San Francisco Traumatic Brain Injury Attorney
What is Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is defined by medical professionals as brain damage suffered as a result of a sudden physical force or impact. TBI may result from an accident, such as when the head hits an object such as a dashboard or windshield, or from severe whiplash caused by the body being thrown in a back and forth motion in an accident. Injuries caused by a direct blow or severe shaking of the head are called hyperflexion-hyperextension injuries. These injuries occur when the brain impacts the bony ridged surfaces of the skull, tearing the axons (wire-like structures) and neurons connected by the axons and causing bruising and bleeding in the brain. TBI may also result from child abuse or a violent assault, such as in infants who are shaken or when an object pierces the skull and damages brain tissue.
It is a common misconception that brain injury occurs only at the time of the accident. Brain injuries often result in gross or microscopic bleeding in the brain. As with other parts of the body, when the brain is injured this triggers a chemical response within the body. This release of chemicals, enzymes, immunoregulatory proteins and amino acids causes changes within the brain, and can result in enhanced damages to the brain over time.
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control – Statistics on TBI
According to a 2004 study of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 1.4 million people sustain a TBI each year in the United States. Of this number, 1.1 million are treated and released from the emergency room, 235,000 require hospitalization, and 50,000 will eventually die of their injury.
The most common causes of TBI per a 2005 U.S. Department of Defense Study are as follows:
- Falls (28%)
- Motor Vehicle Accidents (20%)
- Struck by an Object (19%)
- Assaults (11%)
Every 23 seconds, a person within the United States sustains a TBI.
Symptoms of TBI
Symptoms of TBI may be mild, moderate or severe depending on the extent of the injury to the brain.
Symptoms of a traumatic brain injury include can include, but are not limited to:
- Loss of consciousness; however, loss of consciousness may not occur in some concussion cases
- Dizziness, balance problems
- Slow pulse
- Vision changes (blurred vision or seeing double, not able to tolerate bright light, loss of eye movement, blindness)
- Dilated (the black center of the eye is large and does not get smaller in light) or unequal size of pupils
- Spinal fluid (thin, water-looking liquid) coming out of the ears or nose
- Respiratory failure (not breathing)
- Coma (not alert and unable to respond to others) or semi-comatose state
- Paralysis, difficulty moving body parts, weakness, poor coordination
- Slow breathing rate, with an increase in blood pressure
- Lethargy (sluggish, sleepy, gets tired easily)
- Ringing in the ears, or changes in ability to hear
- Difficulty with thinking skills (difficulty “thinking straight”, memory problems, poor judgment, poor attention span, a slowed thought processing speed)
- Inappropriate emotional responses (irritability, easily frustrated, inappropriate crying or laughing)
- Difficulty speaking, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing
- Body numbness or tingling
- Loss of bowel control or bladder control
Once brain damage has occurred, it generally cannot be reversed. A person with a suspected TBI should go to the emergency room immediately, or call 911 for medical assistance in the case of an emergency.
Medical personnel will attempt to stabilize an individual with TBI and will focus on preventing further injury. Primary concerns include insuring proper oxygen supply to the brain and the rest of the body, maintaining adequate blood flow, and controlling blood pressure.
Imaging tests help in determining the diagnosis and prognosis of a TBI patient. Patients with mild to moderate injuries may receive skull and neck X-rays to check for bone fractures or spinal instability. For moderate to severe cases, the imaging test is a computed tomography (CT) scan. Moderately to severely injured patients receive rehabilitation that involves individually tailored treatment programs in the areas of physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech/language therapy, physiatry (physical medicine), psychology/psychiatry, and social support.
Concussions are Brain Injuries
Health care professionals have been at odds for years regarding the classification of concussions. Oftentimes an accident victim who has sustained a blow to the head or severe whiplash will be given a CT scan, and if no damage is apparent, the patient is discharged from the emergency room with a diagnosis of a simple concussion. However, a CT scan or MRI may not detect brain injury.
You should not have a false sense of security if you are discharged with a diagnosis of a concussion. If you experience any of the symptoms of TBI listed above, or feel that things are not returning to normal from a cognitive standpoint, you should speak to an attorney with experience in brain injury cases to determine your legal rights and treatment options.
