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Traumatic Brain Injuries and Concussions Caused By Accidents in California

Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) and concussions are among the most serious head injuries people can sustain in an accident. Each year, more than 61,000 people die as a result of a TBI, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Thousands more are hospitalized and require extensive medical care in California and throughout the country.

This is why it’s important to understand why traumatic brain injuries occur, what medical treatments are available and how to identify a TBI. It’s also important to understand the legal options available to individuals and family members if someone else caused an accident that resulted in a TBI – and how a California personal injury attorney can help protect those rights.

Keep in mind that many of the laws concerning accidents that result in a brain injury vary from state to state. That’s why it’s important to talk with a California personal injury lawyer who understands the rules and regulations that apply to brain injuries in the state.

What is a traumatic brain injury?

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a type of head injury that results in brain damage. Depending on the severity and location of the injury, the damage to the brain can be mild or severe, temporary or permanent.

Many traumatic brain injuries can have long-term, permanent consequences. A severe TBI can affect a person’s brain function and cognitive skills due to severe tissue damage to the brain and other neurological damage.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury. Concussions occur when the brain experiences rapid movement inside the skull. Such rapid movements often result in chemical changes to the brain, which can result in brain damage to brain cells.

Depending on the severity of the injury, concussions can range from mild to severe. However, a mild concussion and a severe concussion can be difficult to tell apart at first. This is why it’s important for anyone who sustains a head injury to seek immediate medical care to determine if they have a concussion and the severity of their injury.

What are different types of TBIs?

In general, there are three main types of TBIs:

  • Mild TBI – Don’t let the name fool you. A mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) is still a significant injury that requires immediate medical care. Concussions are often classified as an MTBI. But some concussions can be very serious. Repeated mild TBIs and multiple concussions can result in long-term brain damage that can permanently affect someone’s cognitive skills.
  • Moderate TBI – As the name suggests, a moderate TBI can have more serious, long-term consequences than a mild TBI. As a result, a person with a moderate TBI may require hospitalization, ongoing medical care and other support due to moderate brain damage.
  • Severe TBI – The most severe type of TBI can permanently change a person’s life, resulting in behavioral changes, emotional changes and cognitive changes that dramatically affect someone’s personality and their ability to think. Many people with a severe TBI require constant medical care and support for the rest of their lives.

TBIs can also be classified based on how the injury happened. A closed brain injury occurs when there is no break in the skull. There are many different types of closed brain injuries, including:

  • Concussions
  • Brain contusion (bruising of the brain)
  • Brain hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain)
  • Brain hematoma (blood clot in the brain)
  • Diffuse axonal injury (DAI) (tearing of the brain’s axons (nerve fibers))

penetrating brain injury, also referred to as an open head injury, involves an object breaking the skull and damaging the brain, or a skull fracture that results in fragments of bone entering the brain. Penetrating brain injuries are uncommon – and quite severe when they do occur.

What are common causes of TBIs?

Many traumatic brain injuries are caused by accidents due to someone else’s reckless or negligent behavior. For instance, brain injuries are common in motor vehicle crashes, including car accidents and truck accidents on heavily traveled highways like I-5 or I-10 in California. Motorcyclists also often sustain TBIs as a result of motorcycle accidents caused by other drivers.

Slip and falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injury, especially among children and elderly people. Often, a slip and fall or trip and fall occurs as a result of negligence on the part of a property owner or manager.

Work-related injuries are another common cause of concussions and other TBIs. Construction workers are especially at risk of sustaining a TBI, often due to falls from a height or being struck by an object on the head.

One study found that construction workers sustain more TBIs than any other type of work, according to the CDC. Another study found that 25 percent of construction fatalities occurred as a result of a TBI, according to the National Safety Council.

Veterans and military personnel are also at a high risk of sustaining a TBI on the job. Each year, an estimated 20,000 active U.S. service members sustain a head injury, many of which result in ongoing medical problems, according to the CDC.

What are the warning signs of a brain injury?

There are many symptoms people should watch for if they suspect that they or someone else sustained a traumatic brain injury:

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Memory loss
  • Poor balance
  • Sensitivity to bright light or loud noises

It’s important to keep in mind that the symptoms of a traumatic brain injury may not become apparent for hours or even days after the injury. Ultimately, only a medical evaluation can diagnose a brain injury. This is why it’s important to seek immediate medical care after sustaining a head injury, even if you feel fine.

