Whether minor or severe, personal injuries that harm the brain can have life-long consequences, leaving victims struggling to overcome cognitive deficits, memory loss, and drastic personality changes. The strain can be nearly as immense for family members, who must adjust to their loved one’s impairments with compassion and grief. Brain injuries change people, often in unpredictable and frightening ways. The Philadelphia brain injury lawyers at Marciano & MacAvoy, P.C. understand traumatic brain injury law and can help you and your family through this complex time.
At the same time, severe injuries can burden families with a mountain of rising expenses. Finding reliable sources of long-term financing is crucial. Whether you intend to work through an insurance company, benefits program, or file a civil lawsuit, the best thing you can do for your case is to speak with an experienced Philadelphia brain injury attorney first. As you’ve probably already learned, brain injuries are extremely complex – both medically and legally.
What Is a Brain Injury?
There are different types of brain injuries, including:
- Concussion – caused by a bump or blow to the head, a concussion occurs when the brain jolts or twists inside the skull, leading to a series of chemical changes and, in some cases, brain cell damage.
- Contusion – any form of bleeding (bruising) on the brain, contusions are a common result of severe head injuries.
- Coup-contrecoup – flung forward by some impact, the brain strikes the front of the skull and is then thrown in the opposite direction, colliding with the back of the skull. The force causes two contusions, one at either end of the brain.
- Diffuse axonal injury – usually caused by shaking or forceful rotation, diffuse axonal injury occurs when the brain moves slower than the skull, tearing nerve tissues throughout the brain.
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Traumatic brain injuries refer to a wide variety of injuries caused by external forces or rapid motion. Any bump, hit, or impact can, in theory, lead to a traumatic brain injury, as can sudden jolts that, while not affecting the head directly, force the brain to move around inside the skull.
The following are the two primary types of traumatic brain injuries:
- Closed brain injuries – especially common in car accidents, a closed brain injury happens when the head accelerates quickly and then decelerates suddenly or strikes another object. This trauma often leads to brain tissue damage, as the brain is twisted, stretched, or bruised. Nerves, including the crucial nerves that connect the brain to the skull, can be severed. Closed brain injuries usually result in widespread (or “diffuse”) brain damage, leading to severe, but often unpredictable, symptoms, and long-term complications.
- Open (penetrative) brain injuries – when a foreign object breaks through the skull and penetrates the brain, specific regions of neural tissue can be damaged. As a result, penetrative brain injuries often lead to localized tissue injuries and (more) predictable forms of cognitive and functional impairment.
After the brain has suffered an immediate injury, restoring proper blood flow to support damaged brain cells is crucial. When blood supply has been compromised, the brain is starved for oxygen, which can lead to further cellular death. This subsequent form of brain damage is usually referred to as “ischemic” brain injury, according to the Alaska Brain Injury Network.
Alongside immediate impact to the head or body, doctors generally define traumatic brain injuries in relation to cognitive changes. In other words, TBI can result in either coma, a total loss of consciousness, or amnesia, a loss of memory. These alterations in cognition can be brief, lasting only moments, or extremely long. In fact, most experts attempt to diagnose the severity of a traumatic brain injury based in large part on the duration and depth of a patient’s loss of consciousness.
Traumatic brain injuries are usually included under the wider category of “acquired” forms of brain damage, which include all brain injuries that develop after a person is born. “Congenital” brain injuries, on the other hand, begin during fetal development, usually as a result of genetic mutations or environmental exposures. The third category of “hypoxic” brain injuries refers to damage caused by oxygen deprivation, a surprisingly common complication of labor or delivery in infants.
Causes & Legal Options
Brain injuries can be caused by numerous factors, from blunt-force trauma and drastic decreases in blood flow to neurological disorders like Parkinson’s Disease and certain viruses.
Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that of the nearly 2.8 million Americans who visit an emergency department with TBI-related injuries every year, almost 50% suffered brain damage in falls. Being struck by an external object and motor vehicle accidents came in close behind as the second and third leading causes of traumatic brain injury respectively, followed in fourth by violent assaults.
The following are statistics indicating the primary causes of traumatic brain injuries in the U.S.:
- Falls – 47%
- Struck by/against an object – 15%
- Car accidents – 14%
- Assaults – 11%
- Cause unknown – 13%
In practice, any type of brain injury can result in a viable civil lawsuit. Traumatic brain injuries caused by accidents often serve as the foundation of personal injury lawsuits. Brain damage inflicted during childbirth frequently leads to medical malpractice lawsuits. Some brain injuries that develop prior to birth can be linked to dangerous prescription drugs, which could leave families with a product liability claim.
Through a personal injury lawsuit for a brain injury, a plaintiff may recover:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Occupational therapy costs
- Lost wages
- Loss of future earnings potential
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional trauma
- Punitive damages – awarded to punish defendants for intentional wrongdoing or particularly egregious negligence
The damages available in any one case will depend almost entirely on the specific nature of the plaintiff’s injury and predictions of future disability and impairment. In Pennsylvania, a legal theory known as comparative negligence may also come into play. Many defendants, while admitting to some degree of liability, argue that the plaintiff in their case was also negligent, a fact that should be taken into account during the calculation of damages. Pennsylvania’s courts allow the total amount of awarded damages to be reduced on the basis of this shared liability.
Contact our Philadelphia offices at (215) 608-2183 to arrange your free consultation with our Philadelphia brain injury lawyers today!