Although most brain injuries are caused by falls, motor vehicle accidents, sports injuries, and violence, many people suffer traumatic brain injuries as a result of medical malpractice. These types of brain injuries are particularly unfortunate because they are preventable; however, they occur because medical professionals behave carelessly and negligently.
Patients put their lives in their doctors’ hands—trusting that their doctors know best. However, sometimes doctors make mistakes in the operating room or when diagnosing conditions that can lead to brain injuries. Sadly, a brain injury can change a person’s life forever and change the entire family’s future. This is why it is critical that injured victims and their family members have some sort of understanding of all the factors involved following a serious brain injury caused by medical malpractice.
Types of Brain Injuries Caused by Medical Malpractice
The brain can be permanently damaged through a variety of medical mistakes or lack of diligent care in a medical setting. The following are some common brain injuries due to medical malpractice:
- Anoxic brain injury. When a total lack of oxygen to the brain occurs, a patient can suffer permanent brain damage. This type of brain injury typically occurs due to an error a doctor makes when assisting childbirth—leaving a baby to suffer life-long cognitive issues and disabilities.
- Hypoxic brain injury. A hypoxic brain injury means there was a partial lack of oxygen at birth or during surgery. Brain cells can die without enough oxygen. Even when a partial lack of oxygen occurs, mild to moderate brain damage can be the result.
- Stroke. During a stroke, the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain is suddenly interrupted, causing brain cells to die off. When doctors fail to recognize the symptoms of a stroke and provide treatment, a person can suffer a stroke-induced brain injury.
- Toxicity. Some drugs have toxic effects that can kill brain cells. If doctors or pharmacists leave people on certain medications for too long, prescribe too much medication, or give someone the wrong medicine, it is possible the drug can cause brain damage.
Causes of Brain Injuries
Just as there are many types of brain injuries, there are many causes of brain damage, including:
- Labor and delivery errors. When a doctor fails to perform a timely emergency C-section, doesn’t act quickly when a baby’s umbilical cord is compressed, or attempts to deliver a breeched baby, oxygen deprivation that may injure a baby’s brain can occur. Sadly, this can lead to Cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, seizure disorders, and many more adverse effects.
- Misdiagnosis or delay in diagnosis. Although doctors are trained to diagnose and treat health conditions, some doctors have made diagnosis mistakes that have led to brain injuries. For example, a doctor could have delayed diagnosing a heart attack or stroke, failed to treat meningitis in a timely manner, misdiagnosed a condition, or delayed treatment of a blood clot or aneurysm.
- Surgical errors. When a doctor makes a surgical error during a brain tumor procedure, performs a wrong-sided brain surgery, or if an infection sets in following brain surgery, a patient can suffer serious brain damage.
- Medication errors. Anesthesia errors made during surgery can lead to brain injuries. For example, an anesthesiologist may overmedicate a patient or fail to monitor the patient closely during surgery, which can ultimately lead to irreversible brain damage.
When any type of medical error occurs that affects a person’s brain, the outcome is traumatic to say the least. However, sometimes patients and their families are not told about the lack of oxygen or medication error that occurred. This is why it is important to know what symptoms and side effects to look for that could indicate a brain injury from medical malpractice.
Side Effects of Brain Injuries
There are many different physical and cognitive effects of brain damage that vary widely depending on the extent of the damage and the part of the brain that was injured. Some common brain injury symptoms include:
- Headaches. One of the most common problems after a brain injury is a headache. Headaches can be debilitating and make it difficult to think and go about daily activities.
- Loss of vision. After a brain injury, people might experience double vision, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, and some sort of vision loss.
- Coordination and balance problems. It is common for most brain injury victims to experience dizziness, vertigo, and disequilibrium. Even coordination problems occur due to changes in strength and balance.
- Speech problems and communication issues. Brain injuries can lead to language impairment, disorders of speech, trouble expressing thoughts through language, and poor social skills.
- Insomnia. Most people who suffer from head trauma also suffer from sleep disorders, such as insomnia. Unfortunately, lack of sleep can make one’s memory and other brain injury symptoms worse.
