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What Should I Do After a Traumatic Brain Injury?

Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran

A Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is damage caused to your brain by some form of sudden blow to the head. Many people think that a TBI occurs only after a serious incident such as a car crash or severe assault. But the truth is that a TBI can happen even with a slight fall.

A TBI can range from mild concussion to some form of permanent brain damage. When such an injury occurs, family members’ initial concerns will revolve around the patient receiving the best neurological care and assessing potential outcomes after primary treatment. But later, there will be questions as to liability for the incident, especially as the cost of specialist medical care mounts up.

What Is TBI? A Traumatic Brain Injury Definition

A TBI can be caused by a range of different types of blows to the head. It could be inflicted by blunt force trauma or by some form of penetrating trauma. Primary injury is the damage that happens at the initial point of impact. After that initial trauma, the brain swells, pressing against the skull, and this can reduce the blood flow to the brain and also increases pressure on the brain itself.

Blood pressure on the brain can cause further damage unless dealt with quickly. Blood clots may also form or there may be burst blood vessels. This is known as secondary injury and can often inflict more damage than the initial trauma.

There are three initial classifications of a TBI:

  • Mild: The patient is conscious but may be confused and disoriented.
  • Moderate: The patient may be lethargic. There is a loss of consciousness that may last anywhere from 15-20 minutes to 6 hours. There is likely some swelling or bleeding of the brain. The patient will still respond to stimulation.
  • Severe: The patient is unconscious. Eyes do not respond to stimulation. Unconsciousness lasts more than six hours.

The attending doctor or neurologist will classify the patient according to the Glasgow Coma Scale, and this classification may change during initial treatment. There will be a number of tests carried out to assess what damage the brain has suffered and these may include a CT scan (computerized tomography) and a magnetic resonance imaging MRI

These scans allow the attending physicians to gauge the extent of the head injuries and whether there is any intracranial pressure caused by subdural hemorrhages. An acute subdural hematoma (ASDH) is a severe medical emergency with a high mortality rate.

Severity of a TBI can depend on a number of factors, including age. For example, a closed head injury is a form of TBI where the skull and dura (a sort of skin that protects the brain) remain intact.

These types of injuries are the leading cause of death in children under the age of four and the commonest cause of cognitive impairment and physical disabilities in young people. The elderly are also a high risk group when it comes to TBIs.

In some cases, a TBI may not manifest until hours, days, or even weeks after the initial incident. Some signs that you may have suffered a TBI include:

  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Constantly feeling tired
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings or feeling irritable
  • Dizziness or problems with balance
  • Insomnia
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Experiencing bad smells or tastes
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Increased sensitivity to light or sounds

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms following a blow to the head, then you should immediately seek medical attention.

Justice & Compensation with a Traumatic Brain Injury

Of course, in the immediate aftermath of a loved one experiencing a TBI, our focus is on their medical care and ensuring they have the best care available. But later, we want to consider whether there is liability for the TBI and whether we can seek compensation.

Specialist medical care can be expensive, especially if there is some form of impairment as a result and ongoing medical care is needed. There may be a need for a full-time carer, or even long-term residential care. And of course, in the worst case scenario, your loved one may not survive their injuries.

Litigation in the aftermath of a TBI is very common, unsurprising given there is in excess of 50 million TBIs suffered globally each year. In many cases, the lawsuits may never reach court as a competent attorney reaches a settlement with the insurance companies.

TBIs can differ from other traumatic injuries in that multiple levels of care may be required. Medical care may be short-term, long-term, or even for the rest of the patient’s life. It can involve physical and psychological therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy, depending on the severity of the TBI and the after effects of the injury.

Even with a mild TBI, there will be some financial stress. There will be medical bills, loss of earnings and possible therapy costs. And the pain and suffering you have undergone also has to be taken into account.

Signs of Traumatic Brain Injury in a Car Accident: The Essentials

Car accidents account for more than half of all TBIs each year. A TBI can be caused by a number of factors in a car accident. The trauma may be caused by your head hitting an object such as the dashboard or windshield.

But trauma can also be caused just by the force of stopping. Even when your head stops any type of movement, the brain continues moving and hits the inside of your skull. This impact can be enough to cause a severe TBI.

As with any other form of TBI, in some cases the injury may not fully manifest for a significant time after the actual accident, but you should still seek medical attention.

With a TBI caused by a car accident, there are several legal aspects as far as liability is concerned.

