For personal injury attorneys, clients who suffer from a traumatic brain injury can present some of the most complicated and difficult cases to investigate and present to a jury. Some brain injuries are readily apparent due to the severity of the physical impact to the skull and brain or the client’s unmistakable injuries. Other traumatic brain injuries require a more detailed investigation because the signs and symptoms are harder to identify, while the level of impact on an individual’s quality of life is similar. The following are five factors that the attorneys at Rhode Island-based Decof, Decof & Barry take into consideration in a traumatic brain injury case.
- What is a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?
First, we need to start with a definition of the issue. A traumatic brain injury is an injury to the brain resulting from sudden force of a fall, blast, or other impact. A TBI can range from a mild concussion with temporary loss of consciousness to severe and crippling injuries that leave a person in a vegetative state. Recent research into traumatic brain injuries posits that traumatic brain injuries should be considered as more of a disease that can affect multiple parts of the brain simultaneously, and over a long period of time, rather than as a straight-forward injury such as a bruise or laceration.
- Certain facts suggest that a traumatic brain injury occurred
When evaluating the cause of a client’s injuries, we look for any instance where external force caused either a direct physical impact or rapid movement of the head. These circumstances suggest that the individual may have experienced a traumatic brain injury. For example, falls, impacts in car accidents, whiplash, and explosions cause the type of external force that can result in a TBI.
- Signs and symptoms of someone suffering from a traumatic brain injury
Traumatic brain injuries are associated with several signs and symptoms. An attorney will consider if a client experienced or reported the following:
- Loss of consciousness
- Loss of memory / amnesia
- Other effects including, but not limited to: altered mental state; reductions in social interactions, reading, demeanor; fatigue; difficulty with complex thinking and even performing daily tasks.
These signs and symptoms suggest that the individual may have experienced a traumatic brain injury. Further, he or she may be exhibiting these signs and symptoms over different time periods. For example, a loss of consciousness and amnesia are likely to manifest at or very near the time of the trauma, but an altered mental state and reductions in social interactions are likely to develop over time as a result of this disease.
- The best sources for evidence of traumatic brain injuries are medical records, incident reports, employment records, and interviews with a client
The evidence for traumatic brain injuries is going to come from multiple sources. The initial reports from the accident or incident, along with contemporaneous medical records, document the cause of the trauma and the initial complaints. However, the long-term effects of a traumatic brain injury, such as the conditions that affect daily life, can be documented through subsequent medical records and with thorough interviews with the client, his or her family and friends, and co-workers who can describe the individual’s changes before and after the trauma.
- Evaluation by a medical professional is essential for a claim for a TBI
Competent expert testimony to support and illustrate a traumatic brain injury is vital to a successful resolution of claims. Typically, a neurologist, a neuropsychologist, and/or neuroradiologist can evaluate a client and/or review his/her medical records to document and identify the evidence for a traumatic brain injury. Neurologists and neuropsychologists should meet with a client, document the symptoms, and catalog the severity of neurological dysfunction. A neuroradiologist could also be employed to interpret imaging of the brain to identify the affected areas. Individually, and collectively, these professionals can determine the extent of the brain injury and provide a prognosis for a client. Importantly, these experts can simplify for the jury what can be a confusing medical condition and add crucial expert support to substantiate the severity of a brain injury.