The brain is by far the most important part of the human body. While other organs like the heart are essential in keeping a person alive, the brain controls nearly everything we do. This doesn’t just include our thinking but also our voluntary and involuntary movements like walking and breathing.
Despite being such an important aspect of our body, the brain is surprisingly vulnerable. A single jolt to the head or even small, repeated bumps could lead to catastrophic injury that severely affects a person’s life forever.
Those who suffer from a traumatic brain injury at the hands of others may have some recourse if the injury was caused by negligence or reckless behavior. Find out more about traumatic brain injury and how a lawsuit could help.
Traumatic brain injury, sometimes known by the initialism TBI, is when a sudden trauma causes damage to the brain, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke1. More specifically, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention2 defines a TBI as damage to the brain from a bump, blow, or jolt that disrupts the brain’s normal function.
It is important to acknowledge that not all blows or jolts to the head result in traumatic brain injury. A TBI typically occurs from a sudden and violent jolt to the head or when an object pierces the skull and goes directly into the brain.
A TBI can be mild, moderate, or severe. This depends on the extent of the injury to the brain
Traumatic brain injury is a serious injury that affects millions of people every year. In 2013, the CDC estimates about 2.8 million emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and deaths were related to TBI.
About 50,000 deaths are attributed to TBI in the United States every year. This means each day, roughly 153 people die from injuries that include traumatic brain injury.
Males account for the vast majority of all TBI cases with 78.8 percent. Females account for the rest. The issue is especially prevalent among children. Starting at the age of 30, the risk of dying from a head injury begins increasing. At age 60 and older, the death rate from head injury is highest.
There are about 5.3 million people living with a disability caused by traumatic brain injury in the United States alone, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons3.
The causes of TBI vary widely. These are among the most common situations that result in traumatic brain injury.
The most recent data from the CDC says that falls are the leading cause of TBI in the country, accounting for 47 percent of all TBI-related cases. This type of injury disproportionately affects the young and the old. More than half of TBI cases in children under 15 are from falls while nearly 4 in 5 cases of TBI in adults over 64 are from falls.
Falls covers a lot of different situations, from slipping on an icy sidewalk to tripping over something in the living room.
Although the wording is a little odd, being struck by or against an object comes in at second most common. About 15 percent of all TBI cases were related to being struck in the head by an object like a ball or bullet. It could also count things like being struck by a fallen branch during a walk on a windy day.
Although TBI from car accidents has been dropping over the years, it remains the third highest cause of traumatic brain injury cases. It accounted for about 14 percent of TBI-related cases in the country.
Depending on the extent of the damage to the brain, symptoms can range from mild to severe. In some cases, it is not immediately evident that a traumatic brain injury even occurred. However, there are a few things to watch out for.
Mild TBI Symptoms
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke1 warns that moderate to severe cases may show some of the same symptoms of mild TBI but with additional signs.
Moderate to Severe TBI Symptoms
In some cases, the TBI is so severe that it is fatal. In nonfatal cases, the effects of TBI can be numerous and varied. There could be changes to the person’s consciousness. For example, the person could fall into a coma, vegetative state, minimally conscious state, or brain death.
The short- and long-term effects fall into four categories: cognitive function, motor function, sensation, and emotion.
Changes to cognitive skills are not uncommon in those suffering a TBI. In some cases, the person may suffer from memory problems, difficulty keeping attention, an inability to organize thoughts, and trouble following conversations. Cognitive decline may not be outwardly recognizable because there is usually no physical indicator.
A person’s motor skills may also see a decline. For example, an individual may suffer weakness in an extremity, vertigo, impaired coordination, difficulty writing, being unable to form words, and more.
The brain controls the senses, but an injury could cause impairment of sensation. This could manifest itself as difficulty hearing, double vision, blurred vision, blind spots, bitter tastes, ringing in the ears, foul smells, tingling skin, pain, impaired touch, and more.
Finally, there may also be changes to a person’s mood and behavior. This is a problem publicized by the family of many football players with TBI who exhibited anger, insomnia, depression, anxiety, mood swings, irritability, and suicidal thoughts and actions. Other behavioral changes may include impulse-control problems, social awkwardness, and risky behavior.
None of these short- or long-term effects on a person is mutually exclusive. They can all happen together and may even be caused by a TBI-related degenerative brain disease like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
So, what does the law have to do with traumatic brain injury? Potentially everything.
The ramifications of a brain injury are wide-reaching. Not only is the victim affected by a TBI but also the families who have to make sacrifices to their lives to pay for or take care of victims. The CDC estimates the economic cost of TBI in 2010 was $76.5 billion. Some of the cost falls on society and insurance companies but much of the cost falls on victims and their families.
Depending on the cause of the traumatic brain injury, the victim and their family may be able to file a lawsuit against an individual or organization.
A person may have legal standing to sue over a few reasons, but one of the most common would be negligence. A victim would have to prove that the person or organization who caused their injury failed to exercise the same level of care that any reasonable person would.
Many people who have suffered traumatic brain injuries have successfully filed lawsuits against those who caused their injury. Here are a few examples.
Car crashes are commonly at the center of lawsuits related to TBI. In one example, a real estate lawyer suffered a traumatic brain injury after the taxi he was in swerved off the road and crashed into a concrete barrier in 2005. The man and his wife were awarded nearly $26 million in damages after suing the taxi company in 20154.
In 2017, the parents of a child who suffered permanent brain damage sued the federal government after a doctor at a health clinic was found to have negligently used forceps during delivery. A judge ruled that the federal government should pay the couple $32.9 million in past and future medical expenses, $5 million for noneconomic damages, and $2.7 million in lost wages5.
There have also been cases of employees at work who suffered injuries while on the job. In one case, an employee who worked at an oil well site was shot in the air after being exposed to a piece of equipment that released a large amount of pressure. He landed on his head and suffered a severe traumatic brain injury. Even though he was found partially at fault, he and his wife were initially awarded nearly $8.5 million in damages6.
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