Brain Injury Frequently Asked Questions

Some Different Answers to Brain Injury Frequently Asked Questions

By Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.


I am the friend to a TBI individual. He was hit by a car while crossing the street on foot over 12 years ago. He was in a coma for close to a year and has ongoing residuals today. He apparently signed a waiver while in the hospital in which I believe, and he does not remember, a settlement for $30,000. The girl who hit him was the daughter of law enforcement and there is no record of this case to be found anywhere. On top of that, he gave most of the money to his girlfriend of the time if you can believe that she had the ethics to accept the money.

He has slurred speech, poor cognitive ability, struggles mightily with alcohol dependency. He is a true survivor with no real family support at all. He is on again, off again homeless, but able to work as a laborer doing odd ends work with a lead worker. He even spent years as a live-in caregiver for an elderly lady in which he thrived with free rent, food supplied, and a safe, routine environment. However, his mood swings of anger and alcohol got him kicked out of the living situation. He cannot follow a routine on his own, daily struggles with remembering to eat which triggers his mood swings; depression, and yet, if you met him you would say he is the nicest out-going guy you ever met starting and ending each greeting with a hug. He is right on the borderline of seeming independent, but he is unable to survive without the assistance of living with someone else who pays bills and he lives rent free.

He lives off of $750 a month SSI. My question is what are his options? Can he get social security at age 38 to supplement his income? Can he get more than $750 month SSI? Can his entire accident legal case be reopened.

Any information would be much appreciated. I am frustrated trying to help him in some way to make him self-sufficient, but I don’t know in which direction to start?




Thank you for your letter and your concern for your friend. While I am not licensed in California and I would highly recommend you seek counsel from someone in California, it is very difficult to see how his case could be reopened at this time. Many times what appears to be inadequate compensation is not that the lawyer didn’t recover as much as possible, but that medical bills and other liens grabbed a large chunk of what may have been inadequate insurance proceeds. Thus, odds are in a case like this that the original lawyer did everything he could based upon the liability policy of the girl who caused the accident.

Your friend is likely receiving SSI because he did not have enough eligible quarters of having paid into the SSDI program at the time of his injury to qualify for SSDI. While it is always possible that Social Security made a mistake, this is the kind of thing that they do automatically and is likely all he is entitled to. Again, get a qualified opinion of a California lawyer who handles social security cases, which we don’t.

The more important issue for your friend is what can he do to get better.  The kind of severe brain injury you described (especially if there was a full year of coma) is usually catastrophic. That he is able to appear non-disabled is remarkable. I always say that the injured brain must relearn to be an adult. The best way to do that is the system we used to become adults in the first place, schools. Education, particularly some type of structured schooling is very good for the injured mind. I believe in a lifetime of recovery from TBI, but it is key to make sure that the injured mind keeps learning. It is much like any other injured body part, you must start using it again before it atrophies. But recovery is not primarily a cognitive challenge, but an emotional, social and mood one. Again, some type of formal schooling is good to assist in those challenges as well.

I hope this helps and our thoughts are with your friend.

Gordon Johnson


Gordon Johnson

Attorney Gordon Johnson is one of the nations leading brain injury advocates. He is Past-Chair of the TBILG, a national group of more than 150 brain injury advocates. He has spoken at numerous brain injury seminars and is the author of some of the most read brain injury web pages on the internet.

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