Traumatic Brain Injury Information
TBI is sudden damage to the brain caused by a violent blow or jolt to the head or body. Traumatic brain injuries actually consist of two distinct injuries- a primary injury and a secondary injury. The primary injury results at the moment of impact and can involve a specific lobe of the brain or the entire brain. The secondary injury, which occurs after the initial impact, is when the brain swells and pushes itself against the skull.
Brain Injury Legal Information
Traumatic brain injuries involve serious medical concerns that demand immediate medical treatment. They also involve a host of legal issues that may include:
- The preservation of evidence;
- The protection of a legal claim;
- Insurance matters;
- The filing of a TBI claim;
- Securing financial compensation for an injury;
- Privacy rights;
- Product liability matters; and,
- Social security benefits.
Given the numerous legal issues intertwined within a TBI case (many of which can grow very complex), it’s of the utmost importance that a TBI victim obtain a dedicated attorney specialized in these types of injuries.
Preserving Accident Evidence
Often, victims of a TBI, or their loved ones, will decide to pursue a personal injury claim following an accident. Keep in mind, however, that a successful claim will require pertinent evidence related to the accident. This is why the collection and preservation of accident evidence is of significant importance in TBI cases.
Please note that it’s not advisable for family or friends of a victim to collect and preserve evidence. These persons are not skilled and trained in evidence collection and preservation. Also, if they attempt such actions, they will be called as witnesses in the case. Only skilled accident reconstruction teams will know what evidence is important to a case and the ways in which to ensure proper preservation.
Our reconstruction teams will work quickly on your behalf. They will collect and preserve the evidence necessary to your case. Our attorneys will also send appropriate letters to interested parties – such as insurance carriers, product manufacturers, witnesses, etc. – to ensure all pertinent evidence is obtained.
Protecting your Claim
There are three serious legal matters to consider following a TBI. These include:
- Ensuring accident evidence is collected and preserved
- Informing a victim’s insurance company that an accident has occurred
- Determining the amount of time a victim has to file a legal claim or lawsuit.
Addressing these matters immediately following an accident is critical in protecting a victim’s legal claim.
A problem in doing this though lies in the fact that victims, and their loved ones, must focus on full medical recovery following a TBI. Since recovery may take months, or even years, time is often not available to ensure the above matters are addressed. For this reason, consulting with a brain injury attorney is highly recommended to help ensure the above steps are taken and a victim’s claim is fully protected.
Can I File a TBI Claim or Lawsuit?
This is an important question and the right answer will require consultation with an experienced brain injury attorney. At times, victims can file a claim or lawsuit following a TBI – potentially against the party causing the TBI, the manufacturer of the object that caused the TBI, or other interested party.
Please keep in mind though that there are limits as to when these claims must be filed. The time limits are set by specific state statues and may vary depending on: the type of injury, the victim’s age, and whether the claim is filed against a government agency. Again, consultation with an experienced attorney will help determine whether a claim can be pursued, and if so, the time limits as to when a claim must be filed.
Case Value of a TBI Claim
The “case value” of a particular legal claim simply refers to how much money a claimant can recover if successful in pursuing his claim. The case value of a successful TBI claim will vary widely based upon such factors as:
- The facts of a case
- The extent of injury suffered
- Whether a secondary injury occurred
- The extent of hospitalization and medical treatment
- Medical costs associated with the claim
In addition, TBI claims may include different types of compensation, such as:
- Loss of earning capacity: This means how much expected earnings an injured party will lose, in the course of his lifetime, due to the TBI.
- Life care costs: These costs are for the continued care of the injured party that he may incur throughout his life because of the TBI. Examples include: physical therapy, a daily caregiver, and medications.
- Loss of enjoyment of life: Following a TBI, the injured party may suffer such damages that his future quality of life will be reduced by a certain percentage (as compared to the quality of life experienced prior to the injury). Experts will try to quantify this reduction in quality of life and include the figure in a final damage claim.
Given the extent of injuries a TBI may cause, it’s not uncommon for claims to seek millions of dollars.
You may be entitled to:
- Medical costs – Emergency, hospital, and fees.
- Ongoing medical costs – Physical and mental therapy, pharmaceuticals, and speech therapy.
- Loss of income – Lost wages and potential income.
- Pain and suffering – We seek general damages and special damages.
- Lost quality of life – Due to permanent personal injury or other factors.
Levels of Severity
Traumatic brain injuries are frequently classified into three categories of severity – mild, moderate and severe.
- Mild TBI: the injured party is usually awake with eyes open post injury. Symptoms include disorientation, headache, nausea, fatigue, confusion and memory loss.
