Understanding Traumatic Brain Injury Lawsuits

What is Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a disruption in normal brain function caused by a blow, jolt, or bump to the head or body, or by an object penetrating the skull. It is important to note that not all impacts on the head lead to a TBI.

TBI can significantly diminish a person’s quality of life by affecting cognitive, behavioral, emotional, and physical functions. These changes can disrupt interpersonal, social, and occupational interactions. Beyond its impact on individuals, TBI also affects families, communities, and the broader economy. Although comprehensive data are scarce, estimates from studies in two states suggest that between 3.2 million and 5.3 million people in the United States live with disabilities related to TBI (Selassie et al., 2008; Thurman et al., 1999; Zaloshnja et al., 2008).

Moreover, research indicates that adolescents and adults with moderate to severe TBI who have completed rehabilitation are over twice as likely to die within 3.5 years post-injury compared to similarly aged, sex-matched, and racially matched individuals from the general population (Harrison-Felix et al., 2012). Additionally, 20% of adolescents and adults who underwent rehabilitation for TBI are reported to have died within five years of the injury, and nearly 40% experienced a decline in their functional abilities compared to their recovery level one to two years post-injury (Corrigan et al., 2014). These findings highlight the long-term health consequences of TBI, which continue to impact individuals’ health and social circumstances well beyond the initial period of medical treatment and rehabilitation.

Types of Traumatic Brain Injuries

TBI can range from mild to severe, affecting cognitive, physical, and emotional functions:

  • Penetrating TBI: Occurs when an object like a bullet or shrapnel pierces the skull, affecting specific areas of the brain.
  • Non-Penetrating TBI: Also known as a closed head injury, it is caused by a force that moves the brain within the skull, commonly due to falls, motor vehicle accidents, or sports injuries.

Signs and Symptoms of TBI

Immediate or delayed symptoms may include:

  • Physical Symptoms: Headaches, seizures, vision problems, and nausea.
  • Cognitive Symptoms: Confusion, attention deficits, memory loss, and changes in sleep patterns.
  • Emotional and Sensory Symptoms: Mood swings, dizziness, and sensory sensitivities.

It’s crucial to seek medical attention if these symptoms appear, especially within the first 24 hours after the injury.

TBI in Children

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) in children is a significant public health issue in the United States. TBI interferes with normal brain functions and can result from a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, or from a penetrating injury to the skull. For children ages 0-14, the primary causes of TBI-related emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and deaths are unintentional falls and impacts with objects. For adolescents aged 15-24, motor vehicle accidents and falls are the most common causes. Additionally, sports and recreational activities were responsible for approximately 325,000 TBI-related emergency department visits among children and teens in 2012.

TBI severity is generally classified as mild, moderate, or severe based on the initial clinical evaluation. In 2013, there were around 640,000 TBI-related emergency department visits, 18,000 hospitalizations, and 1,500 deaths among children aged 14 and younger. Mild TBI, which includes concussions, accounts for the majority (70-90%) of TBI-related emergency visits. While most TBIs are mild, they can also lead to significant, even life-threatening, disabilities in youth under the age of 19. Children with severe TBI are more likely to require hospitalization and could suffer from long-term disabilities.

Though often regarded as an acute condition, the effects of TBI can be long-lasting and disabling. The extent of TBI-related disabilities in children is not well-defined, partly due to varying definitions of childhood disability. One study indicated that over 62% of children with moderate-to-severe TBI end up with disabilities, as defined by the need for specialized medical and educational services, compared to 14% of children with mild TBI.

Children may not be able to communicate or describe their discomfort well enough to decide if they’re suffering from TBI, so here are some signs to watch for:

  • Changes in eating or nursing habits
  • Persistent crying, irritability, or crankiness; inability to be consoled
  • Changes in ability to pay attention
  • Lack of interest in a favorite toy or activity
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Seizures
  • Sadness or depression
  • Loss of a skill, such as toilet training
  • Loss of balance or unsteady walking
  • Vomiting

TBI Effects on Consciousness

Severe TBIs can lead to altered states of consciousness:

  • Minimally Conscious State: Some awareness is evident.
  • Vegetative State: Lack of awareness, but some reflexive functions may occur.
  • Coma: No consciousness or responsiveness to stimuli.
  • Brain Death: No brain activity, confirmed by lack of blood flow to the brain.

How TBI Affects the Brain

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is typically classified into two categories based on the affected area:

  • Focal Injury: Damage confined to one area.
  • Diffuse Injury: More widespread impact across the brain.

Primary and Secondary Effects of TBI

The initial damage from TBI can lead to a cascade of biological disruptions:

  • Bleeding and Tearing: These forces cause direct physical damage to nerve fibers.
  • Inflammation and Metabolic Changes: These responses exacerbate the brain’s condition post-injury.
  • Brain Swelling: Often a result of the above disturbances, contributing to increased intracranial pressure.

Key Types of Brain Injuries

Brain injuries are complex and vary greatly in their severity and impact on health. Understanding the key types of brain injuries is crucial for both medical professionals and patients to manage and treat these conditions effectively.

Diffuse Axonal Injury (DAI)

This common type of brain injury affects the brain’s white matter due to rotational or severe stopping forces. It’s often seen in vehicle accidents and sports injuries and disrupts neural communication by damaging axons.

Concussion

A mild form of TBI, concussions can result from various impacts and might take from minutes to months to heal. Symptoms can include temporary loss of consciousness and altered mental states.

