No one begins their morning expecting that they will suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Because they are often not visible and only discovered through neurological exams and scans, many people don’t even realize that they may be suffering from one. However, such unseen threats to one’s health are extremely dangerous and can result in permanent damage or even death.
In a study performed by the CDC, over 2.8 million Americans had to visit an emergency department due to a TBI in 2014. Over one quarter of a million more Americans had to be hospitalized due to such an injury, and unfortunately, another 56,800 lives came to an end because of these brain traumas.
However, TBIs may still have a lasting effect on the victim’s enjoyment of life, and whether they live or die, the treatments they receive are often quite expensive. Even if insurance can help to cover such expenses, there are many Americans who are left struggling financially after such injuries.
Thankfully, in many cases, a victim will have the option to file a lawsuit against liable parties. Such a lawsuit can ensure fair and just compensation for the victim with the help of an experienced personal injury attorney, and it is the right of New York’s citizens to execute such legal action when justified. If you or a loved one has suffered a TBI as a result of any sort of accident, do not hesitate to contact a skilled attorney who can assist you in filing your case.
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Why Are Brain Injuries Called the “Silent Injury?”
It can be difficult to identify a brain injury due to its nature as an unseen affliction caused by one’s head being hit. On the outside, you may appear perfectly fine, with little or no cuts or bruises as a result of your accident. On the inside, however, the sensitive and fragile pieces of your brain may be injured with no one the wiser until the symptoms of such an injury appear.
In fact, many attorneys will want to have victims examined by their own medical experts to verify that such injuries exist.
In Mangra v. Bruck, the defendant’s attorney ordered a second examination then refused to call the medical expert who performed it as a witness. The medical expert ended up confirming the plaintiff’s alleged TBI, noting that it was even more serious than what the plaintiff’s own doctor had indicated. Ultimately, the victim was awarded $225,000 dollars for his injuries.
Even if you were only in a minor accident, do not hesitate to speak with a medical professional if you suspect you may have suffered a TBI. Any sort of accident can result in damage to one’s brain, and it is always best to err on the side of caution so that you can catch the injury early, seek treatment, and have proof of your injury for any resulting lawsuits.
Common Causes of Traumatic Brain Injury
Generally speaking, you are most likely to suffer a TBI during an auto accident. This can include accidents involving cars, trucks, trains, buses, motorcycles, and even bicycles, as any of these can result in a victim receiving a blow to the head. Another key area of concern is sports, as oftentimes, they involve direct collisions between players. This is actually one of the primary reasons for backlash against amateur and professional football in America, as studies have shown a high rate of concussions and other TBIs being caused by the sport.
Of course, many other situations can cause TBIs. The following list is a good short list for accidents where a TBI may occur:
- Falling objects
- Work injuries, especially relating to construction work
- Struck by/against an object
- Boating accidents
- Birth injuries
- Lightning strikes
- Electric shocks
- Blows to the head
Besides lightning strikes, any one of these accidents could have been caused by another party. In such cases, the victim will often have the right to pursue them for damages as a result of any TBIs they suffer.
Relationship Between Brain Injuries and Auto Accidents
Car accidents often result in serious injuries that may damage a victim’s brain permanently and leave them unable to enjoy life fully. At the very least, car accidents will cause whiplash that forces the victim’s head to jerk back and forth in different directions depending on the direction their vehicle was struck. This causes the brain to be shoved against the skull, which can result in a variety of injuries such as concussions, contusions, swelling, and similar injuries.
There are other risks as well in car accidents. Items stored in the vehicle may be thrown and strike the victim, and at other times, there may be defective safety equipment in the vehicle which actually cause or aggravate the injuries sustained. In the latter case, the victim might be able to sue a manufacturer for installing faulty equipment, as they have an obligation to all drivers and passengers to ensure that their product will not result in serious injury due to a flaw in its design and manufacturing.