- Moderate TBI: the injured party is often lethargic post injury. Symptoms include: loss of consciousness from several minutes to hours, convulsions, dilation of the eyes, loss of coordination, slurred speech and draining of fluids from the nose or ears.
- Severe TBI: the injured party is unconscious post injury and eyes remain closed, even with stimulation. Symptoms include all of those for mild and moderate injuries, as well as, loss of consciousness lasting more than six hours.
Types of Injury
Traumatic brain injuries are either “diffuse” or “focal”. Diffuse injuries involve the entire brain and may include:
- Concussion, or a mild head injury involving a brief loss of consciousness.
- Diffuse axonal injury (DAI), or the tearing and stretching of nerve cell connections in the brain.
- Traumatic Subarachnoid Hemorrhage (tSAH), or bleeding over the surface of the brain.
Focal traumatic brain injuries involve injuries to specific areas of the brain and they may include:
- Contusion, or bruising to the brain directly under the area of impact.
- Hematoma, or a blood clot in the brain that forms after a blood vessel ruptures.
- Secondary brain injury, or brain inflammation and swelling.
Common events causing a traumatic brain injury include:
- Collisions involving cars, motorcycles or bicycles
- Violence such as gunshot wounds, domestic violence or child abuse.
- Sports injuries
- Explosive blasts and combat injuries
Those most at risk of TBI include:
- Children, especially newborns to four-year-olds
- Young adults, especially between 15 and 24
- Adults age 75 and older
Who is Affected?
According to the Mayfield Brain and Spine clinic, approximately 1.5 to 2 million adults and children suffer a TBI each year in the United States. Of this number, approximately 1.1. million adults and children will suffer a mild TBI that does not require admission to a hospital. Approximately 235,000 persons will be hospitalized with a moderate to severe head injury; and, approximately 50,000 will die.
Tests and Diagnosis
Traumatic brain injuries are most often emergencies where doctors need to quickly assess an injured party’s condition. There are several types of tests and diagnoses to aid in this process.
- Glasgow Coma Score (GCS): This is a 15-point test used to assess a patient’s level of consciousness. Doctors grade a patient’s ability to follow directions and move eyes and limbs. Scores range from 3 to 15, with higher scores indicating less severe injuries.
- Computerized Tomography (CT) scan: This is a diagnostic imaging test that uses x-rays to create a detailed view of the brain.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): A MRI is another diagnostic imaging test that uses radio waves and magnets to create a detailed view of the brain. MRIs are often used after a patient’s condition has been stabilized.
- Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS): A MRS provides information about the metabolism of the brain. This information helps determine a patient’s general ability to recover from a TBI.
- Intracranial Pressure Monitor: A TBI can result in brain swelling and related increase of pressure inside a patient’s skull. In this event, doctors may have to insert this monitor through the skull to assess pressure levels.
Information on Injury and Symptoms
Traumatic brain injuries, and their symptoms, can range widely. If you observed an injury take place, you may be able to provide critical information to help doctors assess a patient’s condition. This information includes:
- How the injury happened
- Did the patient lose consciousness
- If so, for how long
- Were there any changes in the patient’s alertness, coordination, or ability to speak
- Was the patient’s body whipped around or jarred?
Treatment and Recovery
The treatment of traumatic brain injuries varies depending on the severity of the given injury. Treatment options also vary and may include neurocritical care, medication and surgery.
- Mild Injuries: Mild TBIs require no treatment, with the exception of rest and over-the-counter medication to relieve headache. The injured party, however, still needs to be closely monitored at home for any worsening of conditions.
- Moderate to Severe Injuries: These injuries require intensive care in a hospital. Hospitalization is critical for treatment of the injury and to address other possible secondary injuries due to swelling, bleeding and reduced oxygen to the brain. The treatment of moderate to severe TBIs often requires neurocritical care, medication and surgery.
- Neurocritical Care: This refers to the intensive care for patients that have suffered life-threatening brain injuries. The care is overseen by a neurointensivist, or, a specialist that coordinates a patient’s neurological and medical care. Neurocritical care often involves:
- an intracranial pressure (ICP) monitor (to measure pressure inside a patient’s head);
- a brain oxygen monitor (to measure the oxygen level and temperature within the brain);
- a ventilator (to help patients breathe);
- a feeding tube (to help deliver liquid nutrition and medication to patients);
- EEG monitoring (or, an electroencephalogram to monitor for seizures).
- Medication: Regardless of severity, TBIs are often treated with medication. Medication is given to assist in: sedation and pain, controlling intracranial pressure, preventing seizures and preventing infection.
