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Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) Can Bankrupt Accident Victims

Offered by Hoover Rogers Law, LLP

In the past 15 years, the number of emergency room visits due to Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) has exploded in the United States, causing billions of dollars in healthcare costs and lost productivity.

For individual TBI victims, the consequences of an injury can be life-altering. There is no cure for a brain injury, and long-term treatment may be required. Victims may lose their ability to work and earn income or care for themselves and their families.

Unfortunately, too many brain injuries are a result of preventable accidents caused by negligence. In those scenarios, victims have legal recourse.

What causes TBIs?

TBIs are usually caused when the head strikes or is struck against another stationary or moving object, or sometimes by violent movement of the head that doesn’t involve striking an object. While concussions and other brain injuries are frequently associated with sports, the most common causes of TBIs are car accidents, falls, struck by object incidents, and other blunt force trauma to the head.

In a car, a person can hit their head on the wheel, dashboard, or window, or a free flying object may hit the head. Whiplash injuries can also cause TBI as the brain hits the inside of the skull (a coup-contrecoup injury).

Side-impact type crashes are the most likely to result in a TBI, researchers say. In a side-impact collision, the head will be thrown in the direction of the impact, which can be more dangerous for the brain than a hit from the front or the rear. In addition, the side of a vehicle absorbs less of the force of impact than the front or rear, transferring more force into the victim’s body.

In general, the faster a vehicle is travelling, the more severe the injuries. That is why there is a high risk of TBI in a highway crash. US-287, for example, is a hotspot for bad car accidents. At more than 1,880 miles, US-287 is the longest 3-digit route in the nation. The major truck route between Fort Worth and Amarillo meets numerous other fast-moving, high-volume highways, resulting in many serious and fatal crashes.

How a person is injured makes a difference in whether they can get money from outside sources to pay for treatment. In car accidents, a person may have a case against another driver. In sports injuries, there may be event space, equipment, or supervisor liability to consider. In both situations, a person may be eligible to file an insurance claim or a lawsuit to recover compensation.

TBI types and symptoms

The brain is a complex organ that can be injured in several different ways. Common types of TBI include:

  • Blood clots — Also known as a hematoma, in this condition blood clots and pools within the brain or on its surface
  • Contusion — Brain tissue bruising
  • Coup-Contrecoup — This describes damage to the brain at the initial site of the hit as well as where the brain was injured where it was knocked against other parts of the skull
  • Puncture
  • Ischemia — Insufficient blood flow
  • Diffuse injuries — Sometimes TBIs change the brain in tiny ways throughout the organ
  • Axonal injuries — An axonal is a brain tissue that can tear
  • Hemorrhage — Brain hemorrhaging (bleeding) can be outside of the brain (subarachnoid) or inside the brain (intracerebral)
  • Skull fracture
  • Loss of consciousness and/or coma

After the initial impact causing a TBI, a person may have continued symptoms such as:

  • Difficulty thinking clearly
  • Feeling slow
  • Memory problems
  • Headache
  • Fuzzy vision
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sensitivity to noise and light
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Mood changes
  • Sleeping less or more than usual

The long road to TBI recovery

Healing from a TBI is a lot more adjusting to a new way of life than waiting for the bandages to come off. TBI survivors often work with multiple therapists to strengthen and retrain their muscles or reset their thinking.

Victims may need to see a neurologist or neurosurgeon, psychiatrist or therapist, recreation therapist, dietician, social worker, internist, specialist medical professional, occupational therapist, speech/language coach, audiologist, vocational counselor, orthotist, or respiratory therapist.

Some of the rehabilitation treatments a TBI victim may require therapy and education to improve are:

  • Activities of daily living (ADL) — Feeding, bathing, dressing, etc.
  • Physical care — Nutritional needs and skin care, medicine
  • Mobility — Walking, moving a self-propelling wheelchair
  • Communication — Speech and writing, alternative methods of communication
  • Socialization — Interacting with others at home and in the community
  • Vocational training — Work related skills
  • Pain management — Medicines, exercise, and alternative treatments
  • Psychological testing and counseling — Identifying problems and solutions
  • Family support — Help adapting to lifestyle changes, financial concerns, and discharge planning

Living with TBI often means readjusting your physical space to accommodate your new abilities. At your home, you may need to install ramps, ceiling lifts, roll-in showers, automatic door openers, and wider doors. Returning to work may not be possible for some victims, and others may need to change careers or take on lighter duties. These losses, too, add to the total cost of a brain injury.

The extreme cost of a traumatic brain injury

On average, someone recovering from TBI spends around $151,000 in their first year of recovery. TBI often requires various forms of long-term therapy and regular treatment from specialized medical professionals. Lifetime medical and therapy costs for a TBI could reach $3 million, according to the Traumatic Brain Injury Model System at the University of Alabama Birmingham.

Overall, the U.S. spends more than $75 billion per year treating TBIs and making up for the loss in productivity, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Given the extreme cost of such an injury, it should come as no surprise that many survivors end up broke. In one study of 6,000 TBI and SCI (spinal cord injury) survivors, there was a 33 percent increase in bankruptcy incidents within the first five years of injury.

For people who are injured in a car accident, however, the insurance companies are supposed to pay for these expenses, not the victim. Getting full compensation often takes serious investigation, aggressive negotiating, and the threat of a lawsuit. That’s why it’s wise to get a free consultation with an attorney following a bad car accident.

You need an attorney to help you recover after a serious injury

While many families are sucked into financial ruin by serious accident-related injuries like TBIs, this doesn’t have to be your fate. A personal injury lawyer in your area can identify who is liable for covering your medical expenses, aggressively negotiate with insurance companies, and if necessary, file a civil lawsuit on your behalf. An experienced lawyer may also be able to negotiate with your medical providers to lower costs, connect you with resources, and structure your recovery to ensure that your long-term care needs are met.

Most personal injury attorneys offer free case consultations and work on contingency. This means that there is no retainer or hourly rate for you to pay. Your attorney’s fee is paid as a percentage of your recovery, and if you don’t win, you don’t owe your lawyer anything.

Give yourself the best chance at recovery and financial security after a brain injury sustained in an accident. Consult with a lawyer in your area today.

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