Concussions Defined

What You Need to Know—and How a Brain Injury Attorney Can Help

Almost everyone has heard of concussions, and many people have suffered one. Yet, despite how common concussions are, public awareness of their dangers lags behind.

A concussion is a form of traumatic brain injury. Although some people who suffer concussions see their symptoms resolve in a matter of days, other concussion victims endure long-lasting, debilitating impairments and difficulties. With the assistance of an experienced traumatic brain injury attorney. those unfortunate victims can obtain compensation for their injury.

Concussion Overview

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury resulting from a rapid movement of the brain within the skull, typically caused by a blow or jolt to the head. The movement deforms and sometimes damages brain tissue, which can lead to bruising, bleeding, and swelling, all of which may impair brain function.

Doctors refer to a concussion as a “mild” traumatic brain injury, but that designation is a bit misleading. Many concussion sufferers find nothing “mild” about their injury. Symptoms can endure for weeks or more, and can disrupt a person’s ability to function in everyday life.

Concussion Prevalence and Statistics

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that about 1.6 million to 3.8 million concussions happen every year, and those figures seem unlikely to decline in the near-term.

In addition:

  • About 30 to 80 percent of athletes who suffered a concussion still had post-concussion symptoms and signs three months after being injured.
  • About one in seven individuals still had some sort of symptom one year after suffering a concussion.
  • The chances of suffering a concussion while playing a contact sport are thought to be as high as 19 percent per year.
  • It has been reported that about 62,000 concussions happen every year in high school contact sports.
  • Every year in New York, about 4,000 children aged 19 and younger are treated for sports-related brain injuries.

The Physical Mechanics of a Concussion

To truly understand what happens to your brain when it sustains a concussion, we need to understand a little about brain physiology. The brain essentially floats inside the skull, protected from external shock and physical damage by the bone of the skull, by a clear liquid called the cerebrospinal fluid, and by membranes called meninges.

However, these shock-absorbing systems can only do so much to protect the brain from harm. If an impact is sufficiently violent, the brain can move inside the skull, stretching, contracting, and even twisting as the force of the blow or jolt travels through the victim’s head. The shape of the brain may change momentarily, the brain may collide with the interior of the skull, and brain tissue and blood vessels may even tear. This movement can also alter the balance of chemicals and ions inside the brain, which in turn can impair nerve cell function.

A victim may lose consciousness. Sometimes nerve fibers permanently lose their ability to communicate and send signals to other brain cells.

And that is just the initial impact. The sudden movement of the brain inside the skull can also lead to secondary injuries that further damage brain tissue.

These injuries result from how the body reacts to the initial injury, and can include:

  • Production of harmful chemicals called free radicals;
  • Impaired transport of molecules within a nerve cell;
  • Bleeding and swelling that increase pressure inside the skull and inhibit brain function;
  • Imbalances of essential ions for nerve function;
  • Reduced blood flow which hinders the delivery of nutrients and oxygen needed for recovery.

All of these effects and changes to the brain ultimately contribute to the short and long-term symptoms that may result from a concussion.

Grades of Concussions

Medical professionals recognize three categories of concussions:

  • Grade 1: unlikely to involve loss of consciousness; immediate symptoms generally last for less than 15 minutes.
  • Grade 2: may cause brief unconsciousness; immediate symptoms may last longer than 15 minutes and can include momentary confusion and retrograde amnesia (e.g. forgetting past events).
  • Grade 3: usually feature a loss of consciousness; immediate symptoms always last longer than 15 minutes and can include unresolved or prolonged retrograde amnesia.

Common Concussion Symptoms

Concussions exhibit a wide variety of symptoms, many of which can cause serious and long-lasting disruptions in the victim’s life.

These commonly include:

  • Headaches;
  • Dizziness;
  • Blurred vision;
  • Fatigue;
  • Sensitivity to sound and light;
  • Sleep disruptions;
  • Feeling dazed or confused (a.k.a. brain fog);
  • Clumsiness;
  • Behavior changes;
  • Lagging voluntary and involuntary muscle response;
  • Memory loss;
  • Personality changes;
  • Loss of consciousness;
  • Ringing in the ears;
  • Nausea; and
  • Vomiting.

In many concussion victims, these and other symptoms clear up within a few weeks; however, in some, the symptoms can last longer and can result in prolonged changes to an individual’s cognitive, motor, and emotional functioning. Additionally, repeated concussions may lead to progressive cognitive decline.

Post-Concussion Syndrome

Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS) is the persistence of symptoms related to a concussion beyond their ordinary course of recovery, which usually means longer than one to two months. People with Post-Concussion Syndrome can often experience concussion-like symptoms, including sleep problems, headaches, depression, cognitive problems, and anxiety, lasting months or even more than a year.

PCS is a common complication for many concussion victims, and can cause significant disruption in a patient’s life. Individuals struggling with PCS must continually manage their symptoms, and often develop behaviors oriented around avoiding ventures, places, or situations that make their symptoms worse. In severe cases, children can end up missing long-periods of school or cannot participate in sports. Symptoms of PCS can also interfere with family life and with performing work or school projects.

Treating Post-Concussion Syndrome is often limited to addressing symptoms through pain medication, rest, and active therapies. Currently, doctors do not have a one-size-fits-all cure for PCS.