Going off of the previously mentioned study by the CDC, 334,109 of the 2.8 million emergency department visits for TBIs were caused by motor vehicle collisions. Another 58,765 of the hospitalizations were caused by motor vehicle collisions, and 10,656 fatalities were due to TBIs caused by motor vehicle collisions. So, roughly 10% of emergency department visits, 20% of hospitalizations, and 20% of deaths caused by TBIs are connected to motor vehicle collisions.
Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury
Brain injuries often do not share exact signs and symptoms from case to case due to the complexity of the brain, making the matter of identifying them a complicated task. With so many possible causes for these injuries, victims must be aware of a variety of possible signs that they have suffered a brain injury and immediately seek medical assistance if they suspect that the signs are being caused by such an injury. The following list covers some of the common signs of a TBI:
- Ringing in the ear (also known as tinnitus)
- Loss of senses such as smell, taste, etc.
- Speech problems
- Exhaustion and lack of motivation
- Loss of balance or coordination
- Trouble with short-term or long-term memory.
- Chronic headaches or neck pain
- Increased sensitivity to stimulants such as lights or sounds
- Blurry vision
Long-term Impact of Traumatic Brain Injuries
Besides the early warning signs of a TBI, such injuries carry some of the most serious consequences for victims. Death is an ever-present concern and short-term or long-term disability is possible as well. Temporary or permanent disability can undermine or limit one’s enjoyment of life and increase the pain and suffering one endures.
Four key areas of concern after an accident that causes a TBI are the following:
- Loss of Motor Skills: Damage to the sections of the brain that control motor functions could seriously impair the ability of a victim to control their own body. Long-term problems can develop that affect the ability to speak, walk, or even put on clothes, and this is assuming that one does not suffer partial or full paralysis of their limbs.
- Cognitive Damage: A brain injury could affect the various parts of the brain that handle the processing and recalling of information. This can result in general confusion, trouble maintaining attention, and forming new memories properly.
- Sensory Limitations: The brain’s sensory faculties can be highly impaired in the long-term. The most serious of these issues could result in deafness and blindness, though even minor issues, such as a loss of smell and touch, could put one in future danger as the victim is no longer to smell concerning odors or feel pain in dangerous situations.
- Physical Effects: FInally, there are many neurological disorders that may be caused by a TBI. More minor issues could include sleeping disorders and changes in appetite, but oftentimes, TBIs result in hormonal shifts, chronic pain, and seizures. Any of these could result in difficulties securing and maintaining employment after all possible recovery has occurred.
These are only the direct effects of such an injury. Oftentimes, they result in crippling changes to one’s life that negatively impacts employment and social life. This results in frustrating circumstances for victims, who may then suffer from depression and anger.
Of course, if connected back to the brain injury, one could sue the liable party for lost wages, pain and suffering, and loss of the enjoyment of life.
Types of Traumatic Brain Injuries
There are numerous types of TBIs that may occur as a result of an accident, far too many to cover in a single article. However, it is a good idea to familiarize oneself with some of them.
- Concussion: Obviously, concussions are what spring to mind when most people imagine TBIs, due in part to media coverage of football players’ struggles with their long-term effects. Concussions typically occur when the brain strikes the skull, though it may also result from a hard impact against one’s head or sudden changes in speed through acceleration and deceleration. Typically, they are a temporary affliction that one may recover from over time. However, repeated concussions may cause permanent damage.
- Contusion: Contusions are effectively a secondary injury of concussions, in which the cells of the brain have been damaged and are decaying. They may also coincide with internal bleeding, which may lead to various issues such as hemorrhages or hematoma.
- Diffuse Axonal Injury (DAI): DAIs are often caused by the same incidents caused by concussions and contusions, but rather than damaging the brain’s cells directly, the axonals, which connect the brain cells, are damaged by the rough shifting of the brain. This may result in swelling of the brain, causing its parts to push against one another or the skull. Even if this damage does not result in death, it is highly likely that the damage will be permanent as it is difficult, if not impossible, to repair the sheared connections.
- Edema: This is effectively serious swelling of the brain, which results in the brain pressing against the skull. The skull is incapable of enlarging to allow the brain more space to breathe, resulting in pressure on the brain forming and causing neurological issues.
