Traffic accidents are among the most common causes of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), but people can sustain a TBI during various other activities and events. Regardless of the severity of the injury, a TBI can cause permanent brain damage leaving people with lifelong struggles.
If you suffered a TBI, you might recover compensation if your injury occurred because of another party’s negligence. Contact a brain injury lawyer as soon as possible, so they can evaluate your case and advise you on your next steps.
Until you can consult a lawyer, we provide preliminary information about the types and common causes of TBIs, potential long-term complications, and the legal process of seeking compensation after sustaining a TBI.
Defining Traumatic Brain Injuries
Broadly speaking, a TBI is any injury that disrupts the way someone’s brain works due to head trauma. Direct or indirect head trauma can lead to a brain injury.
A driver hitting their head on the steering wheel during a car crash serves as an example of direct trauma to the head. The quick movement of the head during a traffic accident that occurs upon impact can cause indirect trauma to the head, leading to a TBI.
Traumatic brain injuries from direct trauma to the head can be penetrating and non-penetrating. Visible blood typically signals a penetrating injury. Examples of situations that could lead to a penetrating injury and TBI include gunshot wounds, items that break the scalp in a car accident, and someone’s head falling on an object during a slip and fall accident.
Doctors classify traumatic brain injuries into three different types: mild, moderate, and severe. Each type is serious and sometimes comes with lifelong struggles. Here is a broad overview of each type of TBI.
Mild TBIs, more commonly called concussions, are the most common brain injuries. They are named mild because they often do not require hospitalization or surgery, and they are typically not fatal.
Yet, these brain injuries can lead to permanent damage when the brain bounces around in the skull. A concussion occurs when a person’s brain moves back and forth inside the skull during trauma to the head.
Mild TBIs can also cause chemical changes in the brain and damage to individual brain cells. Concussions endanger patients if blood pools on the brain called a hematoma. Hematomas can lead to death when left untreated.
Moderate TBIs stem from non-penetrating and penetrating injuries. Depending on the situation, moderate TBIs can be fatal. Those who survive the initial injury almost always face some level of long-term health issues related to permanent brain damage. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) liken the effects of a moderate TBI to those patients with chronic disease suffer.
Severe TBIs are similar to moderate TBIs, but the injury and outcomes are much worse. Those who survive face a long road and may suffer various types of body function and loss. Besides death, being in a permanent vegetative state (PVS) is among the worst outcomes for victims and their families.
Common Causes of TBIs
The CDC reports that slip and fall accidents lead to about half of all TBI-related hospitalizations. They are especially dangerous for older adults and young children. However, all age groups can sustain a TBI under certain circumstances or during certain events.
Common examples of situations that can lead to a TBI include:
- Traffic collisions, including car, truck, and motorcycle accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Pedestrian knockdowns
- Boating accidents
- Defective product accidents
- Participating in full-contact sports like football and hockey
- Participating in karate, judo, MMA, and other martial arts
- Nursing home neglect and abuse
- Intentional harm, including domestic abuse, child abuse, and assault
If negligence led to your TBI, you have the legal right to seek compensation for losses related to your injury. Insurance companies fight hard to avoid liability, especially with a TBI.
Doctors, lawyers, and insurance adjusters cannot point to a specific broken bone or wound to indicate permanent brain damage. Hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer ensures you have someone on your side. Your lawyer can consult with medical experts to prove your injury, giving you the best chance of recovering compensation for your injuries.
Inability to Focus
The average person struggles with concentration at some point in their life, typically related to their environment or stress. Research shows that TBI victims have continued difficulty with focus, cannot have long conversations, struggle to sit still, cannot easily multitask, and find it challenging to finish projects.
Teaching the brain to learn how to focus again can take years of treatment and therapy, and victims still might never return to their previous capabilities, making it crucial for TBI victims to consult with an attorney who can help them recover damages to pay for the treatment they need.
Short-term Memory Loss
TBIs often lead to short-term memory loss or gaps in memory for victims. People who suffer from a TBI have a hard time storing new information and sometimes cannot recall recent events that happened in the days leading up to their injury. Similarly, TBI victims who experience gaps in memory sometimes cope with false memories because their brain fills in the gaps with other things.
TBI victims can notice changes in their personalities. The level and type of personality change hinge on the location of the injury in the brain. Damage to the frontal lobe, temporal lobe, and hippocampus can lead to aggression, agitation, and issues with impulse control. Research shows that over 35 percent of those who suffer a TBI report increased aggression. Some research estimates this number at over 70 percent.
Sensitivity to Light
According to the International Brain Injury Association (IBIA), many TBI victims develop sensory disorders, including photosensitivity. Research is not conclusive, so it reveals a large range of TBI victims who report sensitivity to light as a continued complication.
