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Getting Legal Compensation For A Traumatic Brain Injury: What You Need to Know
If you or someone you love has experienced a traumatic brain injury (TBI), you know how challenging it can be. Unfortunately, traumatic brain injuries are one of the leading causes of death and serious injury in the U.S. and can lead to a variety of symptoms and other conditions. These include coma, paralysis, loss of limb function, cognitive and learning deficits, anxiety, depression, and personality changes.
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), approximately 1.5 million Americans experience a traumatic brain injury each year. The CDC says that more than 50,000 Americans die from a TBI each year, with 80,000 to 90,000 experiencing a long-term disability.
If you or a family member has sustained a traumatic brain injury and another party could be at fault, it’s essential to know your legal rights. In many cases, you may be able to demand legal compensation for your injuries.
It's particularly important to realize that time is of the essence when diagnosing a TBI. A timely TBI diagnosis will give a patient their best chance to get effective medical treatment and legal compensation for their injuries.
Unfortunately, many who suffer a TBI may not initially know they are injured because they do not see "surface" injuries. If you or someone you love has suffered any type of head-related accident, it's essential to seek a brain check-up from a medical provider as quickly as possible. It's also important to watch for TBI symptoms in the hours and days after the accident. If you or a loved one is experiencing common TBI side effects (such as headaches, mood changes, dizziness, etc.) report them to your medical provider immediately.
In addition to seeking timely medical care, potential TBI victims should avoid signing any release or insurance forms when they're injured. Instead, potential TBI victims should seek free legal advice from an experienced personal injury attorney.
In this article, we’ll review the basics of how traumatic brain injuries are caused, how they can impact individuals, and in what cases a victim may be able to demand compensation from a responsible party.
What are Traumatic Brain Injuries?
A traumatic brain injury is defined as a “disruption in normal brain function” that impacts the brain's tissues and cells. These injuries generally result from a violent and/or sudden jolt, blow to the head. However, a TBI may be especially severe when an object actually enters the head and pierces the brain.
Common signs of a TBI include:
- Disorientation, confusion, or attention issues
- Neurological problems such as speech changes, vision issues, or muscle weakness
- Memory issues (particularly loss of memory before, after, or during the traumatic event)
- Loss of consciousness
What are the Symptoms of a Traumatic Brain Injury?
In addition to the initial signs of a TBI, there are a wide array of symptoms that can manifest in the hours, days, and weeks after a TBI. Some of these symptoms are the same as the initial signs of the injury, while others may be different. In general, traumatic brain injuries can be classified as either mild, moderate, or severe. We’ll review the potential symptoms for each of these below.
Mild TBI symptoms often include:
- Hearing difficulties
- Ringing in the ears
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Behavioral or mood changes
- Blurred vision or tired eyes
- Concentration, attention, memory or thinking issues
- Bad taste in the mouth
Moderate or severe TBI symptoms include:
- Slurred speech
- Coordination problems
- Repeated vomiting or nausea
- Enlarged/dilated pupils
- Inability to wake up after sleeping
- Seizures or convulsions
- Restlessness, agitation, or confusion
- Numbness or weakness in the arms and legs
- Headaches that worsen or don’t go away
What are the Most Common Causes of Traumatic Brain Injuries?
Traumatic brain injuries can have a wide variety of causes. When it comes to older individuals, falls can be an extremely common cause. However, when we look at individuals across all age ranges, car crashes are also a very common cause of TBI. In contrast, young children are most likely to suffer a TBI from child abuse. For young adults, car crashes are among the most common causes of traumatic brain injury, with sports injuries being another common cause. As one might imagine, people who play contact sports like football and rugby are more likely to sustain a TBI.
In addition, violence is another somewhat common cause of traumatic brain injuries. These include being hit by a bullet or shrapnel, as well as impacts from other weapons, such as knives, hammers, bats, or other objects.
Explosions are another, albeit a rarer cause of TBIs. Explosions can have a variety of causes, including construction/demolition errors, defective military equipment, and even acts of terrorism.
Who is Likely to Be At Fault in a Traumatic Brain Injury Case?
To receive legal compensation after a traumatic brain injury, there needs to be a party that is clearly at fault. There may be no responsible party in some situations, such as an at-home slip and fall incident. This injury would be classified as fully accidental. However, if the slip and fall was wholly or partially caused by a faulty piece of equipment, like a faulty walker or poorly-made handrail, there could be grounds for a case. If, for instance, the fall was caused or exacerbated by a neglectful aide provided by a home healthcare company, there could also be cause for a case.
- Device Manufacturers: We use countless devices in our daily lives that could malfunction due to an inherent defect. From the aforementioned walkers and handrails to cribs, car seats, and even gas lines, devices can often cause-- or exacerbate accidents that lead to a TBI. In these cases, the manufacturer or installer of the device can often be held liable for damages. If a company is using or selling a device that has already been subject to a manufacturer warning or product recall, they can also be held liable for damages.
