Brain Injury Overview
By FindLaw Staff | Legally reviewed by Hal Armstrong, Esq | Last reviewed December 22, 2021
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Every year in America, there are hundreds of thousands of traumatic brain injury-related deaths, hospitalizations, and emergency department visits. You don't have to be traveling at a high rate of speed or strike a hard object in order to suffer a TBI. Serious brain injuries can result from all kinds of falls, car accidents, sports activities, and work-related accidents. Any kind of trauma to the head or neck region can cause the brain to bruise, bleed, tear, or swell.
Types of Brain Injuries: Open and Closed
There are two general types of head injuries: open and closed. An open injury means the skull has been fractured. This kind of brain injury usually results from falls or other accidents in which the head comes in direct contact with a hard surface or object. A closed head injury doesn't involve a fracture, but can be more serious than an open injury due to the possibility of brain swelling and the formation of dangerous blood clots inside the brain. Regardless of whether a brain injury is open or closed, the most serious of either type can cause paralysis, loss of consciousness, and even death.
Serious Brain Injury: Warning Signs
Soon after an accident or injury, it may be difficult to know whether you or a loved one has suffered a brain injury, especially when no visual indications of serious injury exist. Here are some things to look out for when evaluating an accident victim's potential for brain injuries:
- Confusion and difficulty remembering recent events
- Unusual tiredness or sluggishness
- Vomiting, nausea, or dizziness
- Severe headache
- Weakness or numbness on one side of the body
If any of the above symptoms are present soon after an accident or injury, you should seek immediate medical attention. It's possible to suffer from a brain injury and still feel fine for some time after the accident that caused the injury.
Some victims have suffered serious brain injuries in an automobile accident, yet have been able to get out of their car and direct traffic away from the scene. Therefore, if there is any question at all as to whether a brain injury could have occurred in an accident, it's critical to go to the nearest hospital for a thorough medical evaluation.
Common Brain Injuries
Bruising of the brain is a common injury that results from automobile accidents, falls, and sport-related accidents. The force involved in such events can force the brain forward and then backward, or vice versa. The force can cause bruising in some areas of the brain and bleeding in others.
Another common effect of trauma to the brain is called tearing, which can be caused by the force of a collision. Tearing is similar to what would happen to a large block of ice if it was to be struck with a hammer; small cracks might form, but the block would probably remain intact. With tearing in the brain, the nerve system of the brain is usually damaged and, depending on the areas in which this occurs, can cause serious impairment of bodily functions.
When the brain suffers the type of trauma described above, swelling usually occurs. The body's natural healing processes causes swelling, but the problem with swelling of the brain is that there is little room in which the brain can expand. What results is called intra-cranial pressure, which can cause severe impairment of body functions or even death.
Serious Brain Injuries: Medical Evaluation
TBI victims may need financial assistance in treating the injury and in continuing with their lives, especially after a serious accident. For example, a medical evaluation of the degree of an individual's impairment can have a huge impact on the level of compensation the individual will receive. Medical evaluation will also have an impact on findings such as:
- The injured person's ability to work
- The right to receive different kinds of economic compensation
- Eligibility for protection against discrimination
- Whether independent living is possible
- What type of physical therapy might improve the individual's health
Such an evaluation should include the significant changes an individual will undergo as they progress through acute hospitalization, then return to the home and community. An individual will likely experience the best possible outcome with rehabilitation that offers an interdisciplinary approach and coordinated care.
Pursuing a Legal Claim for Brain Injuries
There can be many legitimate reasons to take legal action after an accident. Should you decide to pursue a legal claim, your attorney may proceed under two distinct legal theories in order to prove that you were injured because of someone else's carelessness: negligence and/or product liability.
Under a "negligence" theory of liability, your attorney will seek to prove that someone owed you a legal duty of reasonable care, failed to fulfill that duty, and that failure caused you to suffer injury. A negligence theory of liability is used most often when someone's action or inaction was the main cause of the injury, as opposed to a product or piece of equipment. If a product caused the injury, you may wish to purse a claim under a product liability legal theory.
If you or a loved one has suffered a brain injury as a result of an accident, and you believe that someone else may be at fault for what happened, you may be entitled to legal compensation for the harm. Consulting an experienced personal injury attorney is the best way to protect your legal rights.
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Contact a qualified auto accident attorney to make sure your rights are protected.