Each year, 1.5 million people in the United States suffer a head injury. Of these, 230,000 are hospitalized and 50,000 die while close to 90,000 have long-term disabilities. More than 50 percent of all head injuries are the result of motor vehicle accidents. At any given time, 5.3 million people in the country are living with disabilities caused by traumatic brain injury.
Medical Costs Associated with Brain Injuries
The medical cost of a TBI is dependant on the severity of the injury, ranging from $3,977 to close to $500,000. The overall cost is much higher since many individuals are unable to return to work. In fact, after two years, roughly 60 percent of those with a TBI remain unemployed, bringing the total cost of a TBI to anywhere from $85,000 to $3 million.
What Is Traumatic Brain Injury?
Traumatic brain injury involves a blow or jolt to the head. The extent of injury ranges from a mild concussion to more severe forms of TBI. Treatment for mild head injury usually involves rest, and healing can take up to six months. More severe forms of TBI can be life-threatening and require long-term hospitalization and surgical intervention. After a brain injury, individuals and their families may notice changes in their emotional and psychological state as well as their mental and physical capacity. Rehabilitative measures are needed in moderate and severe TBIs to relearn skills and recover.
Types of Brain Trauma
There are two types of brain trauma: closed and open. In an open head injury, there is penetration past the skull by an object. This usually happens in an assault but can occur in a car accident when a sharp object strikes and penetrates the scalp. Closed head trauma in a car accident occurs when the head strikes an object without penetration. In this case, the brain moves rapidly in a forward/backward or side-to-side direction, hitting the hard interior surface of the skull. The impact causes brain tissue/blood vessel damage.
Classification Of Brain Injuries
Generally, head injuries are classified according to several parameters, including the severity of the injury, its cause and the toll it takes on function. This ranges from:
- Mild brain injury: In this type of injury, the individual is awake, and their eyes are open. Some immediate symptoms are disorientation, confusion, headache, memory loss and possibly a brief loss of consciousness.
- Moderate brain injury: The person appears slow or lethargic, however, their eyes do open with stimulation. They may lose consciousness for 20 minutes to a maximum of six hours. Sleepiness may be caused by brain swelling, but with stimulation, it is possible to wake them.
- Severe Brain Injury: The individual is unconscious and even with stimulation will not awaken. This loss of consciousness lasts more than six hours.
Diagnosing Head Injury
After stabilizing the TBI patient, doctors note external signs of head injury, evaluate the level of consciousness and cranial nerve function. The latter is done by examining the pupillary response to light as well as looking at facial symmetry, among other criteria. Next, motor and sensory function are evaluated, using deep tendon reflexes and pinprick responsiveness. The patient’s breathing rate is also examined to evaluate brainstem function.
X-rays have limited usefulness in TBIs; however, can help diagnose a skull fracture. CT scans are able to provide additional information about a skull fracture as well as bleeding on or into the brain. MRIs are more useful later on and are helpful in evaluating brain tissue damage.
Glascow Coma Score
Doctors use the Glasgow Coma Score to evaluate the patient’s level of consciousness. For instance, a score of 15 reflects a patient who is fully conscious to three, indicating a deep coma. A score of nine shows that the patient is no longer comatose but is not fully alert.
Types of Traumatic Brain Injury
- Bruising of the brain: Referred to as a contusion of the brain, this injury can be seen under the point of impact, where it is referred to as a coup injury. In another type of injury, called a contrecoup contusion of the brain, the brain slams into the skull at a point opposite the side of impact.
- Concussion: This can range from mild to severe and may be accompanied by a short period of unconsciousness. Treatment is usually focused on rest. Some symptoms such as persistent headache and mild confusion may persist for several months to a year but are not permanent.
- Traumatic subarachnoid hemorrhage: This involves bleeding into a space that is beneath the arachnoid cover of the brain. This space is normally filled with cerebrospinal fluid that cushions the brain from injury. The blood comes from small arteries that are torn in the injury. The accumulation of blood causes significant symptoms. It is usually surgically drained to relieve pressure on the brain.
- Diffuse axonal injury: A rapid back and forward movement of the brain within the skull causes this injury. The injury tears and stretches the long nerve fibers or axons. Since the axons transmit information from one nerve cell to another, brain function is damaged and consciousness dampened.