- Medical Device Manufacturers: It’s not just typical devices that can cause TBIs. In fact, many traumatic brain injuries are actually caused by malfunctioning medical devices. In one case, a victim won a large settlement after a device intended to help treat his aneurysm malfunctioned, resulting in a TBI and resulting brain damage.
Doctors and Hospitals: Medical malpractice is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, and many of these deaths result from traumatic brain injuries. TBIs are most likely to result from anesthesia errors, medication errors, untreated brain infections, heart attack and stroke misdiagnosis, and birth injuries.
- Motor Vehicle Manufacturers: If a defect or malfunction in a car, truck, van, mobile home or motorcycle leads to an accident that resulted in a TBI, the manufacturer of the vehicle could be held liable. Common types of malfunctions that could lead to serious vehicular crashes include issues with a vehicle’s brakes, steering, and suspension. In addition to a vehicle manufacturer, the vehicle dealer could also be held liable.
- Trucking Companies: Sometimes, TBIs result from a truck accident caused not by an inherent defect in the vehicle, but by a failure to maintain or repair the vehicle in question. If this is the case, the trucking company, or carrier, may be at fault.
- Educational Organizations: If an accident that leads to a TBI occurred on the grounds of an elementary, middle, high school or college/university, they may be at fault. Of course, just like other liability cases, there needs to be a clear example of a situation in which the organization did not live up to its legal obligations. For example, most educational organizations are required to provide a “safe environment.” In a recent case, a teenage girl suffered a TBI after being hit with a golf ball in a private school golf class. The family was rewarded a large settlement after it was found that the school failed to uphold a “safe environment” in the situation.
- Event Venues: Just like an educational organization, an event venue is generally required to provide a “safe environment” for clients and visitors. While the standard for safety required for an event venue is generally lower than for an educational organization, neglect leading to slippery surfaces, fires, malfunctioning equipment, and other similar situations could leave the venue liable.
- Businesses: As with educational organizations or event venues, businesses that are open to the general public are typically required to maintain a safe environment for customers.
- Home Healthcare/Elder Care Companies: Home healthcare and elder care companies are trusted to help our elderly loved ones maintain a good quality of life as they age. Unfortunately, elder abuse is more common than ever. Elder abuse and neglect may include avoidable slip and falls, medication errors, or even physical assault, each of which could lead to a TBI.
What are the Most Common Treatments for Traumatic Brain Injuries?
If you or a loved one have suffered from a traumatic brain injury, it’s essential to understand how these injuries are generally treated. As with most types of traumatic injuries, it’s extremely important to begin treatment as quickly as possible after the injury has occured. It’s particularly important to provide detailed information to medical providers, including how the injury occured, the potential force of the injury, what part of the head was impacted, any jarring or whipping that occured, and any other details that may seem relevant.
After bandaging any bleeding, a medical provider will typically conduct a CT scan on the patient. CT scans use multiple X-rays in order to develop a comprehensive view of a patient’s brain. Specifically, CT scans allow medical providers to determine if a patient has experienced fractures, blood clots (hematomas), brain tissue swelling, bruised brain tissue (contusions), brain fractures, or bleeding in the brain (hemorrhage).
In addition to CT scans, medical professionals will often use an MRI to gain more detail about the injury. An MRI utilizes magnets and radio waves to gain a more detailed image of a person’s injury. MRI scans are generally used after a patient has partially recovered
What Types of Damages Can Be Claimed In Traumatic Brain Injury Cases?
Since traumatic brain injuries can vary greatly by type and intensity, it’s only natural that there are a variety of damages that victims may be able to claim as a result of these injuries. However, TBI claim damages can be generally categorized into two distinct groups; special damages and general damages.
Special damages are considered to be highly “quantifiable” or easily measured, and often include:
- Cost of past and future medical treatment
- Loss of wages or earning ability
- Property repair and replacement costs
- Funeral and death-related expenses (for wrongful death cases)
In contrast, general damages typically relate to qualify of life issues, and are more difficult to measure. General damages often include:
- Emotional and psychological distress (including depression and anxiety)
- Reduction in quality/enjoyment of life (including lack of mobility or mental acuity)
- Loss of companionship (including spousal companionship, friendships, and abilities to relate, communicate, and connect with others)
What to Do If You or a Loved One Has Suffered From a Traumatic Brain Injury
If you or someone you love has suffered a traumatic brain injury, get in touch with the experienced attorneys at Clark & Mitchell today. As one of the most respected law firms in Oklahoma City, Clark & Mitchell has won numerous lawsuits related to TBIs and has achieved significant judgments and settlements for our clients.
Dealing with a traumatic brain injury can be difficult, but an experienced law firm can help you understand your rights. Our attorneys will work with you to determine if you have a reasonable TBI case. If we proceed with your case, we will work as hard as possible to get you the compensation you deserve. Call Clark & Mitchell today 405-235-8488 to learn more.