What Brain Injury Survivors and Their Families Should Know

If you suffer a head injury in any type of accident—even if it seems minor—your life could be permanently altered. This is because even minor head injuries can cause long-lasting problems. Brain injuries can affect all aspects of one’s life—even one’s personality.

When an accident occurs that causes someone to have a brain injury the common symptoms include headaches, confusion, slurred speech, coordination issues, nausea, or if they just don’t feel like themselves. It is critical that medical attention is sought immediately to determine if a brain injury occurred.

Because brain injuries are complex, it is important that people who have suffered head trauma and families of the injured learn as much as they can about brain injuries. For this reason, we have put together an extensive article full of useful information.

Types of Brain Injuries

  • Concussion. When a person suffers a concussion, it means that a jolt or blow to the head occurred which can alter the way the brain normally works. Some people return to normal in a couple of months; however, others might suffer from long-term concentration and memory problems.
  • Contusion and Coup-Contrecoup injury. Contusions occur as a result of a direct blow to the head, which produces bruising and bleeding on the brain. With a coup-contrecoup injury, a person will have a contusion at the site of impact as well as an additional contusion on the opposite side of the brain.
  • Hematoma. A hematoma is a collection of blood outside of blood vessels that can occur anywhere in the body. Hematomas that affect the brain are generally subdural hematomas or intracranial epidural hematomas. A subdural hematoma is when the hematoma occurs between the brain tissue and inside lining of the brain. With an intracranial epidural hematoma, the hematoma is between the skull and outside lining of the brain. When any hematoma occurs outside of the brain, the pressure on the brain increases as blood accumulates, which can be life-threatening.
  • Traumatic brain injury. When someone suffers a traumatic brain injury, it is usually referred to as a TBI. TBIs can occur from a forceful jolt, violent blow to the head, or something penetrating the skull. Any type of TBI can result in brain dysfunction, but there are degrees of damage that are classified as a mild traumatic brain injury, moderate traumatic brain injury, or severe traumatic brain injury. Frequently, a traumatic brain injury is the result of an open head injury or closed head injury.
    • Open head injury. When someone suffers an open head injury, it means that a skull fracture occurred and the brain was penetrated. An open head injury can include a depressed skull fracture, compound fracture, basilar skull fracture, battle’s sign, raccoon eyes, diastatic skull fracture, and cribriform plate fracture
    • Closed head injury. When a person suffers a closed head injury, it means the head suffered an impact but the skull didn’t fracture. However, brain damage often occurs as a result of the brain swelling, pressure within the skull, and brain tissues being compressed.

When objects penetrate the skull or bleeding occurs in and around the brain, the outcome is never good and can result in life-long changes for the injured victim. Unfortunately, serious brain injuries occur more often than many people realize. According to the Brain Injury Association of America, over 2.5 million children and adults in America sustain traumatic brain injuries every year, which equates to someone sustaining a TBI every 13 seconds. Because the statistics are shocking, it is important to be educated about traumatic brain injuries.

Causes of Brain Injuries

There are many different events that can cause traumatic brain injuries, including:

  • Car accidents. When someone is involved in a rear-end accident, head-on collision, side-impact crash, or any type of violent wreck, an injured victim may suffer from a brain injury.
  • Truck accidents. Due to the sheer size of large commercial trucks and their heavy weight, crashes with semis can cause those in smaller cars to sustain serious head trauma.
  • Motorcycle accidents. Because motorcycle operators don’t have much protection when involved in crashes, it is possible they may suffer a direct blow to the head or a violent jolt that may result in a serious brain injury.
  • Pedestrian accidents. People walking near traffic are vulnerable to injuries because they have absolutely no protection. When a car or truck hits a pedestrian, the pedestrian will often hit his or her head during the wreck—producing a traumatic brain injury.
  • Bicycle crashes. While many bicyclists wear helmets, a bicyclist may still suffer a blow to the head when enough force occurs in an accident. As a result, serious head trauma is quite possible.
  • Slip and fall accidents. When someone falls down steps, falls out of bed, slips on spilled liquid, or trips over a hazardous obstacle, it is possible that a traumatic brain injury can occur, especially in the elderly or among young children.
  • Medical malpractice. When medical negligence occurs on the part of doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, or other medical professionals, patients can suffer unnecessary brain injuries.

Diagnosing Brain Injuries

When moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries occur in motor vehicle accidents, the TBI is usually quite evident. However, in cases in which a mild brain injury or closed head injury occurred, it is possible for doctors to miss this diagnosis. This is why it is critical that anyone who has brain injury symptoms, such as changes in memory, behavior, coordination and balance seek medical attention and get a thorough examination.