- Surgery: This is sometimes required with TBIs to repair skull fractures, repair bleeding vessels or remove large blood clots. Specific surgical procedures may include:
- – craniotomy (which involves cutting a hole in the skull so that a surgeon can access the brain);
- decompressive craniectomy (which involves removing a large section of theskull so that the brain can swell and expand);
- tracheotomy (which involves making a small incision in the neck so medical personnel can insert a breathing tube directly into the windpipe);
- percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy tube (PEG) (which involves inserting a feeding tube directly into a patient’s stomach).
Many complications can occur soon after a TBI. The possibility of complications increases as the severity of the TBI grows. Specific complications include:
- Altered consciousness: TBIs can lead to prolonged or permanent changes in a patient’s state of consciousness, awareness or responsiveness. Specific changes in consciousness include: coma (or complete unconsciousness), vegetative state (or when a patient is unaware of his surroundings), minimally conscious state (or when a patient exhibits some awareness as to surroundings), locked-in syndrome (or when a patient is awake and aware of his surroundings but unable to speak or move) and brain death (or when there is no measurable activity in a patient’s brain and brainstem.
- Seizures: A seizure is an abnormal electrical discharge from the brain.
- Fluid buildup: This refers to when fluid accumulates in the spaces in the brain, causing increased pressure and swelling in the brain.
- Infections: This can occur if bacteria enter the brain via tears in the protective tissues that surround the brain.
- Blood vessel damage: Such damage can produce a stroke, blood clots or other complications.
- Intellectual Problems: TBIs can result in several problems pertaining to a patient’s: memory, learning, reasoning, mental processing, judgment, attention, concentration, problem-solving abilities, organization, decision-making abilities, and ability to begin or complete tasks.
- Communication problems: Communication difficulties may result following a TBI. Examples of these problems include: difficulty understanding speech or writing, difficulty speaking or writing, inability to organize thoughts, trouble following conversations, difficulty understanding nonverbal signals, trouble reading cues from listeners, and trouble starting or stopping a conversation.
- Behavioral Changes: These changes include: difficulty with self-control, lack of awareness of abilities, inaccurate self-image, difficulty in social situations and verbal or physical outbursts.
- Emotional Changes: These changes may include: depression, anxiety, mood swings, irritability, anger, insomnia and changes in self-esteem.
- Sensory Problems: These may include: ringing in the ears, difficulty recognizing objects, impaired hand-eye coordination, double vision, difficulty smelling, skin tingling or itching, and trouble with balance.
- Degenerative brain diseases: TBIs may result in the increased risk of a patient suffering from certain degenerative brain diseases, including: Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and dementia.
Injuries to Children
Just like adults, children can experience a TBI. A problem though is that infants and children may lack the communication skills to report the symptoms of an injury. To ensure an injury does not go undetected, look for: changes in eating or nursing habits, continual crying, easy irritability, lack of focus, changes in sleeping habits, and depressed mood. If your child received a blow to the head any experiences any of these symptoms, please seek emergency medical care immediately.
Rehabilitation and Recovery
Recovery from a TBI depends on the severity of the initial injury, as well as, the presence of any secondary injuries. Please also keep in mind that no two patients fully recover at the same rate. These variables mean that full recovery from a TBI will depend on the nature of the injury, the patient, and other circumstances – such as, possible complications, the degree of any secondary injuries, the effectiveness of medications, the outcome of surgery, etc.
Most patients that have experienced a TBI will require some sort of rehabilitation. The goal in rehabilitation is to improve a patient’s medical condition and physical abilities so that he can perform daily activities. For TBI cases, necessary rehabilitation specialists may include: occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech and language pathologists, neuropsychologists, recreational therapists and vocational counselors.
There are definite ways to prevent the occurrence of a TBI. For all persons – children to the elderly – three simple preventive acts include: wearing seatbelts in a motor vehicle; not driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol; and, wearing helmets when riding bikes, driving motorcycles, riding skateboards, and playing contact sports.
For older adults, prevention is best in avoiding falls around a home. This can be done by: installing handrails, removing area rugs, improving lighting, and keeping a home free of clutter.
For children, the key to prevention of a TBI is to avoid head injuries at all costs. This is best accomplished by: installing appropriate safety gates, keeping stairs free of clutter, installing window guards, using playgrounds that have shock-absorbing materials on the ground, and making certain area rugs are secure.
