Worcester Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Attorney
If you or a family member has suffered a traumatic brain injury, closed head wound or neurological disorder through the negligence of someone else, contact the law firm of Peter Ventura, Attorney at Law, in Worcester for a free consultation.
What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?
A traumatic brain injury is a type of acquired brain injury that happens when a sudden trauma damages your brain, such as when our head hits your steering wheel or when a bullet enters your skull. These injuries can be mild, moderate or severe depending on the extent of harm to the brain. In minor cases, TBI can heal with proper medical care but in severe cases, injuries cause lasting damage or death. Traumatic brain injury is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States.
There are two major types of TBI:
- Penetrating injuries – This type of traumatic brain injury occurs when an object penetrates the skull and harms the brain. Penetrating injuries can impact one part or multiple areas of the brain. Common causes of penetrating injuries are car accidents, falls and gunshots. In many cases, objects that penetrate the brain remain lodged inside, causing further damage and bleeding. Such brain injuries are often life-threatening and require immediate medical attention.
- Closed Head injuries – Closed head injuries typically occur due to a sudden or strong blow to the head that does not pierce the skin. Damage results when the brain makes forceful contact with the bony skull surrounding the head. Common causes of closed head injuries are sporting injuries, falls and vehicle crashes. Closed head injuries can cause two forms of brain damage:
- Primary brain damage – This is damage to the brain that is complete at the time of the impact. Types of primary brain damage are:
- Concussion – A minor traumatic brain injury in which an impact to the head jars or shakes the brain inside the skull. The injury can temporarily affect how the brain works.
- Skull fracture – An injury that breaks the bony skull surrounding the head
- Contusions/bruises – Damage that frequently occurs directly under the point of impact or at areas where the force of the blow has driven the brain against the skull
- Hematomas/blood clots – A mass or masses of coagulated blood that pool between the skull and the brain or inside the brain itself
- Lacerations – The tearing of blood vessels inside the brain or in the frontal and temporal lobes. Tears occur when an injury causes the brain to rotate across the ridges of the skull.
- Nerve damage – Nerve injury that stems from a cutting or shearing force that damages nerve cells in the brain’s connecting nerve fibers
- Secondary brain damage – This is damage to the brain that evolves over time and may lead to chronic or ongoing health problems. It can include:
- Intracranial infection – A life-threatening brain infection that requires immediate medical attention.
- Anemia – A condition in which the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells to provide oxygen.
- Brain swelling (edema) – Also called intracranial pressure, brain swelling can cause serious health problems and death.
- Blood pressure problems – Abnormal blood pressure rates such as too high or too low blood pressure
- Epilepsy – A condition characterized by repeated seizures (convulsions) over time. Seizures are defined as episodes of disturbed brain activity.
Causes of Traumatic Brain Injuries
- Falls – Falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries and result in the greatest number of TBI-related emergency department visits, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Car/truck accidents – Violent car and truck collisions can cause the head to forcefully make contact with hard surfaces. In addition, flying debris and glass can lead to penetrating TBIs.
- Motorcycle accidents – Motorcyclists frequently suffer traumatic brain injuries after being thrown from their motorcycle during a crash and making impact with hard surfaces, sharp objects or other vehicles.
- Sports injuries – Hard impacts and falls during athletic activities and impact sports can lead to TBIs.
- Violent trauma – Gunshot and stabbing wounds to the head are top causes of traumatic brain injuries.
- Work accidents – Injuries on the job such as construction accidents, equipment malfunctions and long-distance falls can result in TBIs.
- Industrial accidents – Blasts, such as those from explosive devices, can cause widespread brain damage and TBIs to workers.
Being able to identify a traumatic brain injury in yourself or a loved one after an accident can help health professionals quickly treat your injury and prevent further brain damage.
