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Head injuries and how to treat them
Traumatic brain injuries affect more than just the victim – they affect the lives of family members and other close relationships.
Major adjustments have to be made within a household after a traumatic brain injury occurs, and the victim often feels pressured or compelled to recover faster than he or she is able. Relearning tasks like brushing hair or walking can be monumental at first, and this can require an entire family's attention.
Recovery from a traumatic brain injury takes time, support, and knowledge. This guide is a primer to walk you through what can cause a TBI and various treatments that show promise.
What is a traumatic brain injury?
Take a car accident, for instance: If a car is traveling at 45 miles per hour and hits another vehicle, it will go from 45 miles per hour to zero in an instant.
This means that the brain, which is floating in cerebral fluid, will be propelled against the hard bone of the skull with the force of this impact because of whiplash; brain tissue will "squish" against the interior of the skull, blood vessels will burst and blood will stream into areas of the brain where it's not supposed to be.
Post-Accident Journal Form
Sample accident journal/diary to help you document the effect on your daily life
Download in PDF format
This is a problem because there's so little room in the brain to begin with. There isn't a place for this extra blood to go, so the brain will swell and the pressure will make parts of the brain stop working. Some areas of the brain may even begin to die, and this necrotic brain tissue can cause seizures, strokes, or even death.
What are the different types of traumatic brain injuries?
Doctors typically group traumatic brain injuries into two main categories:
- Primary brain injuries, and
- Secondary brain injuries
Within these two groups, there are several different types of traumatic brain injuries that can occur, which often coexist and overlap.
Primary traumatic brain injuries
Primary traumatic brain injuries occur at the moment of the initial trauma. These injuries include:
- Concussions. Concussions are the most common type of brain injury. They occur when a direct impact causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth.
- Skull fractures. A skull fracture is a break in the skull bone.
- Contusions. A contusion is a bruise on the brain that typically results from a direct impact of the brain surface with the inner surface of the skull.
- Lacerations. A laceration refers to a tear in the brain tissue, typically caused by a foreign object or bone fragment from a skull fracture.
- Diffuse axonal injuries. Diffuse axonal injuries involve damage to the axons (pathways) that connect different areas of the brain.
Secondary traumatic brain injuries
Secondary traumatic brain injuries occur after and as a result of the initial trauma. These injuries can occur within hours or days of the initial trauma.
Secondary traumatic brain injuries include:
- Ischemia. Ischemia occurs when your brain is not getting enough blood.
- Hypoxia. Hypoxia occurs when there are low levels of oxygen in your brain tissue, causing confusion and changes in your breathing and heart rate.
- Cerebral edema. Cerebral edema refers to swelling of the brain.
- Anoxia. Anoxia occurs when your brain completely loses its oxygen supply (as opposed to hypoxia, which describes a partial lack of oxygen).
What are the symptoms of a traumatic brain injury?
Some of the most common symptoms of traumatic brain injuries include:
- Memory loss (unable to recall the cause of the injury or the 24 hours leading up to the injury)
- Difficulty remembering new information
- Blurry vision
- Nausea and vomiting
- Ringing in the ears
- Trouble speaking coherently
- Restlessness or trouble sleeping
The length and intensity of symptoms depend on whether the injury is mild, moderate, or severe. What's more, the symptoms can appear at the time of the trauma, soon after the trauma, or even days or weeks after the trauma.
It's a good idea to see a doctor after suffering any kind of head or brain injury. It's particularly important to see a doctor immediately if you experience any of the following:
- Loss of consciousness
- Repeated vomiting
- Symptoms that do not improve
Traumatic brain injuries and legal cases
If you've suffered a traumatic brain injury, you may be able to recover damages to help ease the financial burden on you and your family.
Your ability to recover damages depends on the circumstances surrounding your injury. If your brain injury was caused by another person's carelessness, you may be able to recover damages by filing an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit based on negligence.
