What Is Traumatic Brain Injury? Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help?

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is usually the result of a violent blow or jolt to the head. Such injuries can disrupt normal brain function and have long-lasting effects. Symptoms of a TBI can be mild, moderate, or severe. Severe TBIs can lead to long-term physical or psychological impairments. Some TBIs result in coma or death. 

If you or a loved one has suffered a TBI, you may have the legal right to pursue injury compensation. Here is what you should know about traumatic brain injuries and what you can do in the aftermath of such an injury.

Severe TBIs can greatly affect a victim’s ability to live and work normally.

Traumatic brain injuries have gained national attention thanks to major lawsuits, including the National Football League’s concussion settlement. But even before the NFL scandal made headlines, TBIs had become a major concern as more was learned about the nature of these injuries. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 2.87 million Americans required medical assistance or hospitalization for TBIs in 2014. These injuries ranged from minor head injuries incurred at home or while at work, to more serious physical injuries that penetrated the skull.

The symptoms of these injuries can affect a victim for months or even years after the injury occurs, depending on severity. In extreme cases, victims may suffer memory loss, robbing them of basic motor or job-related skills that take months or years to relearn.  Families are often severely impacted, as they may need to provide care for their loved ones, or hire a caregiver to take their place, while also struggling to make up for the income no longer being provided by the injured family member.

What causes traumatic brain injuries?

Falls are the leading cause of TBIs. Children and the elderly are at particular risk. Nearly half of all TBI-related emergency room visits for children aged 0 to 17 result from falls. Roughly 80% of elders who suffer a TBI receive it from a fall.

Other common causes include:

  • Car crashes
  • Sports injuries
  • Being struck by an object (hammer, knife, bat)
  • Blast injuries due to explosions

TBIs are associated with memory loss and other complications that can permanently affect daily life.

Traumatic brain injuries range significantly in terms of short- and long-term severity. As a result, many accident victims seek damages without understanding the full extent of their brain injuries, or even knowing they have them. For instance, a car accident victim may sue for bodily injuries as well as a “mild” concussion which seemingly cleared up days or weeks after the accident. The victim’s settlement is generally calculated based upon their short-term disability. However, the true consequences of a victim’s TBI may not become evident until much later. 

Something that has not been well understood until recently is that severe TBIs do not have to be the consequence of a single injury. An accumulation of injuries over time, even non-concussive  injuries, can have severe consequences. Sports like boxing, hockey, and football all potentially expose athletes to dozens or even hundreds of TBIs over long time frames, with each injury increasing the amount of trauma experienced by the brain.

Suffice to say, repeated TBIs are not good. Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a degenerative brain disease found in athletes and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma. Todd Ewen, a Canadian hockey player who played in the National Hockey League from 1986 to 1997, was notorious for his willingness to fight on the ice. After his retirement from the sport, he began to suffer from increasing memory loss, and was notably more prone to anger and violence. After he committed suicide in 2015, his wife sent his brain to be tested for CTE. He was confirmed to suffer from CTE in 2018.

There are also some concerns that CTEs may be linked to violent behavior. Aaron Hernandez, a former player for the New England Patriots who ultimately died by suicide after being convicted for murder—and after being acquitted of another pair of murders—was found by researchers at Boston University to have the “most severe case [of CTE] they had ever seen.” Despite being only 27 years old at the time of this death, Hernandez had a severe form of CTE typically found only in former NFL players in their sixties.

Here is what you can do to prepare for a traumatic brain injury lawsuit.

The full effects of a TBI may not make themselves immediately apparent, and the symptoms of even a “bump on the head” can worsen over time. If you have recently suffered a TBI, and want to file a lawsuit, here are some things you should do to prepare:

  • Record as much information as you can about the accident. Whether your TBI was the result of a bad auto accident, you were playing a sport, or simply got hit on the head by something at a store you were visiting, everything you know about the accident is valuable. Witnesses will also be useful if you’ve suffered some form of memory loss, as they might have a more detailed account of the accident.
  • Document any instances of memory loss. If you have forgotten anything, or are having trouble remembering anything, keep a record of this, or have family members do so.
  • See a medical professional who specializes in TBIs. It is critical to have a detailed medical record of your accident, the symptoms you’ve experienced in relation to your accident, and any negative changes that may have occurred. Do not feel ashamed to visit with your care provider(s) repeatedly, as they can help diagnose the extent of your trauma.
  • Have your employer document any changes. One potential side effect of a severe TBI is that you lose motor skills and memories, which can make it difficult and even impossible to perform at work. Work with your employer to document the tasks that you can no longer fulfill.
  • Keep a record of expenses associated with your injury. In addition to the usual medical and insurance bills, keep bills and statements for other services associated with your care and recovery. This can include wages lost by family members because they take time off to care for you, as well as the hiring of at-home caregivers.

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