Brain injuries are often catastrophic for the victim and their families because of the life-altering or life-ending consequences. If you or a loved one has sustained such an injury, our Philadelphia brain injury lawyers want to help you. Legal cases involving head injuries can be incredibly complicated, which is why you’ll benefit from having Shrager & Sachs, LLC by your side.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), brain injuries, especially traumatic brain injuries (TBI), are a major cause of disability and death in the United States. Nearly 30% of all injury deaths are directed related to brain damage. In 2013, 2.8 million emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and deaths related to TBI occurred. Many of these injuries resulted from the neglectful actions or inactions of another individual—which means they could have been prevented.
Whether you’re focusing on recovery from a head injury or are caring for a family member who has recently sustained a TBI, our brain injury lawyers are here to explain your legal rights and options. In order to take the first steps towards seeking the compensation you deserve for what you’ve been through, let’s take a closer look at brain injuries.
Types of Brain Injuries: Traumatic vs. Acquired
All brain injuries come with unique challenges. Depending on the type of force and amount of force that impacts the head, however, a person’s injury could be classified as either traumatic or acquired. The type of injury may affect only one functional area of the brain, multiple areas, or all areas.
A traumatic brain injury is one caused by external force. Concussions and contusions are the most common types of TBIs. Concussions happen when the brain is forced to move inside the skull. Blood vessels may stretch, and cranial nerves can be damaged. With a contusion, there is bleeding on the brain. While this may resolve itself, large contusion may need to be surgically removed.
Acquired brain injuries are typically referred to as non-traumatic injuries, as they are not necessarily caused by an external force. Common causes include stroke, lack of oxygen, poison, tumors, and viruses. There are instances where babies are born with acquired brain injuries that can have an impact on the rest of their lives.
A personal injury claim can be pursued for traumatic and acquired brain injuries, assuming negligence played a role in causing the injury. In order to understand your injury fully, a doctor will run diagnostic tests and set you up with a treatment plan.
Diagnosing a Traumatic Brain Injury
Diagnosing a traumatic brain injury is a complex process. Health care providers often use multiple tests to assess a patient’s physical injuries, brain and nerve functioning, and level of consciousness. Some of the tests include the Glasgow Coma Scale, speed and language test, and imaging.
The Glasgow Coma Scale measures a person’s functioning based on their ability to speak, open their eyes, and move. A score of 13 or more indicates a mild TBI, 9 through 12 is considered moderate, and a score below 8 indicates a severe TBI. While there may be no direct correlation between the initial Glasgow Coma Scale and a patient’s short- or long-term recovery or abilities, it gives providers an idea of where to start when it comes to treatments.
When it comes to speech and language tests, a speech-language pathologist will complete a formal evaluation of a patient’s oral motor skills, strength and coordination of the muscles that control speech, the understanding and use of grammar and vocabulary, as well as reading and writing. If a patient has problems swallowing, the pathologist will make recommendations regarding management and treatment.
Common imaging tests that are used when a TBI is suspected include computerized tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and intracranial pressure (ICP) monitoring. A CT scan takes x-rays from multiple angles to form a complete picture. These scans are useful for showing bleeding and bruising in the brain. MRIs use magnets and radio waves to produced more detailed images than a CT. ICP monitoring is useful to monitor swelling. In some cases, this can show the need for a shunt or drain in the skull to relieve pressure.
No matter what steps are made to diagnose a brain injury, it’s important for victims and their families to understand what the diagnosis means and what recovery will look like.
Recognizing the Causes of Brain Injuries
If you’re planning on pursuing a brain injury claim to seek compensation for your losses, it will be important to understand and be able to explain what or who caused your brain injury. While most injuries can be labeled as mild and only affect a victim for a short period of time, some are severe. The condition can affect a person physically, emotionally, and behaviorally.
- Open Head Injury. Open head injuries occur when the skull is penetrated. Motorcycle accidents, especially when the rider goes without a helmet, can result in this type of head injury. The brain is normally injured in a specific location. This is referred to as focal damage.
- Closed Head Injury. Closed head injuries often result in diffuse damage. This means the damage has occurred in a more widespread area. The skull is not penetrated. Slip and fall accidents and motor vehicle crashes can result in this type of brain damage.
- Deceleration Injury. When a serious car accident occurs, it’s likely that the vehicle will stop moving but the individuals inside the vehicle will not. When this happens, the brain is at risk for moving inside the skull. This can result in contusions and swelling.
- Toxic Chemical Exposure. When someone is exposed to toxic chemicals over a long period of time, like insecticides, carbon monoxide, or lead, the chemicals can damage the neurons in the brain.
- Hypoxia. Hypoxia occurs when the brain doesn’t get enough oxygen for an extended period of time. It only takes a few minutes for this to occur, and the consequences can be permanent. Cognitive and memory deficits are likely. Hypoxia is sometimes associated with birth injuries.
- Tumors. Cancerous tumors can grow on or over the brain. When the space of the brain is invaded, direct damage often results. If the tumor is removed, the patient may risk sustaining additional injuries as a result of surgical errors.
