According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year in the United States, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is the cause of death for around 30 percent of all injury deaths. Every day, 138 people are killed from injuries that include Traumatic Brain Injury. Those who do survive a TBI face effects that last anywhere from a few days to a lifetime of disability. Some of the more common symptoms of brain injuries include impaired memory, thinking, movements, vision, hearing or even changes in personality. Along with affecting the individuals themselves, TBI also leaves a lifetime impact on the families of the victim.
Vehicular Crashes & Brain Injury
Across all age groups, vehicular crashes are the third leading cause of TBI (14 percent). When looking at only TBI-related deaths, vehicular crashes are the second leading cause of death due to TBI. When focusing on persons aged 15-24, TBI was found to be the leading cause of death between the years 2006-2010.
According to the Brain Injury Association of America, TBI is an alteration in brain function or any other brain pathology, due to an external force. Falls are also a common cause of TBI. Another form of brain injury is Acquired Brain Injury (ABI). This is not a hereditary or degenerative injury, but an injury that has occurred after birth. Vehicular accidents could also fall under this category.
Often, a brain injury will not be obvious to the victim or even to medical staff after a car accident and delayed treatment could potentially lead to death. Despite popular belief, a brain injury does not have to be caused by hitting your head in an accident. Even if you are in a minor collision, you could suffer a brain injury due to the momentum from the collision making your brain hit parts of your skull. This internal impact could lead to swelling and bleeding in the brain.
Secondly, it is not necessary for a victim of brain injury to be knocked unconscious in a vehicular crash in order to suffer from a traumatic brain injury. If someone doesn’t hit his or her head during an accident, he or she may not pass out, but the injury will still be present. Some people are able to function normally even after sustaining a brain injury which can make it difficult for medical professionals to diagnose the problem. The symptoms may surface after days, or even weeks after the accident.
Common symptoms that need to be shown to a doctor include headache, nausea, drowsiness, vomiting, confusion, numbness, difficulty balancing, and memory loss, among others. After an accident, it is extremely important that victims speak to a doctor about brain injuries specifically.
Effects of a Traumatic Brain Injury
A TBI will most likely lead to a wide range of short or long-term problems such as:
- Cognitive function: This includes basic functions such as memory and attention.
- Emotion: The patient could suffer from depression, anxiety, personality changes, aggression.
- Motor function: After a TBI, the patient could suffer from impaired balance and coordination along with extreme weakness.
- Sensation: Vision, hearing, and touch may be affected by an external blunt force injury to the brain.
In 2010, around 2.5 million people sustained a traumatic brain injury and in the same year, it was estimated that the total economic cost of TBI in the United States was approximately $76.5 billion. Almost 5.3 million Americans are currently living with a TBI related disability.
Legal System & Brain Injury
Dennis R Durbin, MD, says the brain is the organ that is least able to heal, so prevention is a better option than medicine. Full recovery from serious head injury is not always possible, which implies potential life-long impact on the victims and their families. Teenage drivers are one of the biggest fatalities in accidents that lead to brain injury, so states with more stringent graduated driver licensing laws (GDL) are more effective in reducing fatalities and brain injuries among younger drivers.
In order to ensure the person who sustained a brain injury as a result of a car accident receives the correct compensation by those responsible, it is advisable to hire an attorney. It is also important to get a doctor to diagnose a TBI if that is the case, as this is invaluable evidence in an auto-accident insurance dispute for medical bills, etc. Often, insurers will say that damage to a vehicle was minor so the occupants couldn’t have been seriously harmed, but medical records will bring to light the gravity of the situation.
As a victim of a brain injury due to someone else’s negligence or criminal actions, you are eligible to compensation for not only your medical expenses, but a range of other expenses that result from such a potentially life-altering injury. A brain injury lawsuit can be either a personal injury lawsuit or one of wrongful death in case the victim passed away.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, around five million Americans suffer from some form of disability that was brought on by a traumatic brain injury, and vehicular accidents account for a majority of these injuries that often require lifelong medical care and assistance. Financial compensation that is awarded in a court of law will aim to cover the following expenses:
- Medical care throughout patient’s life
- Lost wages
- Support services for the injured person’s family
- Travel expenses for medical care
- Funeral expenses (in case of death)
Brain injuries can be life threatening and life altering. When you are a victim of a traumatic brain injury or an acquired brain injury due to an accident on the road, the repercussions are serious. Not only could this lead to death, but even after surviving such an injury, the medical care required could last a lifetime. Millions of Americans are living with brain injuries, and it’s important that victims of TBI due to negligence on the road are given the compensation and justice that they deserve.
Angela Coughlin is Customer Service Representative at Volgelzang Law, a personal injury law firm in Chicago, IL. She acts as the bridge between the attorney and the client, and communicates all the information related to the case between them.