Traumatic Brain Injury
Brain injuries encompass any serious head injury that results in lasting physical or mental impairment. A traumatic brain injury can result from any type of accident or fall, as well as from sports injuries, acts of violence, or substandard medical care. If the injury is caused by another party's negligence, your family may be eligible to receive compensation for medical expenses, loss of income, pain and suffering, and other damages.
Laws governing brain injuries may vary from state to state, which is why it is important for victims to discuss the circumstances of their injury with a skilled attorney. A personal injury lawyer can help clients navigate the laws surrounding injury litigation and help them to pursue the compensation to which they are entitled.
Causes of Brain Injuries
Whether on the road or in the workplace, there are a countless number of potential accidents that may result in severe head trauma. Some common causes of brain injuries include car accidents, poor medical care, falling objects, physical assaults, and falls on slippery surfaces.
Motor Vehicle Accidents
Studies suggest that motor vehicle accidents cause the majority of traumatic brain injuries. In a car accident, trucking accident, motorcycle accident, or pedestrian accident, the degree of injury depends on several factors, including the speed of the vehicles, highway conditions, and whether the accident involved a DUI.
Tragically, many brain injuries result from the negligent or wrongful actions of trusted medical professionals. Medical malpractice can take the form of:
- Birth injury
- Surgical error
- Nursing home negligence or abuse
- Sub-standard care
- Failed or erroneous diagnosis or treatment
Slip and Fall Accidents
Slip and fall accidents can result in a TBI if the victim's head strikes an object or surface. In addition to brain injuries, these types of accidents commonly result in severe damage to the neck and spinal cord.
Work-related accidents, particularly those that occur on construction sites or other hazardous locations, frequently cause brain injuries. TBIs may occur when an employee slips and injures themselves or is struck by an object.
Types of Brain Injuries
Brain injuries are classified according to the type of head trauma sustained as well as the severity of the injury. The classification of a brain injury will influence how an attorney prepares a case, as well as the types of damages that will be sought.
Open Head Injury and Closed Head Injury
Injuries to a person's head are classified as either open or closed. A closed head injury occurs when the brain impacts against the inside of the skull. An open head injury occurs when the skull is fractured or penetrated by a foreign object. Although many injuries are minor, both types of head injuries can result in TBI and severe damage, causing problems with cognitive ability, loss of the senses such as hearing and vision, and other debilitating conditions.
Closed Head Injury
Closed head injuries occur when the brain hits the inside of the skull. These types of injuries often result from whiplash or when the head strikes the windshield of a car. Although there may be no physical signs of injury, the brain can swell inside the skull, putting intense pressure on delicate tissues and nerves, causing permanent damage.
- Concussions – A concussion is a mild form of closed brain injury that causes swelling. The brain is typically able to recover from a concussion; however, if swelling continues and the person remains unconscious for more than a few minutes, serious brain damage may result. Additionally, if the victim experiences a second concussion before recovering from the primary injury, it may result in severe damage or even death.
- Mass Lesions - The term "mass lesion" refers to localized areas of injury, including bruising (contusion), blood clots (hematoma), and bleeding (hemorrhage), that put additional pressure on the brain.
- Diffuse Injuries – Diffuse injuries include microscopic changes that are scattered throughout the brain and are often difficult to diagnose. These injuries can cause damage to the nerve fibers and prevent sufficient amounts of blood from reaching certain parts of the brain (ischemia), resulting in brain damage.
Closed head injuries that involving bleeding and swelling can be very serious. Emergency medical treatment is commonly required to relieve pressure that has increased around the brain.
Open Head Injury
Open head injuries occur when an object penetrates or fractures the skull. In addition to physically damaging the brain, open wounds can become infected, which can complicate the condition. There are two main types of open head injuries: skull fractures and penetrating injuries.
- Skull Fractures – Fractures can occur at any area of the skull. The most common type is a linear fracture, which includes cracks or breaks in the skull. Some linear fractures are minor, but if a piece of the bone pushes into the brain, called a depressed skull fracture, it can cause serious damage. Fractures can also occur along the suture lines where the different bones fuse together during childhood. The most serious skull fracture, however, is one that occurs at the base of the skull.
- Penetrating Injuries – Penetrating injuries occur when an object enters the skull and damages the brain, which is common with gunshot injuries, stabbings, and car accidents.
Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms
Traumatic brain injury is not always apparent immediately after the injury occurs, and the symptoms may not develop until days afterward. Some symptoms of traumatic brain injury include:
- Consistent headache
- Poor memory
- Difficulty concentrating or confusion
- Neck pain
- Slow speech
- Blurred vision or other vision changes
- Ringing in the ears
- Balance problems and dizziness
- Loss of consciousness
Filing a Lawsuit
Traumatic brain injury is the leading cause of disability among young adults and children, causing cognitive, physical, emotional, and social impairments. When a brain injury is caused by the negligent or careless behavior of another party, the victim may be eligible to receive compensation for their injuries by filing a personal injury lawsuit.