Some of the best brain injury diagnosing methods include:

  • CT scan. A computed tomography test is usually the first scan a doctor will take when suspecting a brain injury. This is because they take less time than an MRI, and it can detect skull fractures, swelling in the brain, and bleeding in and around the brain.
  • MRI scan. A magnetic resonance imaging scan is more sensitive than a CT scan, plus it takes longer and costs more; however, it can help evaluate worsening conditions. These tests are often best when given 48 hours after the initial injury.
  • SPECT. Single-photon emission computed tomography is a nuclear imaging test that uses a radioactive substance and a camera to take 3-D pictures. This is a more advanced test that is not considered “standard medical care,” but it can be helpful for a doctor to determine which areas of the brain are more or less active.
  • PET. A positron emission tomography is also an advanced test that isn’t widely available. However, this test is useful and uses radioactive materials plus a camera and computer to evaluate organ and tissue functions.

In addition to these tests, a neurological examination may be conducted as well as the Glasgow Coma Scale (GSC), which rates a victim’s level of consciousness. Evaluations conducted by speech, occupational, and physical therapists can also help with diagnosing a brain injury.

Treating Brain Injuries

The early stages are critical for diagnosing and treating a brain injury. However, treatment and recovery will be different from person to person based on whether the brain injury is mild or severe. Once a brain injury has been diagnosed, there are several ways the injury could be treated, including:

  • Medications. The immediate goal is to stabilize the patient, which could include sedating the patient or putting the patient in a drug-induced coma. Sometimes loss of consciousness occurs at the time of trauma, and a patient can remain in a coma for hours or months. Drugs for pain and swelling, spasticity, and seizures may be given to patients. In addition to medications, oxygen therapy and a ventilator could be used during the initial stages of treatment.
  • Surgery. The treatment team at the hospital will conduct surgery to reduce pressure on the brain in an effort to prevent further damage to the brain or a secondary injury to the brain. Through surgery, bleeding in the skull can be drained or removed, skull fractures can be repaired, and damaged brain tissue can be removed.
  • Rehabilitation. The rehabilitation team can include a physiatrist, neuropsychologist, rehabilitation nurse, physical therapist, occupational therapist and speech therapist. The goal of rehabilitation is to evaluate the patient, help with pain management, counsel the patient, and help the patient to perform daily living skills again.

Long-Term Effects of Brain Injuries

It is important to remember that no two people living with a traumatic brain injury will experience the exact same outcome; however, here are some effects of a TBI for a moderately to severely injured person:

  • Difficulties working and earning a living. Because a person with a moderate-to-severe TBI might have problems remembering new information, concentrating on tasks, staying focused, and thinking, he or she will often be unable to return to a current job position or possibly hold down a job on any level.
  • Communication challenges. Sometimes people with severe brain injuries suffer from speech and language impairment. For example, they might not be able to find the right words they want to use or they may have problems understanding others. This can create serious communication challenges.
  • Behavioral issues. Someone living with a TBI will often suffer from depression, aggression, irritability, and emotional swings. Additionally, the person may blurt out embarrassing comments or fail to modify his or her behavior for a specific situation. This happens when an area of the brain was damaged that controls one’s social-emotional life.
  • Personality changes. Because people living with serious brain injuries often deal with confusion and anger, they can be agitated, emotional, or physically aggressive. Any of these outcomes can cause personality changes.
  • Personal relationship and family dynamic changes. When someone’s personality, behavior, thinking, and speech change, it can have a huge impact on the person’s relationships. Not only can it be difficult for the person living with a brain injury, but it can take a toll on the person or family caring for the injured victim.
  • Wrongful death. When someone else’s negligence causes a person to suffer and die from a traumatic brain injury, the family of the deceased has a right to seek justice and just compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit.

In addition to these outcomes, people living with traumatic brain injuries may experience seizures, bowel and bladder control problems, vision loss, and some type of paralysis or spasticity. Unfortunately, the outcomes for those living with TBIs are many and can widely vary from behavioral issues to walking.

What Families Should Expect After a Loved One’s Brain Injury

  • How to deal with a brain injury survivor. Families and loved ones who care for people living with brain injuries will need to know how to cope with their loved one’s new reality. Often times affected families will need counseling as well as support groups to help them deal with the difficult changes brought on by their loved one’s brain injury.
  • When to get an attorney and what to look for in a lawyer. When a person has suffered a brain injury as a result of someone else’s negligence, it is critical that families help their loved ones seek legal advice. An attorney can be valuable in getting the most compensation for a brain injury survivor or a family who has lost their loved one to a brain injury. It is essential that those impacted by brain injuries look for attorneys who have experience handling brain injury cases.
  • What types of damages are available in a brain injury claim. Because brain injuries often produce long-lasting adverse results, it is critical that those affected by such traumatic injuries receive the best financial recovery possible. Compensation can include medical expenses, lost wages and benefits, pain and suffering, loss of services, loss of companionship, and more. Depending on the specific head injury, an experienced attorney will be able to calculate the damages you should receive.

Unfortunately, any type of head trauma can be a very serious injury that causes life-long changes for an injured individual and his or her family. Any person who suffers memory loss, behavioral changes, cognitive impairments, and/or a job loss due to a brain injury should seek legal advice. We would be honored to talk with you and help you. Please call us today at (703) 591-0067 to receive a free consultation and learn about your legal rights.