Mild TBI symptoms include:
- Feeling dazed, confused or disoriented
- Difficulty sleeping
- Dizziness or loss of balance
- Fatigue or drowsiness
- Feeling depressed or anxious
- Loss of consciousness for a few seconds to a few minutes
- Memory or concentration problems
- Mood changes or mood swings
- Nausea or vomiting
- Sensitivity to light or sound
- Sensory problems, such as blurred vision, ringing in the ears or a bad taste in the mouth
- Sleeping more than usual
Moderate to severe TBI symptoms can include any of the above, plus:
- Agitation, combativeness or other unusual behavior
- Clear fluids draining from the nose or ears
- Convulsions or seizures
- Dilation of one or both pupils of the eyes
- Inability to awaken from sleep
- Loss of consciousness from several minutes to hours
- Loss of coordination
- Persistent headache or headache that worsens
- Profound confusion
- Repeated vomiting or nausea
- Slurred speech
- Weakness or numbness in fingers and toes
Diagnosing Traumatic Brain Injury
Traumatic brain injuries are an emergency and should be treated at a hospital as quickly as possible. Physicians must evaluate the condition immediately to prevent further damage. Common tests and procedures medical staff use to diagnose a TBI are:
- Glasgow coma scale – A test that helps emergency personnel assess the severity of a brain injury by evaluating a patient’s ability to follow directions and move their eyes and limbs.
- Accident/Medical History – Doctors will ask the patient or a witness questions to determine and gather information about the extent of the injury. For example; how did the injury occur? Did you lose consciousness? Have you observed any changes in alertness or coordination since the injury?
- Computerized tomography (CT) – A series of X-rays that create a detailed view of the brain. Such scans help identify fractures and uncover evidence of bleeding in the brain, blood clots and brain tissue swelling.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – A test that uses powerful radio waves and magnets to create a detailed view of the brain. Often used after the person’s condition has stabilized.
- Intracranial pressure monitor – A probe that doctors insert through the skull to monitor pressure inside the brain.
- Neuropsychological testing – Multiple standardized psychological tests administered by professional psychologists with advanced education and training in brain impairment and dysfunction. These tests often can detect brain impairment and dysfunction when traditional medical diagnostics such as CT or MRI are interpreted as normal.
Medical therapies used to treat TBI vary
Medical professionals use a host of therapies and techniques to treat traumatic brain injury including:
- Medication – Medication such as diuretics, anti-seizure drugs and coma-inducing drugs are among those widely used after a TBI.
- Surgery – Surgeons may need to perform surgeries that repair skull fractures, remove parts of skull or remove blood clots.
- Rehabilitation – Various types of therapy may be used at the hospital, at an inpatient rehabilitation unit or at a residential treatment facility. Types of rehabilitation therapies include:
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Speech therapy
- Recreational therapy
What kind of health care costs are involved in treating a traumatic brain injury?
A traumatic brain injury is a type of acquired brain injury that happens when a sudden or violent trauma damages your brain. Costs of treatment after a TBI vary depending on severity. Some common costs associated with TBI are for:
- Nursing care
- Loss of income
- Physical therapy
- Mental health treatment
- Loss of income for caregivers
- Long term care facility
- Day care
- Durable medical equipment such as wheelchairs, braces and other devices
- Loss of consortium
- Disability alterations to home or car
The aftermath of a traumatic brain injury can take its toll on victims and their families. Many times, rehabilitation and future care following a TBI are lifelong.
Effects of a Traumatic Brain Injury
Some common cognitive issues associated with traumatic brain injuries are problems or difficulties with the following:
- Reasoning and thinking
- Communication and understanding
- Processing data and information
- Planning and organizing
- Problem solving
- Decision making
Emotional effects of a traumatic brain injury
Traumatic brain injuries do not just cause physical damage. TBIs also are known to cause mental and emotional problems in victims. Some common mental health issues associated with traumatic brain injuries are:
- Major depression
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
- Antisocial personality disorder
Behavioral Effects of a traumatic brain injury
Personality changes are also common in TBI victims. These changes can include:
- Decreased involvement in activities
- Lack of appetite
- Sudden changes in mood
- Trouble relating to others
- Crying inappropriately
- Laughing inappropriately
TBIs can cause serious short term health problems as well as long term medical conditions that worsen over time. Victims and families frequently spend significant energy and costs on health care and rehabilitation after a TBI. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in 2000, direct medical costs and indirect costs associated with TBI, such as lost productivity and income, totaled an estimated $76.5 billion in the United States.
