Whether minor or severe, personal injuries that harm the brain can have life-long consequences, leaving victims struggling to overcome cognitive deficits, memory loss and drastic personality changes. The strain can be nearly as immense for family members, who must adjust to their loved one’s impairments with compassion and grief. Brain injuries change people, often in unpredictable and frightening ways.
Finding Compensation After Head Trauma
At the same time, severe injuries can burden families with a mountain of rising expenses. Finding reliable sources of long-term financing is crucial. Whether you intend to work through an insurance company, benefit program or file a civil lawsuit, the best thing you can do for your case is to speak with an experienced attorney first. As you’ve probably already learned, brain injuries are extremely complex – both medically and legally.
In order to maximize the compensation you receive, we suggest discussing your situation with someone who understands the intricate connections between your condition, its long-term effects and the legal options that may be open to you.
What Is A Brain Injury?
- Concussion – caused by a bump or blow to the head, concussion occurs when the brain jolts or twists inside the skull, leading to a series of chemical changes and, in some cases, brain cell damage.
- Contusion – any form of bleeding (bruising) on the brain, contusions are a common result of severe head injuries.
- Coup-contrecoup – flung forward by some impact, the brain strikes the front of the skull and is then thrown in the opposite direction, colliding with the back of the skull. The force causes two contusions, one at either end of the brain.
- Diffuse axonal injury – usually caused by shaking or forceful rotation, diffuse axonal injury occurs when the brain moves slower than the skull, tearing nerve tissues throughout the brain.
Traumatic Brain Injuries
Traumatic brain injury refers to a wide variety of injuries caused by external forces or rapid motion. Any bump, hit or impact can, in theory, lead to a traumatic brain injury, as can sudden jolts that, while not affecting the head directly, force the brain to move around inside the skull.
- Closed brain injuries – especially common in car accidents, a closed brain injury happens when the head accelerates quickly and then decelerates suddenly or strikes another object. This trauma often leads to brain tissue damage, as the brain is twisted, stretched or bruised. Nerves, including the crucial nerves that connect the brain to the skull, can be severed. Closed brain injuries usually result in widespread (or “diffuse”) brain damage, leading to severe, but often unpredictable, symptoms and long-term complications.
- Open (penetrative) brain injuries – when a foreign object breaks through the skull and penetrates the brain, specific regions of neural tissue can be damaged. As a result, penetrative brain injuries often lead to localized tissue injuries and (more) predictable forms of cognitive and functional impairment.
After the brain has suffered an immediate injury, restoring proper blood flow to support damaged brain cells is crucial. When blood supply has been compromised, the brain is starved for oxygen, which can lead to further cellular death. This subsequent form of brain damage is usually referred to as “ischemic” brain injury, according to the Alaska Brain Injury Network.
Alongside immediate impact to the head or body, doctors generally define traumatic brain injuries in relation to cognitive changes. In other words, TBI can result in either coma, a total loss of consciousness, or amnesia, a loss of memory. These alterations in cognition can be brief, lasting only moments, or extremely long. In fact, most experts attempt to diagnose the severity of a traumatic brain injury based in large part on the duration and depth of a patient’s loss of consciousness.
Acquired & Congenital Injuries
Traumatic brain injuries are usually included under the wider category of “acquired” forms of brain damage, which include all brain injuries that develop after a person is born. “Congenital” brain injuries, on the other hand, begin during fetal development, usually as a result of genetic mutations or environmental exposures. A third category of “hypoxic” brain injuries refers to damage caused by oxygen deprivation, a surprisingly common complication of labor or delivery in infants.
Causes & Legal Options
Brain injuries can be caused by numerous factors, from blunt-force trauma and drastic decreases in blood flow to neurological disorders like Parkinson’s Disease and certain viruses.
Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that of the nearly 2.8 million Americans who visit an emergency department with TBI-related injuries every year, almost 50% suffered brain damage in falls. Being struck by an external object and motor vehicle accidents came in close behind as the second and third leading causes of traumatic brain injury respectively, followed in fourth by violent assaults.
- Falls – 47%
- Struck by / against object – 15%
- Car accidents – 14%
- Assaults – 11%
- Cause unknown – 13%
In practice, any type of brain injury can result in a viable civil lawsuit. Traumatic brain injuries caused by accidents often serve as the foundation of personal injury lawsuits. Brain damage inflicted during childbirth frequently leads to medical malpractice lawsuits. Some brain injuries that develop prior to birth can be linked to dangerous prescription drugs, which could leave families with a product liability claim.
Some patients, especially those who were injured in car accidents, turn to private insurance companies. Others will rely on government benefit programs to secure care. Employees injured in the workplace, for example, may have to pursue compensation in a workers’ compensation claim. A subset of traumatic brain injury patients, however, will make use of a different avenue – filing personal injury lawsuits. Through a lawsuit a plaintiff may recover:
- past and future medical expenses
- occupational therapy costs
- lost wages
- loss of future earnings potential
- pain and suffering
- emotional trauma
- punitive damages – awarded to punish defendants for intentional wrongdoing or particularly egregious negligence
The damages available in any one case will depend almost entirely on the specific nature of the plaintiff’s injury and predictions of future disability and impairment. In Pennsylvania, a legal theory known as comparative negligence may also come into play. Many defendants, while admitting to some degree of liability, argue that the plaintiff in their case was also negligent, a fact that should be taken into account during the calculation of damages. Pennsylvania’s courts allow the total amount of awarded damages to be reduced on the basis of this shared liability.
How To File A Brain Damage Lawsuit
The vast majority of lawsuits filed in relation to brain injuries are based in the legal theory of negligence. Thankfully, negligence isn’t that hard to explain. We all recognize that certain people have a special duty to other people. Drivers, for example, have a duty to drive safely and reduce the risk of injury to other drivers, passengers, cyclists and pedestrians. Likewise, medical professionals have a duty to provide their patients with an acceptable level of care, avoiding errors and mistakes that could do harm.
Negligence is the flip-side of these duties, which attorneys refer to as “duties of care.” When someone violates their duty of care, leading to injury, they have been negligent. As a result, the people who were injured by their negligence have a legal right to be made whole, to secure financial compensation in court.
In order to secure compensation, every plaintiff will have to prove a minimum of four essential things about their accident and brain injury:
- the defendant owed you (or a loved one) a duty of care
- the defendant failed to uphold this duty, acting in a careless manner that a reasonable person would expect to result in injuries
- the defendant’s negligent actions caused your brain injury (your brain injury would not have occurred if the defendant had acted with reasonable care)
- you suffered injuries or damages that can be compensated financially
Experienced personal injury attorneys use a wide range of evidence and legal arguments in order to put forward a compelling case. Independent medical experts and accident reconstruction specialists are often engaged to analyze the facts and construct a convincing argument.
Recover Big Money for Your Brain Injury
If you have suffered a traumatic head injury that has resulted in permanent disabilities, we can help you recover the money that you are entitled to. Our personal injury lawyers have an excellent reputation across Pennsylvania for recovering big awards for injured victims who have suffered serious brain or head injuries.
We have recovered millions on behalf of clients with a serious head or brain injury including:
You deserve an experienced Pennsylvania trial lawyer handle your brain injury case. At Marciano & MacAvoy, we are experts at proving the required elements of a brain injury lawsuit in Pennsylvania in order to get the money you are entitled to.