What is mild traumatic brain injury, and why does it matter?
We understand a lot about traumatic brain injuries (TBI), but mild traumatic brain injuries (MTBI) are equally important and often misunderstood. While MTBI may seem less serious, it can lead to significant long-term problems, including persistent post-concussion syndrome, cognitive impairments, and emotional changes.
We understandably hear a lot about traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) in the United States, but there is another category of brain injuries known as mild traumatic brain injuries (MTBIs) that require attention as well.
While MTBIs may sound less serious than TBIs, these injuries can lead to significant long-term problems. Understanding these problems and your associated legal rights is essential to anyone who has suffered such an injury.
What is mild traumatic brain injury?
Mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) was defined by the Mild TBI Task Force of the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine in 1993. Under the definition, the diagnostic criteria includes:
- Head trauma with loss of consciousness lasting less than 30 minutes;
- A Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score of 13 or more; and
- Posttraumatic amnesia lasting less than 24 hours.
The typical patient with MTBI suffers a brain concussion. Accordingly, the term concussion has become synonymous with MTBI.
What causes mild traumatic brain injury?
MTBI typically occurs after a sudden blow or jolt to the head, or an impact to the body that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth.
Common causes of MTBI include:
- Sports activities: Sports, particularly high-contact sports like football, and sports that may involve unprotected falls, such as gymnastics, can lead to concussions.
- Car accidents: Sudden stops or collisions can cause the head to jolt violently, resulting in MTBI.
- Slip and falls: Slipping and falling on icy sidewalks, wet floors, or uneven surfaces can lead to head injuries.
- Construction accidents: Falling objects or accidents with machinery can cause head injuries on construction sites.
- Assault and physical violence: Intentional blows to the head can cause MTBI.
What are the symptoms of mild traumatic brain injury?
The signs and symptoms of mild traumatic brain injury may include:
|Physical symptoms||Sensory symptoms||Cognitive symptoms|
|Source: Mayo Clinic|
Long-term consequences of mild traumatic brain injury
The term "mild" is misleading when it comes to mild traumatic brain injuries. While the immediate effects might seem less severe compared to other types of brain injuries, MTBI can lead to lifelong challenges that affect every aspect of your day-to-day life.
Here’s a look at some of these long-term effects:
- Persistent post-concussion syndrome (PPCS): This syndrome, which may include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating, can last months or even years after the initial injury.
- Cognitive impairments: MTBI may result in subtle changes in memory, attention, and executive functions.
- Emotional changes: Anxiety, depression, and personality changes are common long-term effects of MTBI.
Legal rights and considerations
Those who suffer MTBI as a result of someone else’s carelessness or intentional act may have the right to legal compensation.
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 three 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.
If your traumatic brain injury occurred at work, you may be able to receive financial benefits by filing a workers' compensation claim.
Workers' compensation is no-fault insurance, which means you don’t need to prove that anyone's negligence caused your brain injury.
Damages that can be recovered after a mild traumatic brain injury
In most states, you can recover the following damages in a mild 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.
To recover all of the damages you deserve, it’s important to keep detailed records of all the ways in which your MTBI impacts your life:
Finding an MTBI attorney
Cases involving mild traumatic brain injuries are usually more complex than other personal injury claims. The substantial potential costs associated with MTBI lawsuits often lead insurance companies to devote significant resources to contesting MTBI claims. Moreover, the limits on insurance policies might require victims to pursue legal action against individuals or businesses to obtain the funds they rightfully deserve.
A skilled attorney specializing in MTBI will possess the expertise to assess the real value of a brain injury claim, taking into account the often unforeseeable future expenses. Such an attorney will also have the ability to articulate intricate medical terminology in a manner that a layperson serving on a jury can grasp.
The choice of an attorney in a brain injury case requires careful consideration. Selecting a professional with extensive experience in managing brain injury cases is vital. Fortunately, most legal professionals provide complimentary initial consultations.
If you're uncertain about the inquiries to make during this initial consultation, we’ve got you covered:
Still have questions about your brain injury? These resources may help:
- Guide to Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
- 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?
- Understanding the Hidden Challenges of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury
- What is the Glasgow Coma Scale?