Michigan is a no-fault state when it comes to auto accidents. This means that under Michigan law, all drivers should carry no-fault insurance and that, regardless of whose fault the accident, your insurance company will automatically pay for expenses such as medical bills and lost earnings.

Part of this special insurance includes Michigan’s Catastrophic Claims Association fee which provides unlimited medical coverage.

The second factor to consider is crashworthiness which refers to the ability of a vehicle to offer protection to people during a crash. In Michigan, the approach the courts have taken to including any manufacturer’s liability when considering damages is to only consider any extra injuries, or more severe injuries incurred as a result of any defect.

What this means is that the onus is on the plaintiff to prove that any defect caused more severe injuries to be received or that the defect was solely responsible for any injuries.

TBI Treatment Begins with Diagnosis

Despite many medical advances, the actual diagnostic process for TBIs has changed little in three decades. One of the main reasons for this is that patients presenting with TBI can exhibit extremely diverse symptoms or even none at all. This has meant that there is no standardized set of evidence-based guidelines for initial diagnosis and treatment. Physicians deal with TBIs on a case by case basis where symptoms or possible brain damage is evident.

Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms May Not Be Obvious

Even with a severe TBI, symptoms may not show themselves until hours, days, or even weeks after the initial blow to the head. Many people suffer devastating effects from a TBI as they ignore what they see as mild symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, or nausea and vomiting.

The best advice that can be given is that you suffer a blow to the head, then you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. Even what may appear to be mild symptoms could be indicative of a moderate to severe TBI.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke is the main body in the U.S, conducting research into TBIs and other conditions. With a budget of over $1.5 billion annually, they are the best resource for all information about TBIs.

TBI Rehabilitation May Be Lengthy

The amount of rehabilitation needed after a TBI depends very much on the severity. It can also depend on which part of the brain has been damaged and whether any cognitive impairment has been suffered.

In extreme cases, rehabilitation may be life long and the patient may never return to their former self. Rehabilitation could also include several different disciplines such as speech and occupational therapists.

In cases of moderate to severe TBIs, around 30% of patients need some form of assistance in their daily lives two years after the injury. In that same group, some 25% are suffering from major depression which can usually be attributed to the TBI and its after effects.

Around 50% will be driving again though there may be changes in driving patterns and regularity. But only around 30% will have restarted some form of work. Vocational rehabilitation can be another crucial part of the long term rehabilitation process.

How a Brain Injury Law Firm Can Help

If someone else is liable for the TBI you have suffered, then Michigan’s statute of limitations on personal injury cases says “”the period of limitations is three years after the time of the death or injury for all actions to recover damages for the death of a person, or for injury to a person or property.” This means that you have three years from the date the accident occurred to file any claim.

Our law firm has extensive experience in this area and can examine all aspects of your case. These lawsuits can be extremely complicated and our attorneys can identify what parts of Michigan and federal law applies in your case.

Let Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyers Help

The team at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. has many years experience in dealing with personal injury cases, including those involving TBIs. As most cases involving TBIs are based on the legal concept of negligence, identifying and collecting the necessary evidence to prove negligence in court can be difficult at times. With a team who has a proven track record in this area, your chances of success improve considerably.

We Don’t Get Paid Until We Resolve Your Case

With all the worries about the costs of ongoing medical care and the likely need for specialized care at some stage, the last thing you need to worry about is legal costs. That’s why Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. operates on a contingency fee basis. We only get paid when we win your case, so there are no upfront fees for you to pay.

Final Word

TBIs have the potential to be extremely serious, even fatal. When a TBI is severe, there could be serious effects such as cognitive impairment or other disabilities. Our first thoughts are always going to be with the well-being and hopeful recovery of the patient.

But eventually, our thoughts must turn to who holds liability for the accident, especially when rehabilitation may be very long-term and when there may be ongoing needs for medical care.

This is the point where you will need the input of a firm of attorneys with experience in this area of personal injury lawsuits. In this area of law, Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. has a unique advantage.

One of our senior partners is Eileen E. Kroll who is not only an experienced attorney but also a qualified registered nurse. This enables her to interpret your medical records with a professional eye and also to communicate with any medical professionals involved in current or future care.

We offer a free initial appointment to evaluate your case so why not call us now toll-free 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.

Steve is a former criminal justice worker. With degrees in psychology and social work, he spent most of his life helping those with addiction issues before switching to criminal justice. He was responsible for writing court reports and advising judges on sentencing. He also supervised offenders, including sex offenders, in the community and carried out risk assessments and probation appraisals. He now lives in SE Asia and is working on his 5th novel.



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