Prognosis for TBI Patients
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, approximately fifty percent of severely head-injured patients will need surgery to remove or repair hematomas (ruptured blood vessels) or contusions (bruised brain tissue). Disabilities resulting from a TBI depend upon the severity of the injury, the location of the injury, and the age and general health of the individual. Some common disabilities resulting from TBI include:
- Problems with cognition (thinking, memory, and reasoning)
- Difficulty with sensory processing (impaired sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell)
- Impaired communication (expression and understanding)
- Behavior or mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, personality changes, aggression, acting out, and social inappropriateness
A serious head injury is often a life-altering event. More serious head injuries may result in stupor, an unresponsive state, but one in which an individual can be aroused briefly by a strong stimulus, such as sharp pain; coma, a state in which an individual is totally unconscious, unresponsive, unaware, and unarousable; vegetative state, in which an individual is unconscious and unaware of his or her surroundings, but continues to have a sleep-wake cycle and periods of alertness; and a persistent vegetative state (PVS), in which an individual stays in a vegetative state for more than a month. According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 5.3 million Americans are currently living with some form of TBI and require some form of assistance or long-term care.
Experts Called Upon in the Diagnosis and Treatment of TBI
Numerous medical professionals are involved in the diagnosis and treatment of TBI. Among the many specialists that may be involved in the treatment of TBI or called upon by our firm as an expert witness are the following:
- Neurologist: physician specializing in the treatment of the nervous system. A neurologist will be called upon to make an initial evaluation and diagnosis, and to consult on patient treatment.
- Neuropsychologist: psychologist specializing in evaluating brain function. A neuropsychologist will perform tests of brain function to identify specific injuries and determine appropriate rehabilitation efforts.
- Physiatrist: physician specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation medicine.
- Occupational therapist: assists the patient in regaining both gross and fine motor skills and performing the six activities of daily living: bathing, dressing, transferring (moving in and out of bed or a chair), continence, toileting and feeding.
- Physical therapist: specializes in restoring motor function, strengthening muscles, improving coordination, balance, endurance and the movement of joints.
- Speech pathologist: evaluates and teaches speech, reading, writing and expression skills.
- Cognitive therapist: teaches patients how to learn. Emphasis is placed on techniques used to assist the patient to remember ideas. Cognitive therapists use computers extensively as a training tool for patients.
- Educational therapist: teaches the skills necessary for the patient to return to work or school and assists in arranging a special educational environment in which the patient may learn math, reading or writing skills.
Traumatic Brain Injury Resources
The following websites provide further information on TBI, support groups and rehabilitation:
The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control has information on brain injury statistics in the United States
Brain Injury Association of America provides education, information and support to assist victims of TBI and their families. The organization has over 40 chartered state affiliates and hundreds of local chapters and support groups across the country. Their website is http://www.biausa.org/
Brain Trauma Foundation offers information and guidelines to health care professionals on post-impact treatment of brain injuries. The organization is dedicated to improving TBI care in the acute phase after injury. Their website is http://www.braintrauma.org/
National Rehabilitation Information Center provides information and support regarding disabilities and rehabilitation. Their website is http://www.naric.com/
National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) provides support and leadership for a comprehensive program of research related to the rehabilitation of individuals with disabilities. Their website is http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osers/nidrr/index.html
Cases involving Traumatic Brain Injury are complex and require an attorney who has a thorough understanding of the symptoms, prognosis and treatment of TBI and is experienced in successfully handling cases involving TBI. You need an attorney with the right combination of legal experience and medical knowledge to advise you about your legal rights and treatment alternatives to ensure that your rights are properly protected.
Traumatic brain injury cases are extremely time sensitive; it is imperative that measures be taken to ensure your proper diagnosis and treatment, preserve evidence, prove the nature and extent of your injuries, and enable experts to establish the cause of your injuries.
If you or a loved one has sustained a traumatic brain injury as a result of an accident or assault, call the Law Offices of William E. Weiss at 1-888-622-7274 today.
Don’t delay-you may have a valid claim and may be entitled to compensation for injuries, but a lawsuit must be filed before the applicable statute of limitations expires.