Finding Legal Help for People with Epilepsy

Many people need legal help at some point in their lives. It may happen while buying property or getting a divorce. People with chronic health issues may encounter extra hurdles due to prejudice and unfair treatment. Epilepsy is no exception. In fact, the stigma that comes with epilepsy may create many challenges that require legal support.

Some common issues for people with epilepsy include:1

  • Schools and colleges that refuse to accommodate students with seizures
  • Workplaces that refuse to consider reasonable accommodations for employees with seizures
  • Employers rejecting a job applicant due to epilepsy
  • Housing discrimination
  • Guardianship of children during divorce proceedings
  • Guardianship of an adult with epilepsy who needs extra care
  • Navigating driving laws and insurance requirements
  • Arrests for seizure-related behavior
  • Violence in the home

Laws that protect people with epilepsy

Several federal laws protect people living with epilepsy from unfair treatment. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protect against health-related discrimination. Discrimination, in this case, means someone has been denied a service or benefit based on their health.1

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) protects the privacy of your medical records and health information. This means no one on your healthcare team may reveal your diagnosis to anyone else without your permission.

If you think your health privacy has been violated, you can report a HIPAA violation to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights. You may also file civil rights complaints, religious freedom complaints, and more through this office.

If you feel you have been discriminated against in the workplace, by a business, or by a government department, you may report it to the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.

Where to find legal support

Legal support can be expensive. However, there are some options for finding legal help at a low or no cost.

The Epilepsy Foundation supports the Jeanne A. Carpenter Epilepsy Legal Defense Fund. This service helps people with epilepsy find a lawyer. The fund offers legal advice related to epilepsy discrimination. The foundation also provides general legal support to people with epilepsy. Contact them at legalrights@efa.org or by phone at 1-800-EFA-1000 (800-332-1000) and in Spanish at 1-866-748-8008.2

Another option is to find a law school in your area. Many law schools provide lawyers-in-training or newly graduated lawyers for low- or no-cost legal aid. Some schools have a strong commitment to serving their community this way.

If you are in college, talk with your student affairs office or a similar department. Your school may provide legal services to students. Some schools build a legal fee into their tuition and give students access to a lawyer upon request.

Your doctor or social worker may be able to suggest community resources. Many cities and counties have legal groups that support those in need.

Coping with legal issues and epilepsy

A therapist or social worker may help you navigate the overwhelming feelings that can come with legal issues. Mental health support may be critical if you face complicated legal concerns. These people may be able to help you find legal support as well.

The Epilepsy Foundation offers a variety of support services through local chapters across the United States. You can find local chapters at epilepsy.com/affiliates. You may also be able to find other people with epilepsy and their caregivers in local MeetUp groups.

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Written by: Jessica Johns Pool | Last reviewed: November 2021