Brain Injury Law

Brain Injuries: An Overview

A traumatic brain injury, or TBI, occurs when physical trauma is inflicted on the head or brain. It can be caused by an open injury, such as a fracture or piercing of the skull, or a closed injury, such as a concussion. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, traumatic brain injuries are responsible for approximately 1.7 million emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and deaths each year.

Common Brain Injuries

Traumatic brain injuries are commonly caused by car accidents, falls, being struck by moving objects, sports-related accidents, and assault. Some of these traumas may cause the skull to fracture, and others can cause the brain to slide around within the skull, which can lead to bruising and bleeding. In severe cases, tearing can even occur. When this happens, the brain's delicate nerve fibers are damaged, which may cause a victim's bodily functions to be seriously impaired. Some traumatic brain injuries result in cerebral edema, or brain swelling. Like other soft tissue in the body, the brain may become inflamed following an injury. While this is part of the body's natural healing process, the skull is non-flexible and has no extra space for the brain to expand. Therefore, any swelling may increase intracranial pressure and cause further brain damage or even death.

Serious Brain Injury: Warning Signs

Traumatic brain injury symptoms are not always easy to spot. They can be mild, moderate, or severe, and they can appear hours or even days after the initial injury. Some of the potential warning signs that someone has suffered a mild TBI include:
  • Loss of consciousness for several seconds or minutes
  • A headache
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision or ringing in the ears
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • A bad taste in mouth
  • Memory or concentration problems
  • Disruption of sleep patterns
  • Behavioral or mood changes
Individuals who have suffered a moderate to severe TBI may additionally experience the following symptoms:
  • A headache that does not improve
  • Repeated nausea or vomiting
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Inability to wake from sleep
  • Dilation of one or both pupils
  • Slurred speech
  • Numbness on one side of the body
  • Muscle weakness and/or loss of coordination
  • Increased confusion
  • Agitation
If someone suffers any of the above symptoms in the hours or days following a head injury, he or she should seek immediate medical attention. However, it is important to note that some TBI victims may not show symptoms and could be unaware that they have suffered a serious injury. Therefore, it is important for anyone who has suffered a potential head injury to be assessed in an emergency department as soon as possible. Any delay could allow the injury to worsen, and it could also cause issues in a civil case against the party being held responsible for the injury in a legal case.

Brain Injury Disability

Many TBI victims suffer from long-term health issues as a result of their head injuries. Some people experience these issues immediately, but others may exhibit their brain injury effects years later. This is particularly true for individuals who suffer repeated mild TBIs, commonly known as concussions. For example, studies have shown that many boxers and football and hockey players, who often experience concussions while playing sports, develop a condition known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. This condition is a degenerative brain disorder caused by repeated blows to the head. Symptoms of CTE include memory loss, depression, aggression, confusion, suicidal tendencies, Parkinson's disease, and progressive dementia. These symptoms often occur years after the last brain trauma occurred and may lead to long-term disability and even death. Meanwhile, victims of a single TBI incident could also be left with a lifelong disability of some sort.

Serious Brain Injuries: Medical Evaluation and Financial Assistance

A thorough medical evaluation is important for both a TBI victim's health and his or her long-term financial future. An individual who has suffered a brain injury may suffer lifelong impairments that make it difficult or impossible to support him or herself. A medical assessment could significantly impact the amount of financial and medical assistance that injured individuals receive by determining:
  • Whether or not they have the ability to work
  • Their right to various forms of compensation
  • Their eligibility for protection against discrimination
  • The amount and type of physical therapy that could improve their life
It is important to remember that the more medical and therapeutic intervention a TBI patient receives, the greater his or her chances are of achieving a positive outcome. Ongoing medical evaluations are critical to obtaining the funding for this process.

Legal Remedies for Brain Injuries

If someone suffers a traumatic brain injury due to the negligence of another individual or entity, he or she may be eligible to pursue a legal claim against the responsible party. For example, a car accident victim could file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver who caused the accident. If the claim is successful, the victim may be awarded financial compensation for current and future medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and other related damages. Likewise, if a TBI was caused by a defective product or faulty equipment, the injured victim could pursue a product liability claim against the product's manufacturer, seller, and others along the distribution chain. Finally, individuals who are living with a brain injury caused by football, hockey, or other contact sports may be eligible to file claims against helmet manufacturers, athletic organizations, and other responsible parties. TBI victims could learn more about their legal rights by consulting with an attorney.