- Hematoma: Hematomas are effectively blood clots which form outside of blood vessels. When one forms inside the brain, the victim is at risk of suddenly falling unconscious or suffering permanent damage. Of course, falling unconscious may result in more damages as the victim may suddenly lose unconsciousness while walking through their home, workplace, or while driving, resulting in greater injuries to them and others.
- Hemorrhage: Brain hemorrhages occur when blood vessels, such as arteries, bleed for too long and/or without stopping. Besides death due to a stroke, hemorrhage may lead to the development of edemas and hematomas that further increase the risk of future injury to the victim and others.
- Skull Fractures: Despite being one of the hardest bones in the body, the skull can be damaged in a manner that is unseen by one’s eyes in a serious impact. Such damage also leaves the brain susceptible to damage, as fragments of the skull may pierce the brain and other minor impacts may now result in serious injury to the brain without the skull’s structural integrity to protect it.
Any one of these injuries could result in serious consequences for the victim, not to mention severe heartache for them and their family. To help prevent or lessen these consequences, it is important that a victim undergoes examination and treatment immediately after an accident and when signs of TBIs appear.
Diagnosing Traumatic Brain Injuries
Doctors typically will use various neurological exams to test if a victim has suffered a TBI. These exams will test motor skills, sensory functions, coordination, and reflexes, and the medical professional conducting the exam will be able to identify what might be causing any sort of missteps and mistakes based on which ones appear.
MRIs and CAT scans are actually primarily used to confirm that a victim is not suffering from another form of life-threatening injury, such as internal bleeding. As such, they are more often a tool to confirm the results of the doctor’s neurological exams; by ruling out other causes, the doctor’s findings can be confirmed further.
Treatment of Traumatic Brain Injuries
Treatment for a TBI is based on severity. Doctors will be able to begin ruling out the various types of TBIs and hopefully confirm the specific injury that a victim has suffered. Once a specific injury has been identified, treatment can begin in the form of rehabilitation. Patients suspected of suffering a mild brain injury will be advised to rest and perhaps take over-the-counter pain medication. They will likely have follow-up appointments as well.
Serious brain injuries may require immediate or subsequent surgery to remove blood clots, stop bleeding on the brain, or to repair skull fractures. Medications, such as anti-seizure drugs, may be prescribed.
For victims suffering from a more severe TBI, rehabilitation is also a focus because it assists in recovering any losses connected to one’s brain functions and helps to minimize long-term disabilities. Oftentimes, the damage itself cannot be fully repaired, but the normalcy of life can be restored through the hard work of doctors and determination of the patient. Fundamental brain functions such as speech, mobility, and memory can be restored, and if a victim has family, that family can be exposed to the process and helped in adjusting to their loved one’s new life. It is important that rehabilitation prepares all parties involved for a long road of recovery.
Progress and Recovery
Various factors will affect the recovery process, and this can cause recovery to take months or years to show significant progress. It is vital that during recovery, doctors and family are patient and supportive of the victim, ensuring that they do not lose hope for a better life.
While it can be unclear what will determine how long recovery will take, the following three factors will provide a good guideline:
- Length of a Coma: A victim may fall into a coma as a result of their injuries. If so, if the patient recovers from their coma in a short amount of time, then they will usually have an easier time recovering after waking up.
- Amnesia: Oftentimes, these cases will involve post-traumatic amnesia that causes the victim to have trouble recalling details of their life going forward. However, such memories may be reclaimed.
- Age: Unfortunately, the age of a patient can have a serious effect on their ability to recover from these conditions. Those who are over 60 often have more fragile brains and have trouble recovering, while those under 2 have softer skulls that put them at greater risk of permanent damage. Older children, teens, and young adults, who have not fully completed brain development, will have greater trouble regaining their impaired functions.
What to Do After an Accident-induced Brain Injury?
Since it is not clear immediately after an accident that a victim has suffered a TBI, even after an initial examination by a medical professional, victims and their family and friends should watch for any signs of cognitive and physical impairment that may indicate a brain injury. Once spotted, a doctor can perform further examinations that will assist in confirming the type and extent of the impairment.