- Memory loss. Brain injuries typically cause short term memory problems, but they can also cause a loss of memories from the time period right before the injury that stretches back several hours or even years.
- Loss of bladder and bowel function. Because the brain controls the bowel and bladder, brain injury survivors may suffer from loss of control, constipation, and an increased urgency to urinate.
- Spasticity. When a brain injury interrupts the flow of messages between the brain and muscles, spasticity happens. This type of muscle control disorder involves jerky motions, stiff muscles, and trembling of the extremities.
- Weakness of the arms and legs. A brain injury can cause immediate symptoms such as limb weakness. This is known as quadriparesis, which means muscle weakness affects all four limbs.
- Paralysis. This type of brain injury outcome results in the total loss or partial loss of the ability to move and/or feel anything in the affected areas.
- Wrongful death. This outcome is obviously the worst consequence of a brain injury. Families of loved ones who died as a result of a medical professional’s negligence need to know about their rights to a wrongful death lawsuit.
Recovering from a Brain Injury
Recovering from a serious brain injury is a difficult and lengthy process for both the injured person and that person’s family. For most brain injury victims, the recovery process involves the following:
- Physical recovery. When a person suffers a TBI, they often need help regaining their physical abilities. This is why a physical therapy program is essential for brain injury survivors. Though physical therapy, brain injury patients can improve their strength, coordination, and walking ability. Physical recovery can also involve speech therapy and occupational therapy that will include treatment programs to help the person regain independence in everyday life.
- Emotional recovery. Because people with traumatic brain injuries experience emotional problems, recovering emotionally from a brain injury may include counseling, mental health care, and medications. Typically, a person living with a traumatic brain injury will need to see a psychologist or a neuropsychologist to help with their emotional recovery. Also, families of brain injury victims need emotional support during this difficult time, which is why many family members join support groups or seek help through counseling.
- Financial recovery. Since brain injury treatment and recovery can be very expensive, brain injury victims will often file medical malpractice lawsuits to recover damages for medical expenses, ongoing medical care, lost income, future lost earnings, and pain and suffering. Also, families who have lost their loved ones to brain injuries may be able to seek damages for funeral expenses, loss of companionship, loss of services, lost income and benefits, and more.
What to Expect After a Brain Injury
Knowing what the road ahead looks like can help you make important decisions now. Understanding the potential long-term costs of recovery and possible need for life-long assistance is vital to supporting your loved one.
- What brain injury victims can expect. After suffering a traumatic brain injury, the injured victim will often experience physical and psychological changes. Not only do people living with brain injuries tend to deal with headaches and other physical challenges, but they become more easily angered; they often struggle with depression, and are more emotional. These changes are common and can get better with physical therapy, counseling, and medication.
- What families of brain injury survivors can expect. It is important that families are reminded that their loved one might never return to their former self, or that it can take years for their loved one to achieve the best possible progress. Also, families need to know that brain injury survivors often have a hard time with short-term memory loss and may experience personality changes. Each stage in the recovery process may be different, which is why it is essential that families talk with their loved one’s doctor and physical therapist, join a support group for people dealing with brain injuries, and get counseling.
- What to expect legally. The legal process can also be long when dealing with a brain injury because it is important that the patient reach maximum medical improvement before putting a value on the claim. This way the injured victim and his or her family will be able to recover the most money possible after the full extent of the injury is known. While the legal process can take months or years, it is critical that brain injury victims and their families seek legal advice immediately if they think medical negligence caused the injury. Also, it is best to have an attorney handle an injury claim of this nature who has experience in medical malpractice law and brain injury claims.
If you believe a surgical error, medication mistake, diagnosing error, or medical professional’s mistake caused your brain injury or your loved one’s death, you should talk with an attorney who has experience handling medical malpractice cases and has courtroom experience. This way you can rest assured knowing you will get the best possible outcome. We have the experience you are looking for and would be honored to help you. Please contact us at (703) 591-0067 for a free consultation today.
We recommend also downloading one of our free Virginia and Washington D.C medical malpractice ebooks:
- What You Need To Know Before Pursuing a Medical Malpractice Case
- A Patient's Guide To Medical Negligence in Virginia
Get your copies today to begin learning how to navigate complex medical practice cases.