To prove negligence, you must establish 3 elements:
- Duty. You must prove that the defendant owed you a duty of care (in most situations, people have a duty to exercise reasonable care to avoid harming others).
- Breach. You must prove that the defendant breached their duty of care. In most cases, this means that the defendant failed to act as a reasonable person would have acted under the circumstances.
- Causation. You must prove that your injury was caused by the defendant's breach. In other words, you wouldn't have suffered the injury but for the actions of the defendant.
Common accidents that result in negligence claims include:
If your traumatic brain injury occurred at work, you may be able to receive financial benefits by filing a workers' compensation claim.
One of the benefits of filing a workers' compensation claim is that it's a no-fault system, meaning you don't need to prove that anyone's negligence caused your brain injury.
Traumatic brain injuries are complicated injuries with ramifications that can last a lifetime. An experienced attorney can help you unthread the complicated case and take on the legal work while you focus on your physical and emotional recovery.
Here are some resources to help you find the right attorney for your case:
What damages can be recovered after a
traumatic brain injury?
In most states, you can recover the following damages in a traumatic brain injury lawsuit:
- Economic damages are damages that a court can calculate by reviewing records (medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, etc.).
- Noneconomic damages are damages that don't have a specific monetary value (pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of consortium, etc.).
- Punitive damages. Punitive damages are assessed by the court for the purpose of punishing the defendant and deterring similar behavior in the future. As a result, punitive damages are only awarded in cases where the defendant's actions were grossly negligent or malicious
Finding the right brain injury attorney
Traumatic brain injury cases are more complex than most other types of personal injury cases.
One of the reasons brain injury cases are so complex is the type of compensation involved. According to one study, the lifetime cost of a patient's treatment for a traumatic brain injury is typically between $85,000 to $3 million.
Due to the high cost of care, insurance companies are more likely to invest resources in defending brain injury cases. What's more, insurance policy limits will mean that brain injury victims will often have to sue companies or individuals personally to recover the money they deserve.
An experienced brain injury attorney knows how to calculate the true cost of a brain injury, including hard-to-predict future costs. An experienced brain injury attorney also knows how to explain complex medical terms in a way that the average juror can understand.
When choosing a brain accident attorney, selecting someone who has plenty of experience handling brain injury cases is important. Given the sensitive nature of brain injuries, it's also important to choose someone you're comfortable opening up to so they can understand the full extent of the challenges you're facing.
Fortunately, most attorneys offer free initial consultations. An initial consultation is a bit like a job interview. You can use the opportunity to get to know the attorney so that you can decide whether they're the right attorney for your case.
Not sure what questions to ask during an initial consultation? We've got you covered:
Your First Meeting with an Attorney
A worksheet to prepare for your first meeting with a personal injury attorney – what to bring, what they'll ask
Download in PDF format
Personal Injury Attorney Interview Sheet
Worksheet with questions to ask a personal injury attorney to help determine if he or she will be a good fit for your case
Download in PDF format
Brain injury resources / family resources
Your family and friends will be remarkable sources of strength for you during this difficult time.
However, having a network of people who are going through the same struggles as you are will be a comfort that you will definitely need. People who "get it" are hard to come by, and finding them can be hard. Here is a list of resources that have helped others with their recovery from a traumatic brain injury.
We wish you the best of luck in your recovery!
See our guide Choosing a personal injury attorney.
Injured and need a lawyer?
- Resources to Help After a Brain Injury
- How to Recognize a Brain Injury and What You Should Do About It
- Concussions and Auto Accidents
- Rehabilitation and Therapy After a Brain Injury
- Second Impact Syndrome and Sports Injury Lawsuits
- Legal Guide to Brain Death
- What is CTE?
- A Loss of Oxygen Can Lead to an Anoxic Brain Injury
- Can You Recover Costs for the Accident that Caused a Brain Bleed?
- What is the Traumatic Brain Injury Act?