Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a leading cause of death and disability among children and young adults in the U.S. In a given year, approximately 1.5 million Americans sustain a TBI. Of these injuries, roughly 230,000 people are hospitalized and survive, 50,000 people die, and between 80-90,000 people experience life-long disabilities. 

Traumatic brain injury is defined as any form of trauma that affects how the brain functions. Generally speaking, a traumatic brain injury is typically the result of a violent blow to the head or body. Objects that go through the brain tissue, like a shattered piece of a person’s skull or a bullet, can also cause traumatic brain injury. 

There are three main types of traumatic brain injuries. Mild, Moderate, and Severe traumatic brain injury. Each of these is measured on a scale known as the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) to determine the severity.

Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

A mild traumatic brain injury is a relatively new discovery that can occur in any individual’s day-to-day life. Any force to the head area can cause a mild TBI, which by no means should be taken lightly. For example, concussions: these types of head injuries have become normal events in the lives of active individuals, specifically athletes. Before they learned of the severity of concussions, athletes who suffered concussions were often to get back in the game or rest for only a short amount of time. However, we now know that mild traumatic brain injuries like concussions can gradually accumulate and affect how a person’s brain functions long-term. 

In addition, mild traumatic brain injuries can be the result of sudden movement. A good example would be traveling in a moving vehicle and suddenly slamming on the brakes. This inertia-driven force can literally bounce your brain against the skull cavity, causing a mild traumatic brain injury. The results could be swelling, bruising, and sometimes even bleeding of the brain, classifying it as a traumatic brain injury.

Moderate to Severe Traumatic Brain Injury

Moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries are a step above a mild traumatic brain injury on GCS measuring scale. Just like mild traumatic brain injuries, moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries can result after force to the head area or by a piercing injury like a gunshot wound to the head. Moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries threaten the lives of people each year and must be taken seriously. Gunshots, car crashes, assault cases, and even falls by the elderly all contribute to the leading causes of moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries. 

Before we detail the steps you should take when you or a loved one has suffered a traumatic brain injury as the result of someone’s negligence, it is crucial to understand the details of TBIs. Below you will find the types of TBI there are, symptoms associated with traumatic brain injuries, diagnosis, prevention, and the treatments that are available for patients that have suffered a TBI.  

Types of Traumatic Brain Injuries

Although traumatic brain injuries are often described as individual injuries, many people who suffer a TBI are more likely to have a combination of the following injuries, each of which has a different level of severity.

  • Concussion: a mild head injury that can cause a momentary loss of consciousness and usually does not cause lasting brain injury.
  • Contusion: a bruise to a specific area of the brain caused by impact to the head; also referred to as coup or contrecoup injuries. In coup injuries, the brain is injured directly under the area that was impacted, whereas, in contrecoup injuries, it is injured on the side opposite of the impact. 
  • Diffuse Axonal Injury: (DAI): the shearing and stretching of the nerve cells at the cellular level. This happens when the brain rapidly moves back and forth inside of the skull, leading to tearing and damaging of the nerve axons. Axons are what connect one nerve cell to another throughout the brain, similar to telephone wires. An extensive axonal injury disturbs the brain’s normal transfer of information and can result in substantial changes in a person’s alertness.
  • Traumatic Subarachnoid Hemorrhage (tSAH): bleeding into the space surrounding the brain. This space is typically filled with something called cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which behaves like a floating cushion to protect the brain. tSAH occurs when small arteries tear during the initial injury. This, in turn, spreads blood all over the surface of the brain, which causes widespread effects.
  • Hematoma: a blood clot that forms when a blood vessel bursts. Blood that breaks free from the normal bloodstream starts to thicken and clot. Clotting is the body’s natural way of stopping the bleeding. A hematoma can be relatively small, or it could possibly grow large and even compress the brain. Your symptoms will vary depending on the location of the clot. There are three important types of hematoma that affect the brain: epidural hematoma, intracerebral hematoma, and subdural hematoma. An epidural hematoma is a clot that forms between the skull and dura lining of the brain.  A subdural hematoma is a clot that forms between the brain and the dura actual. An intracerebral hematoma is a clot that forms deep within the brain tissue itself. Over time your body will reabsorb clots, but sometimes surgery is needed to remove larger clots.

Secondary brain juries can also occur as the result of the body’s inflammatory response to the primary injury. Extra fluids and nutrients will accumulate to try to heal the injury. In certain areas of the body, this is good and is the expected result to help the body heal; however, inflammation of the brain can be dangerous in some cases due to the firm skull limiting the space available for extra fluid and nutrients. Swelling of the brain increases pressure in the head, which can also cause injury to parts of the brain that were not injured initially. Swelling will happen gradually and can happen up to 5 days after the injury occurs. 

Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injuries

It is important to keep in mind that the type and location of your injury are going to determine a person’s symptoms. Symptoms can include:

  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Problems with vision
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Tiredness
  • Memory loss
  • Amnesia
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Reduced attention span/concentration
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of balance
  • Feelings of being depressed
  • Irritability

Injuries such as concussions or diffuse axonal injury (diffuse injuries) will usually cause decreased levels of consciousness. Focal injuries such as ICH or a contusion will have symptoms based on which part of the brain is affected. Each patient affected by a traumatic brain injury is unique, and some injuries will involve more than one area or part of a section, making it tough to predict symptoms that a patient will encounter.

How Are Diagnoses Made?

When someone has suffered a head injury and is brought to the hospital, medical professionals will take in as much as possible, as quickly as possible, about the patient’s symptoms and how the injury happened. The state the patient’s brain is in will be quickly assessed to determine the severity of the injury. Physicians will use the Glasgow Coma Scale to grade the patient’s level of consciousness; this scale ranges from 1-15. Doctors assess the patient’s ability to 1) open their eyes, 2) respond appropriately to questions like “What is your name? What is your birthdate? What is the date today?” and 3) follow commands like “Hold up three fingers or give a thumbs up” If a patient is completely unconscious or is not able to follow the commands that were given, their response to painful stimulation will be checked. After this, a number will be taken from each category and added together to get the total GSC score. 

To understand what part of the brain the injury affected, diagnostic imaging tests will be taken. There are three different types of imaging scans that can be taken:

  • Computed Tomography (CT) is an X-ray that is noninvasive, that provides detailed images of the anatomical structures of the brain. A CT scan is typically taken when the injury happens to quickly identify fractures, any bleeding that has taken place in the brain, blood clots (hematomas), and the overall severity of the injury. CT scans will continue to be used throughout the recovery of a patient to determine the progress of the injury and help make decisions on the patient’s care. 
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is another noninvasive test that uses a magnetic field and radiofrequency wave to give detailed images of the soft tissues of the brain. Sometimes a contrast agent (dye) will be injected into the bloodstream of the patient to help detect minute changes in the brain that a CT scan cannot show.
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS) gives information about the metabolism of a brain. The numbers generated from this type of scan will give a general prognosis about how well the patient will be able to recover from the injury. 

Can a TBI Be Prevented or Avoided?

Although accidents always happen, and they are just that, accidents, there are a few things that you can do to lower your risk for a TBI. You should:

  • Do not drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Avoid dangerous sports and activities
  • Always wear a seatbelt in the car
  • Make sure to wear a helmet when engaging in sports and activities such as skiing/snowboarding, horse riding, biking, and skating
  • Make living areas for seniors safe
  • Use child car seats the way they are intended to be used and always buckle your young child into a car seat before driving

What Treatments Are Available for TBIs?

Traumatic brain injuries are a very serious situation and most likely require immediate attention. As stated above, treatment will depend on the type, location, and severity of the injury.

If you have suffered a mild traumatic brain injury, treatment will most likely consist of lots of rest. Medication may also be needed in order to relieve the headache associated with the injury. This medication can simply be over-the-counter pain medicine. 

If you have a moderate to severe injury, treatment will probably require intensive care at a hospital. Bleeding and swelling in the brain often become an emergency that requires surgery. However, there are times when a patient will not require surgery and can be safely monitored by medical professionals in the ICU. Most times, physicians will start by stabilizing the patient’s injury. This will involve getting oxygen to your body and brain, maintaining your blood flow, and managing your blood pressure. These precautions are taken to help prevent any further damages. The goal of treatment is always to resuscitate and support the critically ill patient, decrease secondary brain injuries and complications, and assist the patient’s transition to a recovery environment (such as rehab). 

If a patient’s injury was severe, it is not unlikely that treatment will include many monitors, such as brain oxygen and intracranial pressure monitors, ventilators, feeding tubes, and seizure and EFG monitoring. Medication will most likely be given as well to help with controlling intracranial pressure, pain, sedation, and preventing seizures and infection.

If surgery is needed, it is usually to repair skull fractures, repair any bleeding vessels, remove large hematomas, or relieve extremely high intracranial pressure. Surgeries could include:

  • Craniotomy: cuts a hole in the skull in order to remove a bone flap so that the surgeon can access the brain. The surgeon then repairs the damage, and the bone flap is replaced to its normal position and secured back to the skull with plates and screws.
  • Decompressive craniectomy: Removes a large section of bone so the brain can swell and expand. This is usually performed when very high intracranial pressure builds up and becomes life-threatening. This helps leave room for the brain to swell more, and a special biological tissue is placed on top of the brain that is exposed, and then the skin is closed. The bone flap is stored in a freezer, and one to three months after the swelling has stopped and the patient is stable, the bone flap is replaced, called a cranioplasty.  

