Suing for Traumatic Brain Injuries

In June 2019, an Indianapolis woman suffered a serious traumatic brain injury (TBI) when she was flung from a Lime rental scooter and struck her head against the road. Now affected by severe memory loss and unable to spell, read, or drive, the victim and her family have filed a lawsuit against Lime’s parent company, Neutron Holdings, claiming that their scooters have inherent safety flaws that directly contributed to her injuries.

TBIs can have immediately obvious physical consequences. But as the public has learned in the wake of the NFL’s concussion scandal, these injuries can have devastating aftereffects many years down the line.

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 own 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.

For the average person, a TBI may be a singular lifetime event. The symptoms of these injuries can affect a victim for weeks, possibly years after the event depending on the severity of the injury. A concussion can cause immediate loss of consciousness, severe headaches, and restrictions on work and physical activities.

In extreme cases, victims may suffer memory loss, robbing them of basic motor or job-related skills that take months or even years to relearn. In extreme cases, a person may lose memory of their loved ones, even their entire lives up to the moment the accident occurred. This can also affect the victim’s family, as they may need to provide care for their loved ones, or hire a caregiver to take their place.

Falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries, followed by being struck by objects.

According to the CDC, 48% of all TBIs in 2014 were the result of falls. Children and the elderly are at the greatest risk of TBIs in a fall, with nearly half of all TBI-related emergency room visits for children aged 0 to 17 resulting from falls. Roughly 80% of elders who suffered a TBI received it from a fall.

In addition to the heightened risk of suffering a brain injury in a fall, elderly individuals are also at greater risk of death due to medical complications associated with TBIs and other fall-induced injuries.

Victims being struck on the head by objects is the second leading cause of TBIs in the United States. These types of accidents can happen at work, at home, or out in public as the result of another person’s direct actions or willful negligence.

A New Jersey 13-year-old boy was visiting a Dick’s Sporting Goods in 2017 when he suffered a severe traumatic brain injury after his brother swung a golf club into the back of his head. The boys had allegedly gained access to unsecured golf equipment in an area of the store where patrons could practice and analyze golf swings, with no supervision by any staff or their parent. Over two years later, the victim continues to suffer from memory loss and frequent headaches.

The victim’s mother filed a lawsuit against the retailer, claiming that the store’s staff had failed to exercise reasonable care to protect its guests from harm. The lawyer for the victim’s family has stated that the golf swing area should have been locked and required a store employee to gain access. The company denies any wrongdoing and has requested that should a jury award the victim’s family with compensation, it should be reduced to reflect the contributory negligence of the boy’s mother.

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. Someone may suffer a serious concussion which immediately affects their day to day life, or a seemingly minor brain trauma accompanied by other injuries. As a result, many accident victims seek damages for these injuries without understanding the 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 calculated based upon their short-term disability, with the victim never realizing that the true consequences of their brain injury may not become evident until years or decades after.

Even a single TBI can cause serious harm to victims in the long-term. And if an individual suffers multiple TBIs in a relatively short period of time—whether the victim realizes it or not—the symptoms and their effect on a victim can be more profound.

Contact sports in particular have been under fire because of the potential for TBIs, and consequences faced by players off the field.

A single head injury can cause immediate unconsciousness in victims, short and long-term memory loss, and changes in personality. Multiple traumatic brain injuries incurred over a period of time, without a victim having the time to properly from them, can have far more dire consequences. Sports like boxing, hockey, and football all potentially expose athletes to multiple TBIs over short time frames, resulting in profound life-altering or -ending damage.

The brain of late New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was diagnosed with stage 3 chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) resulting from years of head injuries, and continuing to play through them. Hernandez had a history of violence, and by the time he committed suicide at the age of 27, was connected to three murders and convicted of one. He had often complained about headaches and memory loss, and was known for his aggressive responses to perceived challenges at night clubs.

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. Though initial testing showed no evidence of the disease, he was later confirmed to be a CTE sufferer in 2018.

While these two players represent extreme examples of how multiple traumatic brain injuries can affect an individual, the danger is not limited to sports.

What you can do in order 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 absolutely important to have a detailed medical record of both 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.

This blog is not meant to dispense legal advice and is not a comprehensive review of the facts, the law, this topic or cases related to the topic. For a full review of our disclaimer and policies, please click here.

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