The most common incidents leading to TBI may include:
- Motor vehicle accidents, including car crashes and motorcycle collisions
- Slip-and-fall accidents due to unsafe premises
- Occupational accidents
- Violent assault
- Defective products
- Instances of medical malpractice, including preventable birth injury
Statute of Limitations
It is important to note that each state imposes a statute of limitations on brain injury cases, which means that you have a limited amount of time to pursue legal action against the person or entity responsible for the injury. Because this deadline is strictly enforced, it is important to speak with an experienced attorney about your brain injury case as soon as possible.
The injured party can pursue monetary damages from the liable party or parties. Depending on the specifics of your case, you may be eligible to receive compensation for:
- Medical expenses, both present and future
- Rehabilitation and long-term treatment expenses
- Lost income and diminished earning capacity
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
To receive compensation in a brain injury lawsuit, your attorney must prove that:
- you have a brain injury,
- your injury was not pre-existing, and
- your injury resulted from the reckless or negligent actions of another person or entity
Filing a Brain Injury Case for a Family Member
When injured individuals are unable to file a brain injury lawsuit on their own behalf, family members or, in certain cases, other loved ones, may be able to do it for them. In addition, if a brain injury caused the death of a loved one, family members may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim.
Hiring an Attorney
Brain injuries can devastate the lives of victims and their families. By filing a personal injury claim, victims and their families can help to ensure their financial security as they cope with medical bills, lost wages, and other losses and expenses. Because brain injury cases can be very complex and time-consuming, it is important that victims and their families entrust their cases to knowledgeable, dedicated attorneys.
Whether a brain injury was caused by medical malpractice, birth trauma, a car accident, a truck accident, an accident on another person's premises, or another act of negligence, a qualified brain injury lawyer has the ability to analyze the unique circumstances of the case and the cause of the brain injury. Based on this analysis, the attorney will be able to construct a case that demonstrates liability on the part of the defendant through a careful presentation of the available evidence.
Obtaining Necessary Medical Care
Brain injury lawyers also serve as excellent resources for clients in need of mental, physical, and psychological care. Most attorneys have a network of healthcare professionals who can provide proper medical care and support.
Navigating State Laws
Lawsuits involving a serious injury, such as a brain injury, require a lawyer with an intimate knowledge of a state's personal injury laws. Each state has its own statute of limitations, as well as laws that govern the total amount of damages that can be awarded in a case.
In many cases, an equitable settlement can be reached before a brain injury case ever goes to trial. An experienced lawyer will know when a settlement is in their client's best interests, but will always be willing to try a case to verdict if necessary.
Factors in Proving Fault
In a brain injury case, you must prove fault on the grounds of negligence, intentional wrong, or strict liability.
In order to prove fault on grounds of negligence, the plaintiff must show that the defendant caused the injury or did not take action to prevent it. Negligence may have occurred if a reasonable person would have acted differently under the same circumstances.
In some situations, more than one person (including the injured party) may be at fault for the injury. When the victim’s actions could have helped cause the injury or make it worse, it is known as comparative negligence and he or she might be held partially responsible for his or her own injuries.
If the defendant deliberately injured the victim, such as in an assault, it is considered an intentional wrong or intentional misconduct. In such cases, the plaintiff only needs to prove that the defendant intended to cause harm.
Strict liability often applies in product liability cases. Under strict liability, manufacturers can be held liable for injuries caused by a dangerous or defective product, even if they were unaware of the defect. In a strict liability case, the plaintiff needs to prove that the product was defective and that the defect caused the injury.
Factors in Determining Damages
Factors that can affect a brain injury case include:
The Nature and Extent of the Injury
In gauging the amount of compensation to which a victim is entitled, personal injury attorneys will consider:
- The type of injury: open vs. closed brain injuries, traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- The severity and permanence of the injury: whether the injury caused long-term or permanent brain damage, disability, disfigurement, or deformity
The Victim’s Losses
The extent of a victim’s physical, financial, emotional, and psychological losses is considered in determining appropriate damages.
Who Is at Fault for the Injury
Each state has its own laws regarding proving fault in a brain injury claim.
Brain Injury Settlements
In most states, brain injury victims and their families are usually able to recover compensation for:
If found liable, the defendant may be required to cover:
- Current (and possible future) hospital expenses
- Medical bills
Loss of Earnings and Decreased Earning Capacity
Many brain injury victims are compensated for the income they lost while in the hospital (lost earnings) as well as income they would have been able to earn in the future had they not been injured (decreased earning capacity).
Pain and Suffering
A brain injury victim may be compensated for his or her physical, emotional, and psychological pain and suffering, including:
- Mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Find a Brain Injury Lawyer in Your Area
If you or a member of your family has sustained a brain injury due to someone else's negligent actions, it is important that you meet with an attorney for an evaluation of your case.