor to write down your diagnosis. Ask for a written explanation in layman’s language. Ask for a written description of the preferred treatment and goals, with an estimate of the costs and the expected timeframe.
- Trust your instincts. When you talk with an attorney or doctor, you should feel that they understand your problems. If not, then they probably do not understand enough about traumatic brain damage and you might consider retaining different legal counsel or finding another doctor. When it comes to the medical profession, if you don’t think that a diagnosis is valid, or if you think it minimizes your problems, it is important to obtain a second opinion.
- Always ask your attorney or medical professional to explain the reasons that he or she is recommending a particular course of conduct.
- Always ask your doctor about the contraindications when he prescribes new medications, that is, the way drugs can interact positively or negatively with other drugs. Additionally, have the doctor give you a written list of all your medications. Take charge of knowing everything about the drugs you take.
- Ask your doctor to make a notation in your file stating that you should receive a copy of all reports and tests as soon as they are received by the office.
- Never sign a blank release form. Make sure all authorization forms are completely filled out. Read what you’re signing. Make sure the release has ONLY the names on it that YOU want. Get a copy of each and every release form/letter you sign.
- Ask questions. Ask again if you don’t understand the answer. Ask again if you don’t like the answer. AND ask someone else if you STILL don’t like the answer.
- Never be rushed into agreeing to any settlement of your case. It is your case and you have the right to contemplate any offer of settlement being made and to take the time to discuss it with others that you trust. You may want to get a second opinion before agreeing to a settlement.
Michael V. Kaplen, Esq. is a partner in the New York law firm De Caro & Kaplen, LLP. Mr. Kaplen is a professorial lecturer in law at The George Washington University Law School, where he teaches a course in traumatic brain injury law. Mr. Kaplan serves on the board of directors for the New York State Academy of Trial Lawyers.