Some reports estimate up to 50 percent of TBI victims deal with some level of light sensitivity after injury. Veterans returning from war remain one of the most common groups who cope with photosensitivity. More than three out of four US veterans who have returned from the Middle East and Central Asia, who suffered TBIs because of blasts, report light sensitivity.
Researchers have not dedicated much time or effort to studying TBI-related hearing problems. Yet, they do know that temporal lobe brain injuries typically lead to auditory struggles.
Long-term auditory challenges that some TBI victims face include:
- Difficulty hearing others, especially in conditions with background noise
- Struggles pinpointing where a sound originates
- Tinnitus, which is the medical term for ringing in the ears
- Hyperacusis, which is extreme sensitivity to noise
The minimal research on TBI-related hearing problems has revealed that close to 60 percent of TBI cases have led to Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD). The brains of those afflicted with CAPD cannot properly process noises and sounds. In other TBI cases, victims suffer because one or more of the tiny bones in their ear break.
The impact that caused the TBI can also rupture protective membranes in the ear. Like photosensitivity, auditory struggles commonly occur after a TBI caused by a blast, making military members especially vulnerable to tinnitus and other hearing struggles.
Although exact numbers are inconclusive, up to 70 percent of TBI victims experience chronic sleep problems, regardless of the severity of their injury. Even a mild concussion can lead to lifelong sleep disturbances, making it crucial for you to enlist the help of a lawyer after suffering a TBI. Sleep issues vary among patients. Some cannot sleep and suffer from insomnia. Others are consistently drowsy or fatigued.
Sleep problems that stem from a TBI can be difficult for doctors to treat because other issues might also negatively impact sleep patterns. For example, veterans and trauma victims who suffer from PTSD also struggle with sleep. Also, those who suffer from pain, depression, and anxiety face sleep disturbances that a TBI can make worse.
An experienced personal injury lawyer can help their client fight for the compensation they need for treatment, which often includes mental health services and medication to improve their sleep patterns.
Mental Health Struggles
Those who study traumatic brain injuries have dedicated ample time and resources to study the relationship between mental health and TBIs. Depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders serve as primary examples of hidden injuries that stem from concussions and other types of brain injuries.
An often-cited study on mental illness in TBI victims revealed that some TBI victims don’t see symptoms for up to six years past the date of their injury. The study also shows that close to half of those who suffer moderate to severe TBIs develop some type of psychiatric disorder in the first six months after their injury. About a third of those who suffer mild concussions also develop a psychiatric disorder.
According to the study above, TBI victims who develop psychiatric disorders most often face mood disorders like depression or anxiety. Major depressive disorder is most common, leading about 15 percent of TBI victims to attempt to take their own life within five years of their injury.
Like sleep issues, PTSD from the trauma of the event that led to the TBI can make depression worse. In the worst cases, TBI victims that struggle with their mental health cannot work or handle many daily functions.
Keeping all your medical appointments and seeking treatment related to your mental health is crucial for your well-being. However, it’s even more important after a traffic accident or other event that could have led to permanent brain damage.
Your lawyer can speak with your medical providers and review your records to establish the link between your TBI and depression, anxiety, or other mental health struggles.
Loss of Taste and Smell
About one out of four TBI victims report losing their ability to smell and taste, and some research shows a higher number. These two senses go together because someone’s sense of smell directly connects to their sense of taste.
One study leaves TBI victims hopeful because the majority of the TBI victims in the study regained their ability to smell within a year after their injury. However, others haven’t always been so lucky, having to wait almost a decade to taste and smell.
Doctors and those who study taste and smell as it relates to brain injuries report that the time it takes for someone to regain their senses after injury depends on the successful regeneration and reconnection of nerve fibers in the nose to central neurons.
The other side might downplay the loss of taste or smell as a minor injury. However, these losses lead to other long-term complications. Many TBI victims who cannot smell suffer from anxiety, even after they regain their sense of smell. Also, losing the sense of smell can lead to other life-threatening accidents or events like cooking accidents, the inability to smell a fire or gas, or eating rotten food.
Seeking Damages After Sustaining a TBI
Traumatic brain injuries can be expensive to treat, but they also come with noneconomic costs that negatively impact a person’s future. Research conducted by the CDC revealed that only 26 percent of those who suffer from a TBI see improvement after five years.
If you were diagnosed with a TBI, you have the legal right to seek compensation for damages related to your injuries. This includes economic damages, like emergency room treatment, diagnostic imaging, surgery, and doctor visits. It also includes noneconomic damages like pain and suffering and reduced quality of life.
If you’ve suffered a TBI, it’s best to contact an experienced personal injury attorney in New York as soon as possible. A lawyer can review your case, determine your eligibility for compensation, and advise you on the best course of action for your situation.