Personal Injury

traumatic brain injury: Jason’s story part four

One side of Carol Stanley’s fight to balance the scales of justice is her work with the Crime Victims Task Force. As we explained in the previous segment, Carol is working with the Alabama Attorney General’s Office to make the Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights enforceable, much the way it is in several other states. The other side of her work involves meeting with her state legislators to amend a law and make it easier to prosecute acts of violence that result in traumatic brain injury.

It’s not going to be done unless there’s a voice out there. Someone who is out there making sure it gets done,” said Carol, expressing her frustration over the seriousness of TBI and the lack of awareness of it.

“The court system doesn’t understand and the awareness in general just isn’t out there,” she added.

Carol is now busy working with legislators to amend the existing Alabama law defining second degree assault.

Under the existing law, second degree assault applies to a person who inflicts serious physical injury upon another person with intent to harm. It does not specifically apply to an assault that results in injury to another person’s brain.

According to the proposed bill SB303, amendment 621 would expand the term “serious physical injury” to include the brain specifically. “The bill would provide that a person commits the crime of assault in the second degree if the person, with intent to cause any physical injury … causes serious physical injury to the brain of another person.”

Moreover, the bill would add language to the existing law that would define brain injury for legal purposes: “Serious physical injury to the brain means impairment of a person’s brain which creates a substantial risk of death or protracted impairment of the function of the brain.”

Types of TBI resulting from an assault will include “extreme rotational cranial acceleration and deceleration and one or more of the following: Subdural hemorrhaging, intercranial hemorrhaging, or retinal hemorrhaging.”

Carol remains hopeful as the bill makes its way through the legislature. “If this bill passes all the way, then I will be working on amending the penalty law, calling for a stiffer penalty for people who commit an assault that results in traumatic brain injury,” she said. Carol believes that because TBI can have such devastating effects on one’s life, that causing one should carry harsher penalties.

“We need to increase accountability. Juvenile laws are being taking advantage of,” Carol explained.

“Laws don’t just materialize out of nothing. They’re formed because people and circumstances demonstrate the need for them,” she said.

Part of Carol’s frustration arises from the feeling that she and her son are left behind to struggle while Jason’s assailants carry on with their lives. She believes the implications of TBI permeate just about every aspect of life for victims and their families.

Shortly after doctors finally discovered the severity of Jason’s brain injury and admitted him to the neurology ward, Carol’s daughter was giving birth to her granddaughter at another hospital. “Most people do not have both of their children in the hospital at the same time for two different reasons,” she said, explaining that what should have been a time of pure joy was complicated by the stress and devastation she was experiencing with Jason in the hospital.

“I was pulled by different emotions at the same time. Happy for my daughter and grandchild, but sad and worried for my son, hoping he survived and dealing with the crime in general. Only by the grace of God did I survive,” she said.

More recently, Jason began experiencing sleeping disorders resulting from his TBI. Jason’s doctor at the University of Alabama Birmingham’s Traumatic Brain Injury Center recommended that Jason start taking prescription medication for the sleeping problems. However, when Carol contacted her health insurance company, she was told that it would not cover “any sleep disorder problems.”

“This is so unfair to crime victims because they end up with no choice in the matter. A lifetime of health problems caused by the assault,” Carol said, adding that the crime’s aftermath continues to manifest in unexpected ways long after the fact.

“This is just another example of crime victims being victimized again and again,” she said.