Traumatic Brain Injuries
Brain injuries are some of the most serious injuries anyone can experience. Your brain is the most important organ in your body; anything that harms your brain will have significant impact on your life. Brain injuries can include anything from a concussion that lasts a day or two; post concussive syndrome; mild traumatic brain injury that lasts years; and traumatic brain injury that is permanent and causes significant dysfunction. Any brain injury is serious, even if the symptoms appear minor, and immediate treatment and recognition of the injury is critical.
In a legal setting, where you need to recover compensation to pay medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering, brain injuries require more specific medical documentation than other kinds of injuries. The difference is that most often, a brain injury cannot be seen on any diagnostic image, such as a CT scan or MRI. Because these injuries are “invisible” on imaging, they are almost entirely based on your own subjective experience of how you are feeling. Good medical documentation is critical with a brain injury. Insurance companies and juries are the people who will evaluate your legal claim to recover for a brain injury. They are skeptical about people who have injuries they cannot see with their own eyes, so good medical documentation from a neurologist is critical to proving that your brain injury is real, and not something you’ve invented in your own mind.
For example, many people with post concussive syndrome experience dizziness, vertigo, blurred vision, nausea or vomiting, irritability, headaches, depression, and anxiety from their brain injury. These symptoms are real and can drastically effect your life. However, they don’t show up on a X-Ray or an MRI. They are self-reported complaints that only the person experiencing them can describe. Because of this, insurance companies and juries are quick to cast doubt on anyone describing these injuries without “proof” of what they’re experiencing. Reporting your brain injury symptoms to your doctor consistently over time is essential to eventually proving your case, because your symptoms are the only way to know that you actually have a brain injury.
Some more serious brain injuries involve an injury to your brain that can be seen on diagnostic imaging, such as a brain bleed or a penetrating injury. Bleeding can be seen on imaging tests. A penetrating injury is where something actually punctures through your skull and into your brain, and can be seen on imaging. These injuries are usually more serious than a closed head injury, and require emergency treatment.
How does a brain injury happen?
Your brain sits inside your skull in a fluid that protects is from bouncing around and being damaged. When you run and jump around your brain is protected by the fluid cushion inside your skull. However, there’s a limit to how much your brain can take. When your brain bounces around too hard inside your skull, it can be damaged. When your head strikes something really hard, you can suffer a closed head brain injury. Falling on the floor and hitting your head; something falling from a shelf and hitting your head; or hitting your head on the windshield in a car accidents are all examples of closed head injuries where you can strike your head against an object and suffer a brain injury.
You can also suffer a brain injury without even striking your head against anything. This is called a coup-contra-coup injury, where your head is thrown back and forth or side to side so fast that your brain bounces around against the inside of your skull. For example, severe whiplash can cause a coup-contra-coup brain injury because the force of the head being thrown side to side or forward and back can cause the brain to bounce against the inside of your skull.
When your brain injury is caused by someone else’s negligence, such as a car accident, slip and fall, or something falling you, there are specific things you need to know so that you are treated fairly by the insurance company involved or the jury who will decide your case. Here are the steps you must take to ensure that you are treated fairly.
Steps to take if you have a brain injury that is someone else’s fault:
Contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. This is particularly important if you have a brain injury, as you should not speak to any insurance company or the at fault party if you are possibly not entirely coherent and conscious of your actions and words. A skilled personal injury lawyer will guide you through getting the proper medical treatment and ensuring that everything will be paid by the responsible party. (more on this later)
Investigate what happened. Before the scene of your injury changes, you should take photographs, interview witnesses, and possibly send letters asking people to preserve any evidence in their possession. If you hire a personal injury attorney, they will do this investigation for you.
Report any symptoms to a doctor immediately. Go to the emergency room or an urgent care facility immediately if you suspect any kind of head injury. Obviously, this is critical to ensure you are safe and treated properly for any injuries you may have. But it is also important for your legal case. A doctor’s record showing exactly what you were feeling soon after the incident is essential for your legal case. Keep in mind that people often believe that their headache and dizziness from hitting their head is not a big deal and don’t immediately go see a doctor. When you have a brain injury, your thinking can be affected and you may tend to underestimate the severity of your injury for the first few days – don’t risk waiting to get treatment, get checked out immediately.
Don’t talk to the insurance company if they call. First of all, you should never talk to an insurance company about your injury without first talking to a lawyer. Second of all, this is especially true if you could have a brain injury that affects your thinking and ability to concentrate. The bottom line is that insurance companies are for-profit corporations that make billions of dollars each year by paying as little as possible on injury claims like yours. They don’t need to get any actual information from you – they can get all the same information from a police report of their own insured. The only reason they would call you after you’ve been injured is to get you to say something that would justify them offering you less money – or no money at all.
Consistently follow up with medical treatment. Follow your doctor’s advice closely, and don’t go too long without seeing a doctor to report your symptoms. Remember, brain injuries usually involve symptoms that only you can experience. Listing off these symptoms so the doctor knows what you are going through is essential to both your treatment, and to your legal case. As long as you are experiencing symptoms, don’t go more than a week or two without seeing a doctor of some kind.
Keep a journal of your symptoms. Because there is such a variety of brain injury symptoms, it can help to keep a journal of everything you’re experiencing. Write down when you are nauseous, dizzy or have blurred vision. Write down when you have nightmares or depression that is any different from what you experienced before the injury. This will be a good record to reflect exactly what you went through for when its time to prove your case.
How can a personal injury lawyer help with my brain injury case?
A personal injury lawyer can help in many ways to make sure you are fairly and reasonably compensated for an injury that is not your fault. Here are some of the most important ways a lawyer can help you:
A personal injury lawyer can investigate your injury thoroughly, looking for the information that insurance companies and juries look at to make decisions about your case. Eyewitnesses, photographs, video surveillance cameras, and police reports are all critical pieces of information that a good lawyer will know how to obtain.
A personal injury lawyer can communicate with the insurance company in a way that not only protects you from saying something that might harm your case, but can increase that value of the case by focusing on the information needed to highlight the seriousness of your case.
A personal injury lawyer can obtain statements and talk to your doctors and other people in your life that know what you are going through, and can articulate that to an insurance company or a jury. The story of what you are dealing with should not come just from you, but from other people who know what you are dealing with.
A personal injury lawyer can advise you on the value of your case. When an offer is made to settle your case, a good lawyer can tell you if the offer is fair and reasonable, or just a way for an insurance company to buy you off. The lawyer’s experience will help inform you whether to settle the case or proceed to a jury trial.
Brain injuries are some of the most difficult case to handle and prove to a jury. I have successfully taken brain injury cases to trial and obtained verdicts from juries for concussions and post-concussive syndrome. These cases require a lot of preparation to properly present to a jury, particularly because brain injuries do not often show up on diagnostic imaging. If you have a brain injury of any kind and want some advice, please contact me\ and I’d be happy to discuss your situation. My consultations are always free.