- Emotional challenges. Many special needs plaintiffs struggle with the stress and anxiety that comes with being injured. Care must be taken to ensure that discussions about the facts relating to the injury are handled in a thoughtful, compassionate way. This is especially true during formal depositions and trial testimony. For a plaintiff who may have such difficulties, the challenge is often to balance the plaintiff’s justified need for emotional safety and the necessity of getting important questions answered in order to reach a fair resolution. The plaintiff’s therapist or physician may offer valuable assistance to ensure that the plaintiff’s well-being is protected during this process.
- Memory difficulties. When the plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit has difficulty remembering key details about the injury, the plaintiff’s attorneys sometimes need to get creative to find alternative ways to develop a reliable case. It’s a rare case that is built solely on a plaintiff’s oral testimony. Other sources of evidence—other witnesses, documents, recordings, digital data—can be used to establish facts that the plaintiff might have forgotten.
- Communication. Many people with cognitive difficulties have problems communicating. Whether the plaintiff struggles to form words, or struggles to understand what is being said, the attorneys involved in the case often need to rely upon the advice of experts who are familiar with the plaintiff’s condition to overcome such challenges. As with circumstances involving memory difficulties, communication issues often increase the value of other forms of evidence. They may also limit the value of a witness’s oral testimony.
When a person with cognitive challenges suffers a serious injury, special precautions must be taken by the personal injury attorney to ensure that the defense does not abuse the plaintiff’s condition in hopes of gaining a legal advantage. Special needs plaintiffs include people with developmental conditions, like Down syndrome, as well as individuals who have suffered brain injury and illnesses, like Alzheimer’s disease. The strategies that are used to protect the interests of a special needs individual must be tailored to suit the particular individual’s best interests.