Unveiling hidden disabilities: Sam and Daniel’s journeys

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Hidden Disabilities Week serves as a poignant reminder of the challenges faced by individuals with hidden disabilities.

Jackie Linehan, Legal Director at Enable Law, has worked on cases involving hidden disabilities throughout her career, she sheds light on what hidden disabilities week means for individuals and two recent cases in which Jackie and her team successfully advised on.

Jackie commented: “Is there child at school who can’t sit still? Does the teacher say he is naughty, but he can’t seem to stop himself? Have you seen a child at the supermarket having a meltdown and you think they are too old for that type of behaviour?

“These are all experiences that my clients have reported about their children with brain injuries, but the disability is hidden as there is no obvious physical disability.

“Brain injury can be acquired through an accident, meningitis or stroke. Brain injury can also be due to problems during pregnancy or labour or hospital care immediately following birth. Effects can be physical, but they can also be emotional, cognitive and behavioural. With these last three being invisible most of the time.

“Hidden Disabilities Week is pivotal for families as it shines a light on brain injuries and helps educate wider audiences on how to support individuals that suffer with a hidden disability and destigmatise. In this article I share two cases which we successfully supported families with children who have navigated life with brain injuries, demonstrating the importance of awareness and support for hidden disabilities.”

Sam’s Story: Overcoming neglect and achieving justice

Sam suffered a brain injury caused by improper monitoring during his infancy by hospital staff at the University Hospitals Bristol & Weston NHS Foundation Trust. The injury led to severe learning and behavioural difficulties. After years of struggle, the hospital accepted liability, but Sam’s initial solicitors failed to secure appropriate interim compensation.

In frustration, Sam’s family turned to the expert legal team at Enable Law, which secured interim funds to pay for support and an education challenge to secure an appropriate school placement for Sam. Jackie succeeded in negotiating a £27 million settlement split as a lump sum and annual payments for life. This empowered Sam to access the necessary accommodation and support he needed. It also secured his future care, bringing immense relief to his family.

Daniel’s Story: Triumph over negligence

Daniel was born with irreversible brain damage after a midwife at the Somerset NHS Foundation Trust failed to recognise the need for his mother to attend hospital for his birth. Despite undergoing a brain cooling trial to mitigate the injury’s impact, he faces significant learning difficulties and behavioural challenges throughout his  lifetime.

Enable Law has been advising Daniel’s family since he was an infant. Securing early funds allowed a challenge to his school placement where staff regarded him as ‘naughty’ and failed to understand the implications of his brain injury. His claim has now been finalised and Jackie  has secured him a settlement of over £6.6 million now and annual payments for life totalling approximately £24.3 million.

This settlement has paved the way for Daniel’s family to provide him with essential accommodation, therapies and support, ensuring a higher quality of life and alleviating the strain on his caregivers.

Jackie continued: “Early diagnosis and intervention are pivotal to minimising brain injury impact. Charities like The Child Brain Injury Trust and Headway play a crucial role in supporting families and providing access to necessary therapies.

“Sam and Daniel’s stories showcase the power of advocacy, support, and how legal action when faced with negligence can bring positive outcomes for not only the individuals involved. Hidden Disabilities Week serves as a reminder to recognise the struggles faced by individuals with hidden brain injuries. The journeys of Sam and Daniel showcase the potential for transformative change when we understand the  unseen struggles of hidden disabilities. Here at Enable Law we are proud to be specialists in supporting individuals that have experienced medical negligence and work in unison with charities to support families and future proof their lives as much as possible.”

Names have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the individuals concerned.

Headway’s Campaign: “See the Hidden Me”

Over three-quarters of brain injury survivors struggle every day due to their hidden disabilities, according to research by the charity Headway.

Enable Law has worked with Headway on many cases and referred families to the charity for support.

In 2022, Headway launched the “See the Hidden Me” campaign to raise awareness about brain injuries as hidden disabilities. A lack of understanding from society led to feelings of frustration, vulnerability, anxiety, and isolation for those affected. The campaign highlighted the need for increased awareness and empathy towards individuals with hidden brain injuries.

Invisible Struggles: Misinterpretation and Prejudice

Research from The Disabilities Trust underscores the disproportionately high prevalence of brain injuries within the criminal justice system. The hidden nature of these disabilities often leads to misconceptions and misinterpretations of behaviour, with consequences labelled as “challenging,” “difficult,” or “naughty.” Poor memory, impulse control issues, and fatigue are often at the root of these behaviours.

The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower

The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower is a global symbol that people can wear to discreetly show that they have a non-visible disability and may need additional help and understanding.

The idea began in 2016 at Gatwick Airport when the Passenger Advisory Group was looking for a way to help passengers with hidden disabilities feel more comfortable travelling.

After consulting experts on autism, Alzheimer’s and visual impairment, the group created a lanyard with sunflowers on a green background to reflect confidence and positivity. Since then, the sunflower lanyard has been adopted by organisations all over the world.

You can get in touch with Jackie on: Jackie.Linehan@enablelaw.com

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