Hematomas and Hemorrhages

These involve bleeding in various layers around and in the brain:

  • Epidural and Subdural Hematomas: Bleeding between the skull and brain or between the dura and arachnoid mater.
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage: Occurs between the arachnoid mater and the pia mater.
  • Intracerebral Hematoma: Bleeding within the brain tissue itself.

Contusions and Skull Fractures

  • Contusions: Bruises on the brain where blood leaks into brain tissue, often seen under the site of impact or on the opposite side.
  • Skull Fractures: Breaks in the skull bone that can lead to further damage to brain tissues and blood vessels.

Chronic and Progressive TBI Outcomes

  • Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE): This condition is typically found in individuals with repeated head injuries, such as athletes in contact sports, and manifests as cognitive and behavioral changes over time.
  • Post-Traumatic Dementia (PTD): Severe TBIs can progress to dementia-like states, showing similarities with CTE. Studies suggest a link between severe TBIs and a higher risk of dementia later in life.

Secondary Damage Following TBI

  • Hemorrhagic Progression of Contusions: This refers to bleeding that worsens initial brain contusions, potentially expanding the damage.
  • Blood-Brain Barrier Disruption: Injury can compromise this barrier, leading to increased swelling and inflammation as foreign substances enter the brain.
  • Increased Intracranial Pressure: This pressure from swelling can further damage brain tissues and disrupt blood flow and oxygen delivery.
  • Additional Secondary Damages: These can include infections, seizures, and hydrocephalus, all of which compound the primary injury’s effects.

Who is at Risk?

  • Elderly: Individuals aged 65 and older, primarily due to falls.
  • Men: Have higher rates of severe TBI compared to women.
  • Children and Young Adults: Mainly due to falls, sports injuries, and vehicle accidents.

Current research estimates that approximately 775,000 older adults (aged 75 and above) live with long-term disabilities resulting from traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Often, the aftereffects of TBI in older adults are mistakenly attributed to natural aging, leading to misdiagnoses and inadequate treatment. This demographic faces a higher risk of mortality and poorer functional outcomes after an injury compared to younger individuals with similar TBIs, irrespective of the initial severity of the brain injury. Additionally, older adults incur higher societal and healthcare costs related to TBI. They typically experience longer hospitalizations and slower functional recovery during inpatient rehabilitation compared to younger patients. Furthermore, preexisting medical conditions have been shown to extend the duration of outpatient rehabilitation for older adults.

Prevention of TBI

Preventive measures can significantly reduce the risk of TBI:

  • Wear appropriate safety gear such as helmets.
  • Install safety modifications in the home.
  • Avoid driving under the influence of substances.

Understanding the Medical Lifetime Cost of TBI Care

The lifetime costs of caring for someone with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) are extensive and vary widely based on the severity of the injury and the individual’s long-term prognosis. Estimates for these costs range from $85,000 to as much as $3 million, encompassing both immediate medical treatment and ongoing care needs.

High Costs of Medical Care for TBI

Immediate and continuous medical treatment forms the bulk of expenses associated with TBI. Depending on the injury’s severity, medical interventions can range from neurological surgeries to prolonged rehabilitation periods involving a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals. The necessary long-term rehabilitation may include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Psychological counseling to address emotional changes such as depression and anxiety

Such comprehensive care is expensive at the outset and may extend over a lifetime, particularly for those unable to fully recover.

Impact on Employment and Earnings

TBI significantly affects employment prospects. Studies indicate that individuals with TBI face an unemployment rate more than five times higher than the general population, with rates exceeding 40%. The economic impact includes potential decades of lost wages, especially for those injured early in their careers, profoundly affecting their earning capacity and contributing to the financial burden.

Family Financial Impact

The economic strain also extends to family members who may need to reduce their work hours or cease working entirely to care for their loved one. This loss of income, combined with the need for potential home modifications and ongoing personal care assistance, can escalate the financial toll.

Broader Economic and Non-Economic Costs

While the direct costs of medical care and lost wages are quantifiable, TBI also involves substantial non-economic costs:

  • Long-term pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress, including depression and anxiety
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Memory loss
  • Irritability

These factors contribute to a reduced quality of life and significant emotional burdens, both for the individual and their family. The full scope of TBI costs thus includes both tangible financial impacts and profound personal and emotional challenges.

Seeking Compensation and Litigation for TBI

Given the extensive and varied costs associated with TBI, understanding the full financial and emotional impact is crucial for those seeking legal recourse. Compensation claims for TBI should account for both economic losses and the non-economic damages such as pain, suffering, and emotional distress. Legal experts, often with the aid of vocational specialists, are essential to accurately assess and articulate these costs in any claims or litigation related to TBI injuries.

Why Hire a Traumatic Brain Injury Attorney?

If you or a loved one has suffered a TBI, it is crucial to seek expert legal representation. Abeyta Nelson Personal Injury Attorneys in Yakima offer:

  • Expertise in TBI Law: Over 100 years of combined experience.
  • Comprehensive Support: Coordination with medical professionals and insurance companies.
  • Custom Legal Strategy: Focused on securing compensation for medical expenses, lost earnings, and pain and suffering.

Contact Abeyta Nelson Injury Law Today

For a free case evaluation and to learn how we can help during this difficult time, contact Abeyta Nelson Injury Law. We are committed to supporting you and your family in achieving the best possible outcome.

Call us at 509-588-0240 or send a message to start your consultation now.

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