Coping and Support
If a friend, family member or loved one has experienced a TBI, there are several coping and support mechanisms to help yourself endure the potential hardship that may result. Some of the most popular include:
- Joining a support group
- Maintaining a diary
- Following a daily routine
- Avoiding distractions
- Working on one task at a time so as to stay focused
Brain Injury Cost
The costs associated with traumatic brain injuries can vary considerably across TBI victims. This variation is due to such factors as: the severity of an injury, a victim’s age, whether a secondary injury has occurred, the success of rehabilitation efforts, etc.
Despite this variation, AboutBrainInjury.org recently published some findings on costs associated with traumatic brain injuries. According to these findings:
- The direct and indirect costs of traumatic brain injury in the U.S. have been estimated to be $48.3 billion annually.
- Lifetime costs for one person surviving a severe TBI can reach $4 million.
- An estimate of medical and non-medical per TBI survivor averages $151,587.
- Acute rehabilitation costs for survivors of a severe TBI have been shown to average about $1,000 a day and the average stay is about 55 days.
- Medical costs are highest for those who do not survive.
- Average costs rise dramatically for those individuals who undergo rehabilitation. In one study, after a 4-year follow-up, average costs for medical and long-term care services averaged $196,460 for survivors receiving rehabilitation services compared to $17,893 for those receiving no rehabilitation.
- One study showed that supported employment for helping TBI survivors return to work costs an average of $10,198 for the first year of service.
Brain Injury Insurance
Given the staggering costs often associated with traumatic brain injuries, victims often look to their health insurance policies for financial support. The main question as to whether or not a person’s health insurance is available for financial support, and to what degree it is, is largely dependent on the specific terms of a victim’s policy.
The main policy provisions a victim, or a loved one, should consult include:
- Lifetime coverage limits
- Subrogation clauses
- Therapy benefits
- Home care benefits
- Durable medical equipment
A victim, or a loved one, should never hesitate in contacting an insurance company with questions regarding coverage. In addition, as noted above, a victim, or loved one, should contact an insurance company immediately following a TBI causing accident. Often, insurance carriers require policy holders to contact them within a specific period of time following an accident (sometimes within 24 hours). Immediate contact, therefore, is crucial to ensure proper coverage.
Concerns with Privacy Rights
Normally, a patient’s medical records and health related issues are protected from public disclosure due to laws and doctor-patient confidentiality. However, if a legal claim is filed following a TBI, injured parties should know that the latter protection gets waived. This means that, if a lawsuit is filed, the opposing party (and pertinent insurance companies) can obtain an injured party’s past medical records. This is because an injury, at times, can be caused by other factors than those alleged within a claim.
Claims Involving Defective Products
Traumatic brain injuries are often caused by defective products – for example, defective vehicles, unsafe toys or poorly manufactured machinery. In these cases, an injured party can file a lawsuit under the concept of product liability. This area of the law essentially holds manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, retailers, and others who make products available for public use, responsible for the injuries those products cause.
This area of the law is quite complex. Further, there are several different types of product liability cases. Given this reality, it’s essential that an injured party hire an experienced TBI and product liability attorney to receive the compensation he deserves.
Social Security Benefits
Social Security has two benefit programs to help those disabled by a TBI. These include:
- Social Security Disability Insurance; and,
- Supplemental Security Income program (SSI).
Social Security Disability Insurance is available to those people who have paid enough into the Social Security program. The availability of SSI is based on the financial need of an injured party. Injured parties, or their loved ones, should contact the Social Security Administration immediately following a TBI to determine if they are entitled to these benefits.
Choosing an Attorney for your TBI Case
Traumatic brain injuries can be extensive, formidable and require months, or even years, for proper healing and recovery. Traumatic brain injuries are also quite complex and involve numerous medical issues.
The law pertaining to a TBI is equally complicated. One TBI case may involve a myriad of legal issues that hinder compensation for injuries and the obtainment of justice. This is why it’s critical for injured parties to seek legal help from an attorney that is experienced and knowledgeable in this particular field. Your attorney should also work with passion and dedication.
The Phillips Law Firm is both knowledgeable and experienced within the realm of traumatic brain injuries and the laws they entail. Our talented team of attorneys also works with passion and dedication towards ensuring that you receive the justice and compensation you deserve. Our utmost goal is to protect you, your financial future and overall well-being; and, we stay committed to your case so you can concentrate on healing.
Get Started With Your Free Brain Injury Case Evaluation
Our brain injury lawyers are dedicated to getting you justice and compensation you deserve. Call Phillips Law Firm at 1-800-708-6000. We are waiting to assist you 24/7, with a free case evaluation. Remember our no fee promise. If we do not recover anything for you, you do not owe us an attorney fee.