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Consumer Guide - Legal Rights
Legal issues can be complicated. This section is intended to guide you in your journey to understand legal concepts and protections and what you can do to advocate for your rights under the law.
Your Legal Protections
Depending on your circumstances, you may have certain legal rights. These include the right:
- To receive notice about decisions that affect your care and treatment
- To direct and actively participate in planning for your care and treatment
- To appeal decisions that affect your care and treatment
- To have your privacy protected
- To have access to your medical records
- To be free from abuse
- To live, work, learn, etc. in the most integrated setting
- To be free from discrimination in employment, housing, transportation, education, etc.
- To have obstacles removed that limit your access to locations or services
- To obtain reasonable accommodations to help you work or learn successfully.
These rights may arise out of a number of different rules and laws from a variety of different entities, such as:
- Federal government
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects basic civil rights and prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. The ADA guarantees people with disabilities the same opportunities as other Americans in areas such as employment, state and local government programs and services, transportation, telephone services, and public accommodations.
- The Fair Housing Act (FHA) prohibits discrimination in the sale or rental of housing against people who are handicapped.
- Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) provides special education to children with specific learning disabilities
- The Rehabilitation Act prohibits organizations that receive federal funding from discriminating against individuals with disabilities in programs and activities because of their disability. The Rehabilitation Act requires employers and educational institutions to provide reasonable accommodations.
- State government
- The Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) protects people from disability discrimination in the areas of business, credit, education, employment, housing, public accommodations, and public services.
- The Olmstead Plan supports people with disabilities living, learning, working, and enjoying life in the most integrated setting.
- Local government, like city or county ordinances regarding housing, transportation, etc.
- Private organizations, like privacy policies and Patients' Bill of Rights
Advocating for Your Rights
What is advocacy? Put simply, "advocacy" means fighting for a cause. In this case, the cause is your health, your happiness and your future. And, since you understand your situation better than anyone else, you are your best advocate.
Self-Advocacy. People with brain injury and their loved ones have the right to advocate for themselves. The Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance, vocational rehabilitation counselors, resource facilitators, case managers, care coordinators, discharge planners, educational specialists and other professionals can assist you in understanding your options; however, always remember that you are the authority and final decision maker on what is best for your situation.
Do not be afraid to ask questions or forcefully campaign to get services you need. Understanding is important for successful self-advocacy, so ask questions until you fully understand your situation.
Hiring a Lawyer.Under certain circumstances, you may need more professional assistance to help you understand and enforce your rights. Finding competent, appropriate, and affordable legal representation can be complicated, but is easier if you can follow these steps:
Identify why you need a lawyer. Remember that lawyers, like doctors, specialize in their field. You should select a lawyer with the skills and experience to address your specific legal issues. Lawyers can assist you in a variety of areas:
- Securing maximum benefits from insurance policies
- Determining eligibility for, securing, and maintaining government benefits
- Obtaining a settlement from the person or company responsible for you brain injury
- Ending discrimination against a person with a brain injury
- Estate planning, including drafting trusts, wills, powers of attorney, health care directives, and legal guardianship or conservatorship
- Filing a workers compensation claim.
Guardianships and conservatorships are one of the most restrictive measures and generally only happen if you become so incapacitated that you cannot make financial or personal decisions and you do not have the capacity to delegate these duties to another person. A court may grant a full or limited guardianship or conservatorship, but in any event, the guardian or conservator should act only in your best interest and should not overly restrict your rights.
If you have any further questions about locating and retaining qualified legal assistance, please contact the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance by calling 612-378-2742 or 800-669-6442.