What medical treatments are available for a TBI?

First, doctors need to diagnose whether someone has a TBI and the severity of the injury. In order to do that, doctors or emergency medical personnel first perform a Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) assessment. This 15-point test allows medical professionals to quickly measure whether someone may have sustained a brain injury, often in an accident.

Physicians then often perform imaging tests to measure the severity and location of the brain injury. Such tests include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and computed tomography (CT) scans. A CT scan can be particularly effective at identifying whether someone has a blood clot (hematoma) or bleeding in the brain (hemorrhage).

If a brain injury occurred, there are many different types of medical treatment depending on what type of concussion or TBI someone sustained. Such treatments include:

  • Relative rest for several days, especially in cases involving concussions
  • Prescription medications, including anti-seizure drugs or coma-inducing drugs
  • Emergency brain surgery, often due to inflammation of the brain, internal bleeding, blood clots or reduced oxygen supply
  • Long-term rehabilitation, especially for severe traumatic brain injuries

Each brain injury affects the victim differently. Your doctor can help you decide which treatment makes the most sense for your particular brain injury.

What can I be compensated for?

Whether or not you’re eligible for financial compensation depends on the circumstances of your brain injury. If someone else caused your accident, you may be entitled to financial compensation. However, you need to provide evidence that someone else’s actions or negligence directly resulted in your injury.

If that’s the case, you should be entitled to financial compensation for all your injury-related expenses. This includes all medical care and lost wages if you cannot work due to your injury. Your compensation should also include all future anticipated expenses related to your injury.

Each state has its own unique rules when it comes to compensation for traumatic brain injuries and other injuries due to negligence. In general, injury victims only have a limited amount of time to file a claim seeking damages, the legal term for financial compensation. This deadline is known as the statute of limitations. In California, for example, injury victims must file an injury claim or take legal action within two years of their injury.

Who’s responsible for paying for my injury?

In general, it’s the at-fault party’s responsibility for financially compensating you for your injury. The at-fault party can be one or several individuals, including:

  • An at-fault driver in a motor vehicle accident.
  • The owner, manager, or possessor of property where the accident occurred. In California, anyone who has control over the property where an injury occurs can potentially be held liable for the injuries sustained.
  • The manufacturer or distributor of a defective product that contributed to the injury.
  • Any other negligent party, such as a bar that served alcohol to a drunk driver.

If multiple individuals or businesses contribute to an accident, they can be held responsible for the financial compensation in proportion to their percentage of fault. California is a “pure” comparative negligence state for injury claims, which means an injured person who is partially at fault can still recover compensation for the portion that isn’t their fault. For example, if you are found 40 percent at fault for your brain injury, you can still recover, but the recovery will be reduced by 40 percent.

What should I do if I have a brain injury?

If you believe you sustained a brain injury, immediately take the following steps:

  • Seek immediate medical attention.
  • Follow your doctor’s advice.
  • Attend all follow-up doctor’s appointments.
  • If your TBI was the result of an accident caused by someone else, don’t discuss your accident. Anything you say could be used as evidence to deny your injury claim.
  • If the at-fault party’s insurance company contacts you, don’t answer their questions. Again, your statements could be used by the insurance company to deny your claim.
  • Talk to an attorney as soon as possible after your concussion or brain injury.

How can a lawyer help?

If your concussion or traumatic brain injury was the result of someone else’s reckless or negligent behavior, having an experienced attorney on your side can make a dramatic difference in the outcome of your legal case.

Your lawyer can investigate your accident and gather evidence in support of your claim. Your attorney can then present such evidence to the at-fault party or their insurance company and negotiate a settlement claim on your behalf. If they refuse to cooperate, your lawyer can file a lawsuit on your behalf and demand the money you deserve in court. Many attorneys offer free case evaluations. Schedule an appointment with an experienced personal injury lawyer in your area.

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The Swanson Law Group
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Clancy & Diaz, LLP
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Founded in 2007, Clancy & Diaz, LLP is a personal injury law firm with offices in Walnut Creek and Antioch, CA. Attorney Pete Clancy is a highly regarded trial attorney who has wo...