There are many types and levels of brain injury. There are also levels of traumatic brain injury (TBI), from mild to moderate to severe. A person experiencing a mild brain injury may experience no loss of consciousness to a very brief loss of consciousness, such as in a concussion.
Concussions are typically caused by a direct blow to the head, violent shaking of the head, a whiplash-type injury or a gunshot wound. While most people think a concussion is not particularly serious, in fact, some effects of a concussion can cause impairments that last a lifetime.
CAT scans may not always show a concussion, and brain bleeding or swelling can be present when a concussion occurs. Should a blood clot in the brain result from the concussion, it can cause death. Concussions may take weeks, months or years to fully heal.
Moderate brain injuries are generally the result of a nonpenetrating blow to the head or violent shaking of the head. Some people will come through a moderate brain injury with few lasting effects, while others will suffer lifelong impairments.
Those who suffer a moderate brain injury will lose consciousness — from a few minutes to several hours — and may experience confusion for days or weeks. Impairments, whether physical, cognitive or behavioral, may last for a few months or may be considered permanent.
A direct head blow can result in a contusion, which is a bruise to the brain with bleeding. Large contusions could require surgical removal. The term “coup-contrecoup” describes an injury that includes a contusion at the impact site as well as at the opposite side of the brain.
This type of brain injury occurs when the force of the impact slams the brain into the opposite side of the skull. A diffuse axonal traumatic brain injury occurs when there is a strong rotation of the head. Shaken baby syndrome generally results in diffuse axonal brain injuries and causes extensive tearing of the brain’s nerve tissues, disrupting communication and chemical processes. This type of injury to the brain can cause temporary or permanent brain damage, coma or death.
Severe brain injuries are usually the result of a crushing blow or a penetrating wound to the head, which rips, crushes or shears the brain tissues such as from a bullet, knife or another sharp object. There may be an open head wound and a closed head wound in a severe brain injury.
Those with a severe traumatic brain injury will usually require extensive hospitalization and rehabilitation and will suffer many changes that affect their language, their emotions, their sensations and their ability to think and learn.
Acquired brain injuries are those caused by a degenerative disease, a near-drowning, a stroke, tumor, toxin, hypoxia or anoxia — any illness or condition that is not the result of an external force. Anoxia occurs when the brain receives no oxygen, while hypoxia occurs when the brain receives some — but not enough — oxygen.
The effects of a brain injury will depend on the type of brain injury as well as the severity, however, according to The Brain Injury Association, the effects below are the most common:
Brain injuries can occur from myriad incidents. Identifying the responsible party is complex. The circumstances surrounding your accident, as well as the extent of your brain injury may help determine who is responsible.
For example, if an anesthesiologist administered too much anesthesia which resulted in a temporary or permanent brain injury, then they could be the liable party. If the negligence of a driver resulted in a serious car accident and your resulting brain injuries, then the driver could be liable.
If a lifeguard at a city pool failed to see a child drowning, and that child suffered a brain injury, then the entity who owns the pool and hired the lifeguard may be liable.
Brain injury cases are difficult because some brain injuries are not readily identifiable, even using a CT scan. Many times, expert witnesses must be brought in, as well as relatives and friends who can testify as to the changes the brain injury has made in the victim.
In California, the statute of limitations, or the time you have in which to file a personal injury claim following an accident caused by the negligence of another, is two years from the date of the accident. There are a few exceptions to this two-year rule, such as when the victim is mentally or physically impaired following the accident, or when the victim is a minor.
In the case of a minor, he or she will have two years from the time of the 18th birthday in which to file a claim for damages. If a governmental entity is the negligent party, you must first file a claim with that entity within six months from the time the accident occurred. If your claim is denied, you have two years to file a civil claim for damages.
Because a brain injury can affect a person’s life in so many ways, there are many damages the victim may need to recover.
Medical expenses could be one of the primary expenses, including hospital bills, physician bills, prescription medication expenses, emergency room expenses, rehabilitative therapy expenses and ongoing medical monitoring. Pain and suffering could be awarded for short or long-term impairments that have altered your ability to enjoy life.
You could be entitled to lost wages for any time you were off work to recover from your brain injury, or you could be entitled to damages for impairment of earning capacity if you are never able to return to the work you did prior to the accident. You may have had to make major changes in your lifestyle, therefore may be entitled to damages for lost quality of life. If you require home care and other nonmedical needs because of your head injury, you may be entitled to life care damages.
If the person who caused your brain injury acted with malice, intended to harm you or acted with particular reckless disregard for your life and your safety, you may be entitled to punitive damages. Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant, as well as to deter similar behavior in others.
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