What Should I Do After a Traumatic Brain Injury?
Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) can range from relatively minor to devastatingly life-changing. They can be confusing and hard to understand or deal with, both for the sufferer and for their family and loved ones. Having some idea of what you are facing, and knowing that associated worries such as finances will be dealt with, can go a long way to providing assurances to all concerned.
If you or a loved one have experienced a TBI, then you want the very best in medical care. But where there is lasting damage to the brain or other long-term effects, you also want to know that you can receive the best legal advice and representation to reduce stress and worry on you and family members.
What Exactly is a Traumatic Brain Injury?
The basic definition from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) of a TBI is: “…as a disruption in the normal function of the brain that can be caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head…”
A TBI happens when your brain experiences some form of trauma. Despite what many people think, this injury does not have to occur in a major incident such as a car accident. Even a simple fall to the ground can lead to potentially life-threatening head injuries and is called blunt force trauma.
The other type of injury that can lead to a TBI is called penetrating trauma. This is when the dura ( skin that covers the brain) is pierced. This could be due to a projectile such as a bullet, a sharp weapon such as a knife, or even as a result of initially blunt force trauma causing bone fragments to pierce the dura.
In the aftermath of any initial trauma, your brain will swell, reducing the blood flow to the brain and leading to intracranial pressure. If the emergency room or other health care setting do not deal with this pressure swiftly and competently, then other problems such as blood clots or burst blood vessels may follow and these secondary injuries may in some cases cause more damage than the initial injury.
Doctors will initially classify any TBI as one of three types:
- Mild. With this type, the patient will usually still be conscious but may appear confused.
- Moderate. With this level of TBI, there will be a loss of consciousness that can last anywhere from 15 minutes to 6 or 7 hours. The patient will be lethargic and there will probably be some swelling and/or bleeding of the brain. The patient should still respond to any stimuli.
- Severe. This is the most serious level of TBI and the patient will be unconscious – and will remain so for more than 6 hours – and will also not respond to stimuli.
What the Doctors Will Do
At an early stage of treatment, a doctor or neurosurgeon will give the patient a rating according to the Glasgow Scale. This is used to give a rating based on the consciousness level of the patient and is based on three factors; eye opening, verbal response, and motor response. This classification may change as treatment progresses.
To gauge what damage the brain has suffered and its severity, the consultant will order a number of tests. These may include computerized tomography (CT scan) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). These tests enable the medical staff to see the extent of any damage caused by the head trauma and to better identify if any injury is a moderate to severe TBI. It can also help identify critical situations such as an acute subdural hematoma which needs immediate surgery as it has a high mortality rate.
One of the factors that can exacerbate the severity of a TBI. Closed head TBIs (where the skull and dura both remain intact) are one of the leading causes of death in children aged under 4. They are also the most common cause of physical disabilities or cognitive impairment in young people. Elderly people are also at very high risk from TBIs.
The effects of a TBI may not appear from hours to weeks after the initial trauma. Even if you feel no ill effects at first, always consult a healthcare professional even after the slightest of bumps. This could be from a small blow to the head from a fall or in a minor motor vehicle accident. Some patients will also experience high blood pressure after receiving a TBI and this may be an indicator of other issues.
If you have received a blow to the head, even if you initially sought medical assistance, then later experience any of these symptoms, consult a doctor immediately.
- Any loss of memory, no matter how minor
- Feelings of confusion or disorientation
- A constant feeling of tiredness
- Mood swings and irritability
- Insomnia or other sleep problems
- Vomiting or feeling nauseous
- Balance problems
- Anxious feelings or depression
- Imagining bad tastes or smells
- Feeling sensitive to light or sounds
Ignoring any of these symptoms after receiving a blow to your head could have drastic repercussions. Even mild versions of these symptoms could mean you have suffered a TBI that could lead to more issues. While we realize many people are reluctant to see a doctor for what appears to be a minor ailment or condition, the very way head and brain injuries can develop means it is imperative that medical help and advice is sought.
Over $1.5 billion is invested into research and support every year with the The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke who are the best resource for anything to do with TBIs.
