ADVOCATE For Yourself
Here’s the rule: Nothing about you without you. It’s your situation, your body. You’re in charge. Resist being a spectator when it comes to your medical or personal care, equipment needs, housing accommodations, legal rights, etc. This isn’t easy in the early days, when everyone is too freaked out by trauma to pay attention. You will meet plenty of gatekeepers. Remember, it’s OK to question, appeal, or flat-out disagree with their decisions.
Most hospitals have a written Bill of Rights. Patients should know that they are indeed the directors of their own care. That doesn’t mean doctors and therapists will consult with you on all the details, but it does mean you should know who your primary doctor is, as well as the names and professional relationships of other physicians and non-physicians you come in contact with.
Read everything they ask you to sign. Are you agreeing to arbitrate disputes in a way that may cost you your day in court? Are you agreeing that the doctors who treat you are independent contractors and not employees of the hospital?
You have a right to know what’s going on. You should be provided information – privately and confidentially, and in terms you can understand – about your injury and related complications, the course of treatment, and prospects for improvement. You should be allowed visitors. You have the right to refuse treatment. You can leave if you want to.
Of course, some doctors and nurses are better about explaining things than others. If you don’t follow what was said, ask again. Be as annoying as you have to.
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
This law may come in handy:
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a major civil rights act that covers every person with any impairment that substantially limits life activities. The ADA focuses on work, school, transportation, public accommodations, and telecommunications. The concept, per Congress, is for the ADA to “provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.”
Employers, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions are prohibited from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job applications, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other aspects of employment.
Employers can’t ask job applicants anything about disability, only about their ability to perform specific job functions.
An employer is required to make accommodations to an applicant or employee with a disability if it does not impose significant expense or “undue hardship” on the business. Reasonable accommodations might include making existing facilities readily accessible; job restructuring or modifying work schedules; acquiring or modifying equipment or devices; adjusting or modifying examinations, training materials, or policies; and providing qualified readers or interpreters.
The ADA prohibits banks, stores, hotels, movie theaters, health clubs, doctors’ offices, etc. from discrimination on the basis of disability. Telecommunications companies must provide equivalent services for customers with disabilities, particularly those who are deaf or hard of hearing.
The ADA ensures equal access to what’s called the built environment. Federal ADA standards establish design requirements for the construction and alteration of both commercial and state and local government facilities.
WASN’T YOUR FAULT?
If your injury occurred as a result of the wrongdoing of others, two things are true: 1) those wrongdoers are legally responsible; 2) you may be entitled to “compensation” – that is, repayment for what has been taken from you. This includes money to pay for your new care needs.
A lawsuit is not a lottery ticket. It is a means to compensate you for some of what has been lost. It is your right. There is nothing wrong with holding another accountable for his or her wrongdoing. And there is nothing wrong with seeking money that you and your family need to get by because of what has been wrongfully taken from you.
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