Common Causes of Concussions

According to the CDC and emergency room statistics, four of the most common causes of a concussion are:

  • Traffic accidents;
  • Falls;
  • Physical assaults;
  • Sports injuries; and
  • Being struck by an object unintentionally.

Of course, these are just the most common causes of concussions. Virtually any incident that could cause a blow or jolt to the head could lead to a concussion. It is especially important to remember that concussions can happen without a person suffering a direct blow to the head.

Always Seek Medical Attention For a Concussion

Always seek medical attention right away after any incident in which you take a blow, jolt, or shock to your head or body. Never assume that just because you feel okay that you have not suffered an injury to your brain. And, never accept getting your bell rung as a commonplace event that does not need medical attention. Skipping a trip to the doctor could make your brain injury worse. You may not recognize or experience concussion symptoms right away, but a trained medical professional can spot telltale signs through quick, simple tests.

Concussion Lawsuits

Anyone who suffers a concussion because of someone else’s careless, reckless, or intentional actions may have the right to take legal action seeking compensation. With the help of an experienced concussion injury attorney, victims can often pursue a lawsuit for money damages against the parties legally-responsible for causing them harm.

Key Evidence in a Concussion Lawsuit

To prevail in a lawsuit, a lawyer needs evidence proving that someone else’s unreasonably dangerous decisions or actions caused the victim to suffer a concussion.

This evidence will often include:

  • Medical records documenting the diagnosis of the concussion and its connection to a particular accident or incident (this is another reason why it is important to seek medical attention right away after any potential concussion-causing event);
  • Testimony and reports from the concussion victim, from witnesses to the incident that led to the concussion, and often from medical professionals who treated the victim or evaluated the victim’s symptoms;
  • Pay stubs and financial records that document the extent of the financial harm the victim has sustained because of the concussion.

Take steps to preserve important evidence by not throwing anything related to a concussion away, and by contacting an experienced concussion injury lawyer as soon as possible.

Potential Damages Recoverable in a Concussion Lawsuit

The categories and amounts of damages a concussion victim might recover through a concussion lawsuit will vary widely based on the individual circumstances. However, as a general matter, victims of concussions caused by someone else’s dangerous decisions or conduct may have the right to obtain payment for:

Economic damages consisting of out-of-pocket costs incurred because of the concussion, such as:

  • Medical treatment related to the concussion including past and future medical expenses
  • Past and future lost income from time missed at work or an inability to return to work;
  • Recurring treatment expenses like home caregivers, rehabilitative services, therapy devices, medication, etc.; and
  • Other out-of-pocket expenses.

Non-economic damages reflecting the generalized harm inflicted by a concussion, which often include:

  • Pain and suffering;
  • Mental anguish;
  • Diminished quality of life;
  • Harm to personal relationships; and
  • Physical disfigurement.

Punitive damages, when the dangerous decisions or actions that led to the victim suffering a concussion were so outrageous that they warrant extra damages to punish the wrongdoer and to deter future misconduct.

There is no guarantee in any concussion lawsuit that a victim will recover all, or any, of the types of damages above, nor of the amount of damages the victim might recover. The most reliable way to give yourself the best chance of obtaining maximum compensation for a concussion is to hire an experienced concussion injury attorney to represent you in your lawsuit.

How An Experienced Traumatic Brain Injury Attorney Can Help

As common as concussions are, the duration and severity of their symptoms can take many people by surprise. Concussions have a reputation as a “minor” injury, but months (or more) of headaches, dizziness, fatigue, brain fog, and other symptoms can interrupt just about every aspect of a person’s life. Concussions are serious brain injuries, and as such, victims of them deserve material compensation for the harm they have suffered.

A traumatic brain injury attorney works for victims of concussions and their families to obtain that compensation. In selecting an attorney to represent you after suffering a concussion, be sure to find one who understands the mechanics, science, and impacts of concussions, and who has the skill and resources to explain to defense lawyers, insurance companies, judges, and juries why your injury is anything but “minor.”

The services a traumatic brain injury attorney provides for clients who suffer from concussion symptoms can vary depending on the client’s best interests.

However, they often include:

  • Investigating the accident or incident that led to the concussion, to identify parties who have a legal liability to the injured client;
  • Evaluating the scope of the harm the client has suffered because of the concussion, to ensure that any legal action the attorney takes on the client’s behalf seeks an appropriate amount of damages;
  • Negotiating with insurance companies and defense lawyers to achieve a fair and reasonable settlement of the client’s legal claims, if possible; and
  • Litigating in local courts when negotiation alone does not achieve an acceptable outcome of the concussion claim.
  • People suffering from the long-term effects of a concussion usually need rest and skilled medical treatment. One thing they do not need is the stress of worrying about how they will pay for their care, absorb a financial loss because of missing work, and deal with the complexities and frustrations of insurance claims and lawsuits.

By hiring a seasoned traumatic brain injury attorney, concussion victims and their families leave that stress and work to a professional who has the know-how and resources to secure the compensation they need and deserve.

Remember, there is nothing “mild” about any traumatic brain injury. If you or a loved one suffered a concussion that led to symptoms that disrupted your life, contact an experienced traumatic brain injury attorney today for a free consultation to learn about your legal options. If you act quickly, you may have the right to receive substantial compensation to help you regain your health and get back to living your life.