- Infection. If the blood-brain protective system is breached, the brain and the surrounding membranes are prone to infection. If you believe your infection was caused by negligent medical care or was missed by your doctor, you may have the grounds for a medical malpractice claim.
- Stroke. If blood flow to parts of the brain is blocked during a stroke episode, cell death in those areas is likely. Bleeding in or over the brain can also result in serious damage.
No matter the incident or accident that resulted in your trauma, a Philadelphia brain injury lawyer from Shrager & Sachs can evaluate your situation and help you determine how best to proceed to protect your future.
Understanding the Effects of Brain Damage
While some individuals may only experience the effects of a TBI for a matter of days or weeks, other individuals can be affected for the rest of their lives. For many brain injury victims, the damage can lead to lifelong motor deficits and disabilities. Common deficits caused by moderate to severe TBI include paralysis, spasticity, problems walking, talking, or swallowing, vision problems, loss of fine motor skills, difficulty remembering, difficulty moving objects, and the inability to recognize things based on touch.
Other potential effects can be broken down into the following categories: behavioral, cognitive, hearing, physical, sensory and perceptual, speech and language, taste and smell, and vision.
- Behavioral Effects
- Lack of motivation
- Lack of awareness
- Cognitive Effects
- Memory issues
- Easily distracted
- Hearing Effects
- Loss of hearing
- Increased sensitivity to sound
- Physical Effects
- Appetite changes
- Chronic pain
- Sleep disorders
- Sensory and Perceptual Effects
- Difficulty perceiving temperature
- Difficulty understanding information gained through the five senses
- Difficulty distinguishing between touch and pressure
- Difficulty perceiving movement of arms and legs
- Speech and Language Effects
- Slurred speech
- Difficulty comprehending reading
- Speaking too fast or too slow
- Taste and Smell Effects
- Bad taste in mouth
- Diminished sense of taste
- Diminished sense of smell
- Vision Effects
- Partial or total blindness
- Blurred vision
Treating Brain Injuries With Therapy
Most individuals suffering from a moderate to severe TBI will need some type of rehabilitation therapy to address the issues and conditions we discussed in the above section. While therapy usually begins in the hospital, it can continue at home, in school, at work, or in an outpatient program or clinic. Below you’ll find a list of the most common types of therapies an individual will participate in to recovery from their brain damage.
- Cognitive Therapy. This type of therapy is designed to improve memory, attention, learning, perception, planning, and judgment. It is one of the most common types of TBI therapies.
- Occupation Therapy. An occupational therapist helps TBI victims relearn how to perform daily tasks they may have forgotten how to do because of their conditions.
- Physical Therapy. Physical therapy helps victims rebuild their strength, flexibility, and coordination.
- Psychological Therapy. Sustaining a brain injury is an incredibly traumatic experience. A trained counselor or therapist can help the victim cope with what they’ve been through and improve their general wellbeing.
- Speech Therapy. Some TBI victims lose the ability to speak or forget how to form or identify aspects of language. Speech therapy helps those individuals relearn their speech and communication skills. A speech therapist also assists individuals with swallowing disorders.
- Vocational Counseling. After experiencing brain damage, some individuals are unable to return to their previous jobs; however, many individuals are still capable of working. A vocational counselor can aid these people in finding appropriate job opportunities and manage workplace challenges.
Legal Options for Brain Injury Victims in Philadelphia
Depending on the nature of your injury, you may be able to take legal action through civil law with a personal injury claim. If, for example, you were involved in a car accident with a distracted driver and are now suffering from the effect of a TBI, you can file a car accident claim against the driver to seek compensation for your economic and noneconomic losses. There are a number of situations and accidents that provide grounds for filing a brain injury claim.
If you’re considering taking legal action, you’ll benefit from working with a brain injury attorney. They will be able to investigate your situation, build a claim on the concept of negligence, speak with expert medical professionals to learn more about your recovery and potential outlook, and present your claim in a way that proves you’re owed for what you were wrongfully put through.
It’s important to note that your brain injury claim is subject to a statute of limitations. The time limit is based on the type of claim you’re filing. In most cases in Pennsylvania, you have two years from the date of the accident to have your claim filed. While it’s possible your claim could result in reaching a settlement, that doesn’t always happen. If that’s the case, our lawyers are prepared to take your case to court to ensure you receive justice.
Seek Legal Guidance From Shrager & Sachs
If you or a loved one has suffered from any type of brain damage at the fault of someone else, our brain injury lawyers are prepared to help you form a strong legal case to hold the negligent party accountable for their actions.
Our TBI attorneys help head injury victims recover compensation for economic and noneconomic damages. Economic damages may include medical expenses, lost wages, and funeral expenses in the event of a wrongful death. Noneconomic damages often include pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and emotional distress.
If you have questions about your legal rights and brain injuries, do not hesitate to contact us as soon as possible. Our dedicated and experienced lawyers will provide you with a free consultation to determine what course of action you’d like to take. Contact us today for more information.