As in any case, it is critical that you work with an experienced attorney to determine if another party is liable for your injuries once they are confirmed. However, this need is further enhanced in the case of accidents which cause TBIs, as oftentimes, the longer one waits, the more difficult it becomes for victims to recall the truth.
It is best to speak with a personal injury attorney immediately after confirmation of the medical condition. A personal injury attorney will consider the injury that a victim has suffered, and from there, they will be able to confirm who is liable for the injuries. Additionally, they can discuss how much compensation a victim may receive.
What Is the Statute of Limitations on Brain Injuries in New York?
Under statute CVP § 214(5) of New York’s Consolidated Laws, a victim is allowed three years from the date of their accident to file a lawsuit for personal injuries. So, those who suffer brain injuries have a large window in which they may discover that they have suffered a TBI as a result of their accident. However, it is key that TBIs are identified early on for both the victim’s health and the future of their case.
This article has covered much of the reasoning for why early detection assists in the recovery of the patient, but early detection also plays a role in TBI lawsuits. The first is rather obvious, as attempting to file after the three year mark will generally be impossible under the law. The second has to do with actually proving your case against a liable party. The longer you wait, the less evidence you may have to use, as eyewitnesses may die or fall out of contact, memories of the incident will fade, and records may be misplaced.
Note that the three-year mark does not mean you have to finish your case within that time, as many cases can go on for months or even years. You simply have to file your case within that window, and from there, you and your legal representative may begin negotiations with and possibly litigation against the liable party.
Does My Auto Insurance Cover Brain Injuries?
If your brain injury occurred as a result of a car accident, and you are covered under an auto insurance policy, then you will need to satisfy New York’s serious injury threshold before you may sue. This means that you must either suffer economic expenses in excess of a set amount, typically $50,000 dollars, or you suffer what is classified as a serious injury under New York law.
Oftentimes, brain injuries take some time before revealing just how serious they are, and in the meantime, medical expenses, lost wages, and similar costs will begin to pile up. However, if a brain injury immediately impairs your bodily functions, then you will almost certainly have a case against a liable party before you suffer tangible financial losses that amount to $50,000.
Frequently Asked Questions
This depends upon the economic losses you suffer as a result of your injury, the pain and suffering it has put you through, and whether or not the liable party has committed similar acts of negligence in the past. Economic losses are fairly easy to determine, as they are things such as medical expenses, lost wages, and the cost of rehabilitation services. On the other hand, pain and suffering and similar non-economic losses require consideration by a jury to properly determine a correct amount, as no dollar amount is necessarily fixed to losing one’s ability to properly memorize their experiences of the day. However, if your injuries are serious enough to impact your daily life, the court will generally award higher amounts of compensation.
Finally, you may also be awarded punitive damages. Though rare, punitive damages are received by a victim not necessarily as compensation for their injuries, but as punishment of the liable party for repeated acts of negligence which have led to the victim’s accident and others like it. If your attorney can prove that someone has a history of behavior similar to the one that caused your accident, they could argue for punitive damages.
They are generally milder than other brain injuries but still carry serious concerns. Concussions, while a difficult injury to handle, are often temporary, and fade with time and proper treatment. However, if a victim has had repeated concussions, there is a heightened risk of permanent brain damage. Additionally, concussions still lead to various economic losses that can lead to a lawsuit for compensation, such as medical expenses and lost wages as one recovers.
Do not make a judgement like this on your own. Instead, if you are in an accident which may have injured your head and brain, speak with a medical professional immediately for an examination. Even after the initial examination, you and your family should be vigilant for any further signs of TBIs and report them to a medical professional immediately.
If a medical professional identifies a TBI, then they will be able to provide a short-term and long-term prognosis for your health. This will help an attorney to determine the amount of compensation required for a full recovery.
Who Should I Contact if I Suffer a Traumatic Brain Injury?
If you or a loved one has suffered a traumatic brain injury, contact Rosenblum Law for a free consultation today. Our experienced personal injury lawyers can guide you through the process and get you the best settlement or verdict possible. Call 888-815-3649 or email us today.