- Hematoma: This is caused by a leakage of blood when vessels are damaged in the head injury. The blood accumulates and forms a clot. Some clots form between the skull and the dura mater, which is another tissue lining the brain. This is called an epidural hematoma. Some clots formed within the brain are called intracerebral hematomas. Still others form below the dura and are called subdural hematomas. All put pressure on the brain tissue and must be removed. Some small hematomas will resolve on their own. In older people, subdural hematomas may take up to a month to form due to a slow leakage of blood. While many others develop rapidly and must be quickly removed.
Inflammation in Brain Injury
The body surrounds typically an area of injury with fluid and nutrients to wall if off and help it heal. However, in the brain, the excess fluid can pose a significant problem. This is called secondary brain injury. It can take five days for this to occur. Medical intervention is necessary to relieve the pressure.
Symptoms of a Traumatic Brain Injury
Some symptoms commonly found with a traumatic brain injury are:
- Problems with vision
- Balance difficulties
- Memory loss
- Concentration difficulties
- Short attention span
- Depressed affect
- Emotional outbursts
- Loss of consciousness
Length of Time for Recovery for Mild Head Injury
The time it takes for an individual to recover differs according to the intensity of the injury. It also varies from one person to another dependant on age and the health of the person prior to the accident. For mild brain injuries such as a concussion, many people heal with rest. However, at least 15 percent do not escape the challenge of continuing problems associated with the head injury.
For instance, cognitive difficulties such as a short attention span or difficulty thinking may continue. Often these symptoms are not severe enough to warrant treatment, or even if they are, treatment is not offered. For the individual though, this may be problematic and interfere with work. Emotional and psychological issues can affect the person’s social network and family.
This is made all the worse because medical caregivers often tell them that they will be fine as time goes by, and emotional or psychological changes are rarely thought to be associated with the head injury. It is important for those with mild head injury to be alert for big or small changes in their functional ability, and seek professional help in dealing with them.
Recovering From Severe Head Injury
Recovery for more severe injuries may take months or years. In some individuals, recovery may not happen at all. This is a stepwise process where one stage may overlap another. Immediately after the accident, progress is measured by the Rancho Los Amigos Scoring System, which grades recovery and scores patients. This extends from level one (total comatose state) to level eight where the individual may once again function appropriately, although some cognitive and emotional problems might continue. Some patients may remain at levels one through three with no further improvement.
Financial Issues in Traumatic Brain Injury
The cost of medical care and lost wages due to a TBI also vary, depending on the intensity of the injury. It is clear that for someone with a mild injury, medical care may be brief and time lost at work less extensive than for another who suffered more severe forms of head injury. Also, with severe injuries, the individual may require continuing care and need to remain at a convalescent center.
Compensation in all recovery types must be tailored to provide the individual with the funds needed to avoid debt due to another’s negligence. The assistance of an experienced brain injury lawyer is necessary since all financial damages must be incorporated into the final settlement or verdict. Once a settlement is accepted, no further payment will be made whether or not the individual requires continuing care.
Negligence in a Head Injury Due to a Motor Vehicle Accident
Every motorist must drive in a way that is both prudent and mindful of other drivers on the road. If this duty is broken and because of that someone is injured, the person who abandoned their duty is at fault. If the injury has financial consequences for the victim and the damage is directly related to the crash, the injured party has the right to ask for compensation. In such cases, a seasoned brain injury attorney will negotiate with the negligent party’s insurance company, or take the case to court to ensure appropriate compensation is provided.
Defective Automotive Parts or Vehicles
In cases that involve defective vehicles or auto parts, the attorney will look at the crashworthiness of the motor vehicle. In California, in order to prove liability, a plaintiff must show that the part or the vehicle was defective and that it was being used in a way for which it was intended. However, it is not necessary to prove negligence. This is an important point since proving negligence is often a time-consuming and complicated process.
Free Case Review with a Los Angeles Brain Injury Lawyer
The law firm of David Azizi has one mission – to protect their clients. David is well aware of his duty to make sure that clients receive the necessary compensation to make themselves whole again. Whether it is returning to work after therapy or finding a different way of life, it takes monetary recovery to do it. David will use his experience and proficiency in getting the job done to accomplish just that. It is small wonder that he has a 98-percent success rate and is named one of the top personal injury lawyers in Los Angeles by Superlawyers.com.
Reach out to him immediately if you or a family member has suffered a head injury. Call (800) 991-5292 to set up a free consultation. David will answer your questions and give you an estimate of what your case is worth.