Your Recovery May Be Slow
One thing you have to understand about a TBI is that the recovery time may be from a few weeks to many years, and in a lot of cases, there will never be a full recovery. The first 6 months after a TBI is the period where you will see the fastest improvement.
Neurology is one of the fastest developing areas of medical science and much of the work and progress has been made only in the last 30 years.
In many cases, the effects of a severe TBI may exist for the rest of the patient’s life. This can mean that drastic changes have to be made to lifestyles, to working patterns (if able to work), and even to the place where you live.
With moderate to severe TBIs, 30% of sufferers still need some level of care and assistance 2 years after the injury. And, understandably, doctors find that up to 25% of patients develop severe depression due to their TBI and its aftereffects.
What is Your Lawyer’s Role?
Even in circumstances where there is no liable party – for example, if the patient simply fell down some steps due to their own carelessness – Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. can help ensure you receive any benefits such as worker’s compensation, social security disability (SSD), or supplemental security income (SSI) that you may be entitled to and that any settlement is at the level required.
Many cases involving a TBI include the concept of negligence. Thoroughly investigating a case, identifying liable parties, and gathering evidence to prove liability requires extensive experience, qualified staff, and precise knowledge of applicable laws and regulations.
According to Michigan’s statute of limitations, you have 3 years from the date the injury – or death – occurred to start a claim. Our team can keep you informed of all applicable dates and when legal documentation and other paperwork needs to be submitted. We also work on a contingency fee basis. This means that you pay nothing upfront nor during the case. You only pay us when we win your case.
If your TBI occured in a car accident, then Michigan’s no-fault law applies. This means that, other than in cases where liability can be proven to be more than 50% by another party, that your insurance company will automatically pay out in your case. However, as with any insurance claim, initial offers of settlement may be lower than you expect or are entitled to. This is another area where Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. can fight your case and negotiate with the insurance company.
What Costs Can I Expect?
As with any personal injury case, there are several areas of expense we would be looking at claiming to ensure you are not out of pocket. But where a TBI has long-term or lifelong effects, then there are additional projected costs that we would include in the claim. Some of the expenses and costs we would be looking for includes:
- Medical bills. These will include expenses incurred by initial treatment and hospital stays, all required medication, and also – in cases where long-term treatment is needed – projected costs of that treatment.
- Rehabilitation. This area will cover rehabilitation – including vocational rehabilitation if needed – and working with a physical therapist both short- and long-term.
- Care. In cases where the TBI has resulted in the patient being unable to care for themselves, we examine potential care costs, whether as a residential patient or at home.
- Adaptations. If your TBI requires changes to your home – for example, special medical equipment or mobility aids such as a stairlift- then we would include these costs too. There may also be a need for adaptations to your vehicle in order for you to be able to use it.
- Pain and suffering. Depending on the nature of your claim, we consider the pain and suffering aspect of your case and whether we can make a claim based on that.
- Punitive damages. Michigan law does not recognize the concept of punitive damages. However, Michigan does have what is known as “exemplary damages.” This is an extremely complex area of case law and has to fulfill certain conditions to be pursued. Your lawyer can advise you if these damages are applicable in your case.
Some Final Thoughts
The effects of a TBI can range from a mild concussion that will go away after a few days to a severe injury that causes a vegetative state, loss of cognitive abilities, or even death. The uncertainty of how a TBI will develop – or improve – is something that can cause stress and worry for the patient and their family.
As a law firm that specializes in personal injury cases, Cochran Kroll & Associates, P.C. have worked on numerous TBI cases. Our experience and knowledge of the often complicated legal path these cases often involve will stand you in good stead.
And with Eileen E. Kroll, one of our senior partners and an experienced nurse attorney, you have someone working on your case who understands the intricacies of medical jargon and who can communicate with any medical professionals involved in your case and treatment. We offer a free initial consultation to evaluate and discuss your case. If you would like to schedule an appointment, please call us today at 866-MICH-LAW.
Disclaimer : The information provided is general and not for legal advice. The blogs are not intended to provide legal counsel and no attorney-client relationship is created nor intended.