An accident can easily result in a number of catastrophic injuries, from whiplash to broken bones all the way to injuries to the spinal cord, neck, and back. Depending on the severity of the accident, many of these are injuries that can be healed with time, therapy, and excellent medical care. Traumatic brain injuries, however, are often devastating and, in many cases, irreversible.
A traumatic brain injury, or TBI as it’s often called in the medical profession, is a severe injury to the head that results in serious damage to the brain. In the luckiest of cases, a TBI may merely inconvenience the victim and clear up after a few days of rest. In the worst cases though, TBIs can leave their victims a different person with seriously reduced cognitive functions or even cause them to be in a permanent vegetative state.
The Facts About TBIs
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that nearly 1.7 million people die each year from the complications of a traumatic brain injury. Of these individuals, 52,000 die from their injuries and another 275,000 are hospitalized. The remaining 80%, roughly 1.3 million people, are treated and released from medical care. This is caused partly by extensive advancements in medical technology and partly because 75% of these TBIs are concussions or similarly mild brain injuries. What’s truly overwhelming is the fact that traumatic brain injuries count for one-third of all injury related deaths in the United States.
Additionally, there are three main age groups that are most at risk when it comes to TBIs:
- Children, but especially those aged 0-4 years
- Young adults, particularly those between the ages of 15 to 19
- Adults, ages 75+
Types of Traumatic Brain Injuries
TBIs can be classified into one of two groups: open or closed. An open TBI occurs when the skull is penetrated or fracture in some way. It’s usually caused when the head comes into direct contact with another object or surface and is commonly seen in falls, blunt force trauma, or violent attacks. Many times, the object that has broken the skull continues into the brain or breaks apart, causing tiny pieces of debris, or shrapnel in the case of a bullet, to become imbedded in the brain tissue.
A closed TBI, believe it or not, can actually be more serious than an open TBI. Because the injury is closed, the skull conducts the force of the impact, spreading it over a wide area of the brain. When the head withstands an impact but the skull remains intact, there is a greater risk for swelling and bleeding on the brain to occur. These symptoms can often result in blood clots, coma, and death. A closed TBI may be the result of a hard nock to the head as is seen when a person’s head strikes the dashboard or windshield in a car accident.
Causation of TBIs
The root cause of a TBI is usually some kind of blunt or sudden force. In some cases, the injury occurs because the head was hit so hard and so fast that it caused the the brain to bounce off the inside of the skull. This is often the case when individuals suffer extreme cases of whiplash. A TBI can also be caused by damage to brain cells or a rotational force causing the structure of the brain to tear and can be further exacerbated by the swelling that occurs as a result.
A number of events can lead to traumatic brain injuries, including:
- Slips and falls
- Sports collisions
- Car accidents
- Accidents caused by faulty machinery
- Construction accidents
- Violent assaults (shooting, beating, etc.)
- Motorcycle accidents
- Domestic violence
- Truck accidents
- Injuries sustained in battle/war
Warning Signs and Symptoms
It is possible to sustain a traumatic brain injury without being aware of it, especially if is one that is mild. Symptoms and signs of a TBI may manifest immediately or may take weeks before they become apparent to the victim, their loved ones, or even doctors.
If you’ve suffered a mild TBI, you may experience:
- Temporary loss of consciousness
- Dizziness, confusion, or disorientation
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping more than normal
- Light/sound sensitivity
- Sensory problems (altered taste, smell, hearing, vision)
- Mood swings
If the TBI that was sustained is on the moderate to severe side, signs and symptoms may include:
- Prolonged loss of consciousness
- Headaches that don’t go away or get consistently worse over time
- Persistent vomiting and nausea
- Pupil dilation (one or both eyes)
- Clear fluids flowing from the nose and/or ears
- Inability to wake up after sleeping
- Tingling or numb feeling in fingers and toes
- Lack of coordination
- Unusually combative or aggressive behavior
- Extreme state of confusion
- Slurred speech
If severe enough, a traumatic brain injury can result in serious, life-changing complications. These usually affect the individuals level and state of consciousness and, in some cases, may be irreversible or fatal. States of altered consciousness can include:
- Coma: Caused by widespread brain damage, a coma can leave a person unconscious and unable to respond to anything around them. A person may wake up from a coma, or they may enter a vegetative state.
- Vegetative State: A person in the state is often unaware of what’s going on around them but may be able to open their eyes, move, or even make sounds. A vegetative state can be permanent but some individuals progress to a minimally conscious state.
- Minimally Conscious State: This condition is marked by severely altered consciousness that comes with some level of awareness of one’s surroundings. In many cases, individuals in this state are transitioning out of a coma and may make a complete recovery.
- Locked-in syndrome: Typically caused by a stroke in the brain, this state leaves its victims aware of their surroundings but unable to move or talk. Individuals in this state can often communicate by blinking.
- Brain Death: This state is defined when doctors are unable to measure any more brain activity at all. Those in this state are usually on life support and, if their loved ones elect to turn off the machines, death is imminent.
Traumatic Brain Injury Attorneys
Not only can a traumatic brain injury change the life of the victim, it can affect the lives of the entire family as well. On top of the devastation of the injury itself, family members may have to worry about medical bills, endure an extended hospital stay, and deal with having to make some very difficult decisions on behalf of the victim.
The attorneys at Hagelgans & Veronis know how difficult this situation is for a family. We’ve handled numerous traumatic brain injury cases throughout the years. We’ll work hard to help you put together a legal claim that seeks compensation from the individual or party responsible for your loved one’s injury. Don’t hesitate to call. Your confidential consultation is free and you won’t be charged unless we win your case. Contact us to set up an appointment, at 1-877-454-8529.