What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?
Because our brains define who we are, the consequences of a brain injury can have consequences for all aspects of the victim’s life, including basic personality characteristics. While an injury to a certain part of the body may limit the use of that body part, the cognitive abilities and personality of the person remain essentially the same. When a person experiences a brain injury, they can go from “normal” in one instant, to a life which will never be the same in the next.
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a lifelong ongoing disease presence. Once you have a brain injury, you will always have a brain injury. The effects may vary. But we hope that you and your survivors will have access to care and community for the rest of your lives. Our goal is to keep families together, answer all questions and allow the family to thrive. It is tough, but we are here to help.
It has been widely reported that traumatic brain injury may result in ALS, Parkinson’s, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and dementia. The diagnoses are supported by respected medical journals, medicine, and science. They are correct.
Once a family member has a brain injury they are more likely to have another. Cumulative brain injuries are devastating.
A TBI may also cause gastrointestinal problems, thinking, behavior, inability to smell, taste, double vision and inability to perform activities of daily living and other issues that affect the person and the family involved.
Every brain injury is different. Symptoms of a brain injury may appear immediately or may begin to manifest days or even weeks after the injury occurs. Further, while a person is generally fully cognizant of other types of injuries, the special nature of brain injuries means he or she may not even realize a brain injury has occurred.
Types of Brain Injuries
There are several different types of brain injuries, including:
- Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE): A brain injury which can only be diagnosed upon death. Many people associate CTE with football players particularly after a lawsuit was filed by National Football League players against the organization. That litigation settled for nearly $1 billion with funds intended to pay for concussion and head-trauma related injuries suffered by professional football players during their careers. Possible symptoms of CTE include impulsive behavior, depression, short-term memory loss, difficulty thinking, emotional instability, substance abuse and others.
- Concussions: While many people tend to think a concussion is not all that serious; a concussion can lead to problems which can last a lifetime. A concussion is the most-diagnosed type of injury to the brain and may result from an open or closed brain injury. Depending on the extent of the concussion, the victim may lose consciousness, or may only feel somewhat dazed. A concussion might or might not show up on a diagnostic test, such as a CAT scan. Concussions can sometimes result in permanent brain damage, or, in rare cases, can result in a fatal blood clot to the brain.
- Contusions: A contusion is a bruise (bleeding) on the brain, which is usually caused by a direct blow to the head. If the contusion is particularly large, surgical removal may be necessary.
- Coup-Contrecoup: When the force of an impact is great enough to move the brain from one side of the skull to the other, leaving contusions at the site of the impact and on the opposite side of the brain, it is known as a coup-contrecoup brain injury.
- Diffuse Axonal: Shaken Baby Syndrome, caused by violent shaking, results in a strong rotation of the head, leading to a diffuse axonal brain injury. When a child or adult is violently shaken, the unmoving brain “lags” behind the movement of the skull, which leads to tearing of the brain structures. These tears disrupt the normal processes of the brain and can lead to a lifetime of functional impairments, coma or death.
- When a person experiences the impact of a knife, bullet, or another sharp object into the head, the object can force hair, skin, bones and other fragments into the brain. A bullet can ricochet within the skull, making the area of damage even wider. Firearms are the single largest cause of death from traumatic brain injury.
- Acquired brain injury: can result from a stroke, anoxia, toxins, hypoxia, degenerative diseases, near-drownings, a tumor, or any other condition not caused by an external force.
- Hypoxic-Ischemic brain injuries: Hypoxic-Ischemic brain injuries, sometimes referred to as (hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy or “HIE”) result from a reduction or lack of oxygen to the brain. Often, these injuries are “birth injuries” that occur just prior to, during, or just after labor and delivery of a baby. Additionally, they may occur in other settings of oxygen is not provided in a hospital or nursing home setting. The lack of oxygen causes the death of brain cells which changes the structure and functioning or the brain and the person overall.
- Intra-cranial hemorrhage: These injuries occur when a traumatic event causes bleeding in the brain. The bleeding, if left untreated, can cause swelling in the brain and death of brain cells. If medical attention is not provided promptly these injuries may lead to permanent brain damage or death.
The Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) evaluation is based on a 15 point scale for estimating the outcomes of brain injury based on overall social capability and dependence on others. While this is a common assessment that is performed to evaluate brain injuries, it does not determine whether a person may have lifelong brain damage. The GCS specifically measures motor response, verbal response, and eye-opening response. It is important to note that many persons who have sustained a brain injury still present with a GCS score of 15.
The Ranchos Los Amigos Scale is another brain injury evaluation tool. It measures the levels of awareness, cognition, behavio, and interaction with the environment.
Other tests that are important in determining the severity of a traumatic brain injury include diagnostic tests like MRI, CAT scan, and Neuroquant exams. Forensic examinations related to neuropsychological changes are also imperative to properly diagnose the magnitude of the injury.
Facts About Brain Injuries
According to the CDC, traumatic brain injury is a major cause of death and disability in the U.S., contributing to about 30 percent of all deaths resulting from an injury. Further facts regarding brain injuries include:
- In 2013, there were about 2.8 million emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and deaths resulting from traumatic brain injuries.
- Between 2007 and 2013, emergency room visits for traumatic brain injuries increased by 47 percent, although the deaths associated with brain injuries decreased by 5 percent.
- In 2012, sports and recreation-related brain injuries were responsible for almost 330,000 children under the age of 19 being treated in emergency rooms.
- In 2013, falls were the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries, accounting for almost half of all emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and deaths from brain injuries.
What are the Causes of Brain Injuries?
As noted above, falls are responsible for the majority of traumatic brain injuries, and these falls disproportionately affect children and the elderly. Being struck by an object is the second-leading cause of brain injuries, and motor vehicle collisions are the third-leading cause of brain injuries. Intentional self-harm is also a major cause of brain injuries in the U.S. Birth injuries and medical malpractice may also lead to brain injury.
What are the Most Common Symptoms for Brain Injuries?
The symptoms of a brain injury will vary significantly according to the type and severity of the injury, however some of the more common brain injury symptoms include:
- Difficulty thinking clearly and concentrating on a task
- Vomiting (usually early on)
- Blurry vision
- Feeling “slow”
- Balance issues
- Extreme sensitivity to light or noise
- Low energy
- Memory problems
- Being more emotional than usual
How are Settlements Determined in Brain Injury Cases?
While the exact settlement for a brain injury case will depend on the severity of the injury and the circumstances surrounding the injury, our Cohen & Malad, LLP Indianapolis personal injury attorneys work hard for our clients who have suffered a brain injury. Brain injury cases have two basic types of damages—special and general. Special damages are the real economic losses suffered by the victim—out-of-pocket losses for such things as medical expenses, lost wages, property damages, lost earning capacity, and funeral expenses in the case of a wrongful death claim.
General damages are non-economic losses such as pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of consortium, loss of reputation, and emotional trauma. Determining the amount of general damages for a specific case is very fact sensitive and you need an experienced brain injury lawyer who knows how to investigate and work up this part of your case. Cohen & Malad, LLP attorneys are happy to meet with you and discuss how to best maximize the value of your brain injury case. Often the case comes not from the medical testimony, but rather, from friends and family who can testify how the brain injury has changed the victim’s personality, or otherwise affected his or her life.
Getting Help from Cohen & Malad, LLP Brain Injury Attorneys
At Cohen & Malad, LLP, we have the extensive resources necessary to successfully litigate your brain injury lawsuit. Your case may require expert medical testimony from treating physicians, neuropsychologists, therapists, radiologists, and other experts in the field of neuroscience. We work to ensure those resources are available for you and your case. In particular, Greg Laker, our personal injury practice group chair and Dan Chamberlain, the former president of the Brain Injury Association of America, have extensive litigation experience in brain injury claims for both adults and children. Our attorneys will provide you with a free case evaluation and discuss your legal rights and options. Contact Cohen & Malad, LLP today at (317) 636-6481.