Other surgeries that can be done to help aid in the patient’s recovery include:

  • Tracheotomy: Makes a small incision in the neck so a breathing tube can be inserted directly into the windpipe. A ventilator is then inserted into this new location, and the tube that was in the mouth is removed (these tubes are used to help a patient breathe).
  • Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastronomy Tube (PEG): a feeding tube inserted directly into the stomach. When a patient has a breathing tube, they cannot eat, so this is to help them get the nutrients they need while recovering. 

What Should I Do If I’ve Suffered a TBI?

If you believe that you have suffered a traumatic brain injury and it is due to the negligence of another person, you are going to want to file a lawsuit. Even if you are already negotiating with an insurance company, in the midst of making a workers’ compensation claim, or applying for other benefits, the first thing you should do is consult a legal professional who specializes in brain injuries. Brain injury cases are very complex, both medically and legally, so it is essential to consult an experienced and qualified attorney.

Understanding the legal theory on which your case will be based is important because what you will have to prove in order to win your case is dictated on this. It will also help you compile all of the evidence that you will need for your case. 

Most brain injury cases are built on negligence, which states that someone (usually a medical professional in a brain injury case but could be someone else) acted wrongfully and was the reason for your injury. In order to have a basis for a negligence claim, the patient (plaintiff) must be able to prove that the party they are suing (the defendant) is legally responsible for their injury. 

Proving that a brain injury happened and linking that injury to a defendant’s behavior can be very helpful in a lawsuit. Traumatic brain injuries are more times than not complicated and hard to identify than any other type of personal injury. This is due to the immense amount of evidence that needs to be gathered in regards to the nature of the brain injury and the accident. The more information you have on these two things, the easier it will be able to prove your negligence claim. 

When preparing your case, the attorney of your choice will ask many questions about how your brain injury occurred. They will likely ask you to remember what you can of the accident, such as how it occurred, where you were and who you were with, what you were doing at the time of the accident, and the medical treatment that you received after the injury. As memory loss is common with brain injury patients, it is okay if you cannot recall specific details about your accident. The important thing is to just be honest with your attorney and help compile as much information as you can from other sources such as witnesses, police reports, and even newspaper articles. 

Although a traumatic brain injury case can seem daunting, especially in the time of memory loss and other pain and sufferings, the right experienced attorney will help navigate you through the complex legal process to the best of their ability. Contact an experienced personal injury attorney about your traumatic brain injury today.

Why Choose The Cochran Firm

Johnnie Cochran had long dreamed of creating a national law firm of men and women from all races, religions, creeds, and backgrounds to show how well we could all work together to make the world a better place. When Mr. Cochran started The Cochran Firm, his mission was “a journey to justice.” Today, with more than 35 offices across more than 20 states, the attorneys at The Cochran Firm work every day to fulfill that dream and continue that mission by working for our clients with the same work ethic and dedication to justice exemplified by Mr. Johnnie Cochran himself.

The Cochran Firm is a diverse group of highly skilled and experienced lawyers that are dedicated to bringing high-quality representation to injured people and their families. Our experienced attorneys at The Cochran Firm are among the nation’s most recognized and successful attorneys in the country. When navigating through the legal process, you deserve to have an experienced attorney by your side. Our attorneys at The Cochran Firm know how to fight for you.

Here at The Cochran Firm, our personal injury attorneys are ready to help victims who have suffered from a terrible brain injury receive the maximum compensation and financial recovery for all of their pain and suffering. Our attorneys work closely with each of our clients using pooled resources and their access to legal expertise to ensure the most effective legal representation available is provided. Our experienced TBI attorneys have the resources to hire the top neuroradiologists, neuropsychologists, and neurologists who are trained in diagnosing and treating traumatic brain injuries. Understanding traumatic brain injury medicine is crucial to effectively explain it to the jury. 

You need the help of an experienced attorney who has proven successful results in other similar cases to guide you through the process and help you to receive the monetary damages you are entitled to under the law. The Cochran Firm’s results have been well documented and demonstrated both in the courtroom and at settlement conferences. At The Cochran Firm, we have the offices, the experience, the results, and the resources to aid clients throughout the United States.

If you’re looking for an experienced lawyer to help you pursue justice for your traumatic brain injury case, please contact our personal injury attorneys at The Cochran Firm today for your free, no-obligation initial consultation today. We serve the entire country with offices in many major U.S. cities.