Traumatic Brain Injuries
A traumatic brain injury is recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a major cause of disability and death in the U.S., contributing to nearly one-third of all injury-related fatalities.
The brain injury lawyers in Fort Lauderdale at The Law Offices of Richard Ansara know survivors face profound adversities that are often life-long. These include:
- Impaired thinking
- Impaired memory
- Limitations of movement
- Impaired speech and communication
- Loss of sensation, including hearing and vision
- Impaired emotional functioning, including depression and personality changes
All of that is assuming the affected individual recovers to the point of conscious function. Some of those suffering traumatic brain injury (or TBI for short) languish for days, weeks, months or even years in a coma. Even those who recover may endure extensive therapy to regain even basic function and movement.
Medical expenses incurred through recovery are often astronomical, and the victim may be unable to return to his or her previous line of work or contribute to the household as before. In some cases, he or she may not even be able to take care of their own basic daily needs.Understanding TBI
According to the Mayo Clinic, TBI happens when some external, mechanical force causes dysfunction of the brain. In most cases, we’re talking about a violent jolt or blow to the head or body. It can also happen when the skull is penetrated by an object, such as a bullet or sharp device.
Not all injuries to the head are going to result in TBI. Even when they do occur, there are various types. According to the Brain Injury Association of America,
These are identified based on something called the Glasgow Coma Scale, which scores eye opening, verbal responses and motor responses. Someone who is in a deep coma or near death will score low on the GSC (3 is the lowest score), while someone who scores high (15 is the highest) would be fully awake.
- Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (13-15 GSC) – Involves headache, fatigue, sleep disturbance, irritability, balance problems, nausea, memory problems, anxiety or depression, sensitivity to light or noise, decreased attention and/or concentration, decrease thinking speed, emotional mood swings, sleep disorders or difficulty swallowing or chewing.
- Moderate Brain Injury (8-12 GCS) – Involves loss of consciousness varying from just a few minutes to many hours. Confusion may last days or weeks and cognitive, physical or behavioral impairments can last months or even be permanent.
- Severe Brain Injury (7 or lower GCS) – Involves prolonged state of unconsciousness or coma that can last days, weeks or months. It may also be characterized by vegetative state, minimally responsive state, Akinetic Mutism (inability to move or speak) or locked-in syndrome (one is conscious but unable to move or communicate).
The association further sheds light on the leading causes of TBI, which are:
- Falls – 40.5 percent
- Struck by/ Against – 15.5 percent
- Motor Vehicle Accidents – 14.3 percent
- Assaults – 10.7 percent
- Other – 19 percent
Many of the cases that come to us are the result of:
- Car accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Truck accidents
- Property defects
- Product defects
- Exposure to toxic substances
- Workplace accidents
- Sports injuries
- Violent acts
For some, the full extent of the brain injury is immediately apparent. For others, it may be days or even weeks or months before the total impact is realized. This is why it’s imperative in any situation where you may have suffered a blow or jolt to the head to undergo immediate medical evaluation. With appropriate treatment, medical professionals may be able to reduce some of the potential damage, particularly in cases where there is swelling or internal bleeding.Legal Help for Traumatic Brain Injuries
Most TBI cases are going to be founded in a legal principle known as “negligence.” That means proving:
- The law required defendant (alleged at-fault party) to be reasonably careful;
- Defendant did not act with reasonable care;
- Defendant’s action or inaction caused plaintiff’s injuries;
- Plaintiff sustained injuries that are compensable under the law.
There may in some cases be situations where individuals are found “vicariously liable” for the actions of another. Most commonly, this is applied to an employer’s liability for the negligence of an employee – even if the company didn’t actually do anything wrong. Another legal theory we might explore is “strict liability” as applied to defective products, which allows liability for situations or products that are inherently dangerous even when there is no proof of fault or carelessness.
While the statute of limitations in Florida for personal injury actions is four years from the date of injury, that provision may be “tolled” or the clock set back if the injury was not known until a later time. This can be the case with traumatic brain injuries, which may have latent symptoms.
It’s advisable to seek legal assistance even if you aren’t sure whether you have a claim. This will give you a jump on the case if you are eligible to pursue damages. Possible recovery may include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Lost earning capacity
- Funeral expenses
- Pain and suffering (physical)
- Emotional distress
- Loss of reputation
- Mental anguish
- Loss of consortium, society, companionship or guidance (recoverable by spouses, children or parents of victim)
Because of the wide-reaching impact a brain injury can have on one’s life and the lives of those closest to them, these cases tend to be more complex than the average injury lawsuit. Our lawyers can help.