Find A Lawyer Legal Articles Attorney Login

Understanding the Real Cost of Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) in Georgia

Every year, hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized due to traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Even more people sustain TBIs who do not get hospital treatment but suffer consequences. The Brain Trauma Foundation estimates there are about 2.5 million TBIs per year, many of them leading to disabilities and death – and often requiring a personal injury lawyer’s help to get full compensation for the victim.

The scope of the problem

In Georgia, more than 28,000 TBIs are reported each year. About 20,000 of those injuries result in emergency room visits, and 7,000 lead to hospitalization. It’s likely that there are thousands more that go unreported.

As common as they are, TBIs are little understood. It’s a situation that too often leads to recovery mistakes and shortfalls. The consequences of treatment errors can be severe and lifelong.

Lack of awareness can be particularly dangerous when families of TBI accident victims are planning for future treatment and supervision. When people don’t know what it will take to recover from an injury, they don’t know what it will cost – and may accept a settlement that doesn’t factor in long-term therapy and disability provisions.

That’s why it’s so important to talk to a Georgia personal injury lawyer following any accident that involves a blow to the head.

What is a TBI?

TBI is a term for brain damage caused by forceful impact. The severity of the injury ranges from mild to lethal. TBIs are caused by strong blows to the head, often sustained in:

  • Slip and falls
  • Car accidents
  • Sports and recreational activities – basketball, cheerleading, football, ice hockey, soccer
  • Struck by object incidents
  • Assaults

Brain damage due to TBIs can be localized or diffuse. Localized injuries are isolated to where the brain was struck. Diffuse injuries describe damage that occurs over a widespread area. Many TBIs lead to both kinds of damage.

Georgia injuries

One of the fastest growing causes of TBIs is youth sports. When a star athlete dies due to a traumatic brain injury, the community takes notice.

Georgia was rocked a few years back when a high school football player died due to a mysterious brain injury. The 17-year-old had been injured during the game but had not been tackled. He complained of leg pain, according to local media reports. The game was on a Friday, he died on Sunday.

It’s still not clear what happened to cause the injury.

Types of TBIs

“TBI” is an umbrella term that applies to many types of physical head damage. The types of TBI include:

  • Coup-contrecoup — This injury occurs when both sides of the brain are damaged. The side that absorbs the initial blow is the “coup.” The countercoup describes damage caused by the force-of-impact slamming the brain into the other side of the skull. This is common in rear-end car accidents where the head moves violently forward and back.
  • Skull fracture — Breaking of the skull bone.
  • Contusion or bruises — Brain swelling at the site of impact or where the force of the blow has driven the brain against the skull.
  • Hematoma, blood clots — These happen when swelling or blood collects between the skull and the brain or inside the brain itself.
  • Cuts and lacerations — Tearing of the brain tissue or blood vessels brought on by the forced rotation of the brain along the skull’s bony ridges.
  • Nerve damage — Also known as a “diffuse axonal injury,” nerve damage happens when the white matter connecting the brain’s nerve fibers are torn or shorn. This type of injury can cause unconsciousness and/or coma.
  • Concussion — Caused by a hit to the head, concussions are “mild” traumatic brain injuries, but no brain injury is truly minor.

Secondary TBI health problems

TBI victims often suffer “secondary damage” that develops over time after the initial injury. This type of damage may include things like:

  • Infections
  • Hypoxia (lack of oxygen)
  • Edema (brain swelling)
  • Increased pressure on the brain
  • Infarction (the death of brain tissue and loss of blood to that region)
  • Hematoma

Long-term TBI effects

People who sustain serious TBIs should be prepared to treat the injury like a chronic disease. This means that one-time treatments and occasional checkups are not going to be enough, in many cases, for someone to recover and maintain their health after a TBI.

The consequences of moderate to severe TBIs can include:

  • Decreased concentration
  • Memory problems
  • Impulsiveness
  • Lower interaction skills
  • Inability to perform executive functions, like planning, and problem solving, at pre-injury levels
  • Depression
  • Difficulty speaking and being understood
  • Paralysis or weakness
  • Chronic pain
  • Decreased bowel and bladder control
  • Changes to vision and/or hearing
  • Loss of stamina
  • Muscle tightness

Strategic follow-up, interventions to prevent or slow function decline, and access to continuing rehabilitation may be necessary to properly treat a TBI victim and their changing needs.

Georgia has about a dozen centers with services for TBI patients. While most are based in Atlanta, treatment centers are also located in Stone Mountain, Americus, Decatur, Savannah, and Augusta.

TBI Recovery

Recovering from a TBI is a long, difficult process that often comes with a cap. Many studies say that once brain cells are destroyed or damaged, they do not regenerate. However, other areas can make up for the damaged parts. The brain may reroute information and function around the injury.

For the victim, TBI recovery often consists of adapting to new, reduced levels of brain function and motor skills.

They also may need to adapt to new relationships because of changes to brain function and personality. In social situations, a TBI may cause a person to have difficulty:

  • Taking turns in conversations
  • Using an appropriate tone of voice
  • Staying on topic
  • Understanding sarcasm and humor

TBIs Five Years Later

While there is still much to be learned, a recent and unique study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has shed some light on the long-term effects of TBIs. The CDC surveyed the outcomes of people with moderate to severe TBIs at one and five years after the injury.

Among the study’s findings are:

  • About half of TBI sufferers experienced a cognitive change within 5 years after injury — 24 percent improved while another 24 percent declined
  • More than 40 percent of TBI victims will require full-time or overnight supervision
  • About 15 percent will need assistance with motor function
  • Five years after recovery, TBI victims were at various stages of recovery, including:

— 35 percent of people with TBIs have made a "good" recovery

— 18 percent were moderately disabled

— 27 percent were severely injured or in a vegetative state

— 20 percent had died, with people ages 65 and older having the highest mortality rate

In short, the long-term cost of a brain injury can vary widely, depending on how the brain recovers. It’s not just medical treatment and lost wages, but also compensation for pain and suffering, lost quality of life, and other negatives that can be more difficult to calculate. That’s why it’s critical that people with brain injuries get both medical attention and strong legal representation to fight for full compensation for all those costs.

Compensation for TBI Treatment

Unintentional injuries, which include TBIs, are a leading cause of death in Georgia.

If you or a loved one is suffering with a TBI sustained in a car accident, commercial truck collision, slip and fall, or other situation caused by someone else’s negligence, it is important that you get all the money you need and deserve for your injuries. That’s why it’s best to talk to an attorney with experience handling TBI cases before you talk to the insurance company. In Georgia, there is a two-year time limit (statute of limitations) for most personal injury claims, but you shouldn’t wait that long. The sooner you talk to a lawyer, the more effectively that lawyer can protect your rights.

An experienced personal injury attorney in Georgia will be able to negotiate with insurance companies or file a lawsuit on your behalf to pursue the maximum compensation for your accident. Most injury lawyers offer free case consultations where you can learn more about how the law applies to your specific situation and the real value of your claim. Call a lawyer in your area today.

Personal Injury Assistance
Law Offices of Gary Martin Hays & Associates, P.C.

The Law Offices of Gary Martin Hays & Associates, P.C., is committed to protecting the rights of personal injury victims in Duluth, Atlanta, and throughout Georgia. We handle a wi...