Immediate complications of traumatic brain injuries include:
- Immediate seizures – Seizures that occur directly following a TBI
- Hydrocephalus or post-traumatic ventricular enlargement – A buildup of fluid inside the skull that leads to brain swelling
- Cerebrospinal fluid leak– A leak of the clear, colorless fluid that flows through the brain ventricles and protects brain tissue
- Infections – Inflammation of the brain and/or viral infections caused by trauma
- Vascular injuries – A laceration, puncture, contusion or crush injury to an artery or vein
- Cranial nerve injuries – Nerve damage at the surface of the brain
- Pain – Extreme pain or discomfort
- Multiple organ system failure in unconscious patients – An event in which several vital organs fail because of TBI
- Polytrauma – Trauma to other parts of the body in addition to the brain
Long term complications of TBI
A traumatic brain injury can impact victims and their families for the rest of their lives. Often, the injury itself is the beginning of a long road to recovery. Some long-term health complications of TBI are:
- Parkinson’s disease and other motor problems – Movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease may develop years after TBI as a result of damage to the basal ganglia.
- Dementia pugilistica – Also called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, dementia pugilistica is the result of repetitive blows to the head over a long period of time.
- Post-traumatic dementia – A condition characterized by long-term memory problems and caused by a single, severe TBI that results in a coma
- Post-traumatic amnesia (PTA) – Impaired memory of events that happened before or after the TBI
- Aphasia – Difficulty with understanding and producing spoken and written language
- Cognition problems – Deficits when thinking, remembering or reasoning
- Lack of sensory processing – Problems seeing, hearing, touching, tasting or smelling
- Communication problems – Trouble speaking with others or understanding verbal or nonverbal cues
What is the long term prognosis of TBI?
The long term outlook following a traumatic brain injury depends on the extent of damage to the brain. Approximately half of patients with severe brain injuries need surgery to remove or repair ruptured blood vessels or bruised brain tissue. Studies show that 10% of people with mild TBI will have life-long difficulties, about 50% of victims with moderate injuries will have disabilities and about 80% of people with severe TBIs will have enduring difficulties. The long term prognosis of traumatic brain injuries frequently depends on:
- Whether the brain injury is mild, moderate or severe
- The duration of coma following TBI
- The duration of post-traumatic amnesia
No one expects that a traumatic brain injury will happen to them or a loved one. Unfortunately, the careless actions of some individuals can cause brain injuries to innocent victims. Do your part to help people affected by TBI’s by sharing the information you’ve read today. One bit of information can go a long way for someone who needs the guidance.
Resources for patients and families affected by TBI
- National Resource Center for Traumatic Brain Injury
- The Brain Injury Association
- Traumatic Brain Injury Resource Center
- Head Injury Hotline
- WETA’s Brainline.org
- Mothers for TBI Hope
- North American Brain Injury Society
Articles on TBI
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Traumatic brain injury: hope through research. Bethesda (MD): National Institutes of Health; 2002 Feb. NIH Publication No.: 02-158
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Traumatic brain injury in the United States; emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and deaths, 2002-2006
- Journal for Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, Psychiatric disorders and traumatic brain injury, 2008 August; 4(4): 797–816
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Report to Congress on mild traumatic brain injury in the United States: steps to prevent a serious public health problem. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2003.
Brain Injury Association of America, Causes of Brain Injury. www.biausa.org
Whether or not you can anticipate a full medical recovery from a traumatic brain injury or neurological disorder, we work hard to ensure that no component of your loss and right to compensation is overlooked, whether it involves lost income, future surgery, in-home assistance or vocational therapy.
To learn more about our approach to client service in cases that involve serious brain trauma, contact Massachusetts neurological injury attorney Peter Ventura for a free consultation.
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