Traumatic Brain Injury
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is caused by a sudden blow, bump, jab, or other force to the head that causes the brain to impact with the skull. This impact can cause bruising, swelling, bleeding, and tears in brain tissue or nerves. TBI often occurs during contact sports, such as football, basketball, or soccer. It can also occur when a person is assaulted, or when a person is in an accident, such as a bicycle accident, slip and fall, workplace accident, industrial accident, explosion, train accident, truck accident, or aviation accident. TBI often results when a person is involved an automobile accident and is thrown from the car, or when the victim strikes his or her head on a windshield, dashboard, or seat.
Diagnosis of TBI
Traumatic brain injuries can range from mild, requiring little or no treatment, to quite severe, requiring hospitalization and extensive treatment. To prevent additional injury to the brain, a doctor or emergency room personnel must quickly diagnose TBI to begin treatment. Some common tests for TBI include the following:
- Glasgow Coma Scale: This test can assess the severity of a brain injury. Involving 15 different points, the test checks an accident victim’s ability to speak coherently, follow directions, blink his or her eyes, and move his or her arms or legs. A low score is a sign of a severe injury.
- CT Scans: A CT scan is a large imaging device that slowly moves the accident victim’s body in and out of a large rotating x-ray. The x-ray creates cross-sectioned images of the brain to show fractures, bleeding in the brain (hemorrhage), blood clots (hematomas), bruised tissue (contusions), and swelling.
- MRIs: An MRI is an imaging device that uses magnetic and radio waves to create an image of the brain. Because an MRI takes much longer than a CT scan, it may not be used in emergency situations.
- PET Scan: A PET is a nuclear imaging device often used in conjunction with a CT scan or MRI to give metabolic and anatomic information. It produces a 3D image of how the brain is functioning.
- Intracranial Pressure Monitor: An intracranial pressure monitor is a probe that can help evaluate and reduce the swelling of brain tissue. By inserting the probe through the skull, doctors can sometimes drain excess fluid to reduce swelling.
- EEG: An EEG, or electroencephalogram, measures the electrical activity in the brain to see if there is an abnormal pattern activity. An EEG can see what types of seizures may be occurring, assess an accident victim’s chances of recovery after losing consciousness, discover if a comatose person may be brain dead, or generally monitor brain activity.
Treatments for TBI
When an accident victim has been hospitalized due to TBI, the initial emergency room treatment usually focuses on minimizes swelling and preventing pooled blood or clots. When brain tissue is injured, it generally tends to swell, causing pressure within the confinement of a victim’s skull. If the tissue is allowed to swell without treatment, the pressure can harm the brain tissue or cut off the brain cell’s supply of oxygen. To combat swelling, emergency room doctors may use the following medications and treatments:
- Diuretics: These intravenously-administered drugs reduce fluid in brain tissue and increase urine output. The most common diuretic is mannitol, but saline solution may be comparable for use in children.
- Anti-seizure Medication: During the first week after a moderate to severe TBI, accident victims may suffer seizures, which in turn can cause additional brain damage. By taking anti-seizure medication, an accident victim may be able to reduce the risks of a seizure.
- Coma-inducing Medication: If swelling has reduced the amount of oxygen carried to the brain, a doctor may use drugs to induce a temporary coma. A comatose brain requires less oxygen to function properly.
- Surgery: Surgery may be required if a TBI has resulted in large blood clots, fractures where the skull is pressing on the brain tissue, or excessive pressure. If there is excessive pressure within the skull, a surgeon may create an opening or "window" in the skull which can be left open until the swelling subsides.
Once the immediate dangers of TBI have been avoided and it is time for recovery, an accident victim will begin rehabilitation treatments. Rehabilitation may take place at the hospital, a residential treatment facility, or with a private doctor on an outpatient basis. Rehabilitation may take intensive training for weeks or even months. Depending on the severity and type of TBI, rehabilitation treatments will focus on learning ways to cope with permanent changes in cognitive ability and relearning old skills, including learning skills, memory skills, problem-solving skills, and concentration. An injured person may need assistance from a speech therapist, an occupational therapist, a cognitive therapist, a physical therapist, and/or a psychologist to learn to adjust to living with a brain injury.
Financial Compensation for Negligent Cause of TBI
TBI can require extensive and costly care, such as hospitalization and emergency treatment, use of expensive tests for diagnosis and treatment, medications, and rehabilitation. With the high costs of medical care, it can be absolutely essential to contact an experienced attorney who can help an accident victim obtain a much needed financial recovery. When a person suffers TBI or other injuries in an accident that was caused by the negligence, recklessness, or wrongful acts of another party, that accident victim may be able to recover financial compensation, including medical and rehabilitation costs, lost wages, and lost future earnings. Recovery for non-economic harms may include compensation for pain and suffering and emotional distress. Surviving family members may also be able to recover financial compensation if they have lost a loved one due to severe TBI, including funeral and burial costs, benefits and financial support their loved one would have provided, and compensation for the loss of their loved one’s care, comfort, and support.
Providing Support for Accident Victims
If you or someone you love has suffered a brain injury in an accident that was caused by someone else’s negligent or reckless acts, the experienced personal injury attorneys at Magaña, Cathcart & McCarthy may be able to provide the answers you need. Contact the firm today to find solutions during this stressful time in your life.