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A lawyer’s role in securing life-changing neuro-rehab

Avril Scally at Lavelle Partners discusses the vital difference a specialist can make

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Appointing the right specialists can be essential to the success of neuro-rehab and can enable the best possible outcome after life-changing injury. Here, Avril Scally, partner at Lavelle Partners, discusses the importance of finding a specialist lawyer and the positive difference that can make to a client 

 

Please introduce yourself and your speciality

I’m a Partner in the Medical Negligence and Personal Injury team at Lavelle Partners. I specialise in complex medical negligence claims and I have 20 years’ experience in the area of brain / spinal cord injuries / birth injuries and wrongful birth injuries. 

I am recognised as one of the leading practitioners acting for plaintiffs. I am on the Litigation Committee of the Dublin Solicitors Bar Association, a member of PEOPIL (Pan European Organisation of Personal Injury Lawyers), AVMA (Action against Medical Accidents), and APIL (Association of Personal Injury Lawyers). I am a regular speaker at the Advanced Medical Law Diploma Course at Kings Inn, Dublin and other seminars in relation to spinal and brain injury claims.

What should someone look for when appointing a lawyer?

It’s important to choose someone who specialises in the area of brain or spinal injury cases. A lawyer working in this area will have experience working with medical professionals and can effectively communicate with them and other healthcare providers to understand the full extent of the injury and the impact it has on the plaintiff’s life.  

They will have extensive experience representing clients with similar injuries and will have had many successful outcomes for their clients. It’s important that a lawyer can deal with these cases expeditiously to ensure their clients are adequately compensated to receive the ongoing care they require. It’s crucial that they progress your case, listen to you carefully, answer any questions and deal with any concerns that you may have.  

The lawyer you choose should be someone you feel is committed and the best-placed to protect your interests and secure the best possible outcome. It’s also important that your lawyer keeps you up to date and you are comfortable working with them. These cases can often take years and it is very important that there is direct communication, and any concerns can be dealt with quickly.

What do you look for when appointing / working with a neuro-rehab specialist?

My clients have worked with many neuro-rehabilitation specialists over the years and, based on their experiences, I’d say experience and qualification are two of the primary considerations.

Do these specialists work with patients on an ongoing basis with neurological conditions like our client’s treatment plan? The specialist will have to tailor their treatment plan to the individual needs of their patient. From my work with various clients over the years, I understand that rehabilitation can be extremely challenging and emotional and therefore compassion and empathy are key components.  

The rehabilitation process involves collaboration between the specialists, the patient and the caregiver. It is important therefore that a patient looks for a specialist who values collaboration which involves them, and their caregivers, in their treatment and planning process.

Lastly, it’s important to look for a specialist who is readily available to provide support and adjust their treatment plans as necessary. Are they easily accessible and is the location close to the patient’s home?

How vital is the role of MDT and what is the lawyer’s role in a multidisciplinary team?

A multidisciplinary team can include physicians, nurses, therapist, psychologist, social workers, nutritionists, and other healthcare professionals as needed. If a patient has a legal issue related to their medical condition such as medical malpractice, a lawyer can become involved in assisting them through the legal process. 

I have seen cases where a patient requires modifications to their home following a serious injury and a lawyer can request reports from various nursing care consultants / architects that will assist the rehabilitation team to ensure that the modification needs are met. Lawyers can also instruct assistive technology experts who will prepare reports and advise on the latest technologies that would assist the patient in their home on a daily basis. 

What difference can effective neuro-rehabilitation make to an injured person’s life?

Effective neuro-rehabilitation can make a significant difference to an injured person’s life. Some of the benefits include improved physical function, increased independence, increased social function, enhanced cognitive function and emotional and psychological benefits. 

Overall, neuro-rehabilitation can help an injured person regain their physical wellbeing and help them achieve their goals leading to an improved quality of life.

As one example of this – Martin presented to the Accident & Emergency Department with a severe occipital headache. Radiological examination in the form of computed tomography of the brain was undertaken which revealed a “significant acute subarachnoid and intraventricular haemorrhage in keeping with rupture of the left vertebral artery aneurysm”.  

He underwent an angiogram in order to determine the appropriate method of treatment for the ruptured aneurysm. He was ultimately advised that the aneurysm was a posterior inferior cerebellar artery aneurysm which would be treated via clipping the following week and in the meantime, he would remain an in-patient of the hospital.

He experienced a seizure and a further bleed on the brain necessitating his admission to intensive care. When reviewed by a consultant neurosurgeon following his admission to the ICU, a query was raised as to why surgery had not been undertaken upon his admission to the hospital. Surgery to treat the ruptured aneurysm was undertaken some days later.

Post-operatively, his recovery was complicated by an acute deterioration in his condition secondary to hydrocephalus. The deterioration was apparent with the onset of tremors in the early afternoon.  The tremors were brought to the attention of nursing staff by his family, who reassured the family regarding his condition. Ultimately, following a seizure, a radiographic examination was undertaken, which revealed the extent of the hydrocephalus and necessitated him undergoing emergency surgery for insertion of a right sided ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt.

As a result of the treatment given to him whilst an in-patient and in particular, the delay in treating the aneurysm at the time of his initial admission to the hospital, he suffered a brain injury as a consequence of which he suffered severe personal injuries, loss and damage.  

Every aspect of his life had changed as a consequence of the brain injury he sustained. Whilst he had been discharged he remained unable to work and required input from various community services including Headway and Acquired Brain Injury Ireland in order to undertake various activities of daily living. 

Following an intensive neuro-rehabilitation programme that included occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, and counselling, he showed significant improvements in his physical and cognitive abilities. His co-ordination improved and he was able to speak more clearly.

Another example involves a gentleman who sustained a spinal cord injury following an accident at work which left him with an acquired brain injury together with very serious physical injuries. He participated in a comprehensive rehabilitation programme that included physical therapy, occupational therapy and counselling. 

As a result, he was able to manage his daily activities and made significant progress in his physical and emotional recovery. He was able to return to part-time work and engage in the sporting activities that he had previously enjoyed.  

What makes Lavelle Partners stand out from other firms?

Lavelle Partners is a national law firm in Ireland with offices in Dublin and Galway. Our award-winning team have earned a reputation for achieving results for clients on a wide range of legal matters. Our goal is to provide clients with more than they have come to expect from a law firm. We provide practical legal advice in a straightforward and uncomplicated manner and deliver on the promises we make to our clients.  

We have a long history of handling brain / spinal injury cases and have a wealth of knowledge and expertise that is invaluable to our clients. Our reputation attracts more clients and referrals. We have a deep understanding in the complexities involved in these cases and we have a strong track record of obtaining favourable results and this instils confidence. We place a high value on client service and our overall communication provides a better experience for our clients and helps build trust and confidence.

Lavelle Partners was listed in the top 10 law firms in the Sunday Independent Irish best law firms in 2023, one of the only medical negligence teams recognised alongside much larger firms. Our team was also fortunate to be awarded the winner of Medical Negligence and Personal Injury Team of the Year in 2022 at the Irish Law Awards.

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