Brain Injuries: What You Need to Know
South Carolina Brain Injury Lawyer
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) – also known as acquired brain injury or head injury – is caused by a blow or jolt to the head, or a penetrating head injury which disrupts the brain’s normal function and damages it. Traumatic brain injury can occur when the head suddenly and violently hits an object, or when an object pierces the skull and enters brain tissue. Traumatic brain injury may be the result of a car wreck, trucking accident, motorcycle accident, work accident, defective product, or dangerous condition on personal or business property.
Many people who are injured in car accidents can suffer from traumatic brain injury without it being immediately noticeable. You do not have to travel quickly, or do you have to hit your head on something like the steering wheel or windshield, to suffer a brain injury. Even at moderate rates of speed, traumatic brain injuries can and do occur.
People who suffer from traumatic brain injury need specialized legal representation to pursue their case. Brain injury litigation is very complex and unique. It requires lawyers that are experienced and familiar with the medical and legal issues involved.
WHAT CAUSES TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY?
When someone suffers a traumatic brain injury, three separate processes can work to injure the brain:
• Bruising (bleeding): In the event of a blow to the head, or even a hard jolt (such as might happen in a car accident), a person’s brain is propelled against the hard bone of the skull, causing blood vessels to tear. When blood vessels tear, they release blood into areas of the brain. Because there is no room for extra blood inside the skull, the delicate brain tissue is compressed. If the pressure is too great and lasts too long, the tissue will stop working properly and may even die off.
In car accidents, the force of a crash (or even stopping violently) can throw the soft tissue of the brain against the front part of the skull, causing bruising to the brain. Further injuries can occur as your body is thrown back against the seat – this is usually referred to as “whiplash.” When your body flies backward, so does the brain. After your brain bounces against the front of your skull, it is then propelled back to bounce against the back of the skull, causing bruising in different parts of the brain. Thus, people can have bruising not only where their heads may have hit the steering wheel or windshield, or flew forward from braking, but in other areas of the brain as well. These injuries are often referred to as “contra coup” injuries.
• Tearing: This forward-backward jarring of the brain can also tear the brain tissue. This is very serious, as a tear in the tissue essentially “cuts the wires” that make the brain work. Tearing happens on a microscopic level and may not show up on typical medical tests, such as a CT scan or MRI.
• Swelling: Like any other part of the body, the brain will swell in response to injury, as the body sends agents to heal the damaged area. However, there is no extra room inside the skull for the swelling. As with bruising/bleeding in the brain, the swelling will exert pressure on the sensitive brain tissues and damage them – sometimes permanently.
Not all blows or jolts to the head result in a TBI, and the severity of injury may range from mild (i.e., a brief change in mental status or consciousness) to severe (i.e., an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury).
WHAT CAN CAUSE TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY?
Who suffers from head trauma? Theoretically, everyone is at some risk. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates an average of 1.4 million people per year suffer some type of TBI. However, CDC statistics indicate that males between ages 15 and 24 years of age tend to be more vulnerable because of their higher-risk lifestyles.
Young children and individuals over 75 years of age are also more susceptible to head injury, largely due to falls around the home. Violent shaking of an infant or toddler is another significant cause of TBI in children. The leading causes of TBI among adolescents and adults are automobile and motorcycle accidents, though injuries that occur during violent crimes are also a major source.
According to the CDC, falls account for 28% of total TBI, while traffic accidents (including those involving motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians) account for 20%. TBI resulting from the head being struck by or against another object (including ATV accidents) make up 19% of cases. Assaults account for 11% of TBI.
Regarding traffic and ATV injuries, it is important to note that speeding is not a prerequisite for a head injury. Even at moderate rates of speed, TBI can and does occur. The head also does not have to be hit by an object; jolting injuries can still damage the brain.
Babies and very young toddlers are particularly susceptible to “shaken baby syndrome,” a type of TBI that occurs when a baby is violently shaken, causing the fragile brain to bounce back and forth inside the skull. The resultant bruising, swelling and bleeding can lead to permanent, severe brain damage, or even death. Injuries – including bleeding in the brain and retina, damage to the spinal cord and neck, and fractures of the ribs and bones – may not be immediately noticeable. Symptoms of shaken baby syndrome include extreme irritability, lethargy, poor feeding, breathing problems, convulsions, vomiting, and pale or bluish skin.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY?
Other types of TBI share certain sets of symptoms, with variations depending on the type and severity of injury. Particularly in the case of milder injuries, symptoms may not be present at the time of injury; they may not appear for days or even weeks. Symptoms can be very subtle as well, and missed by the injured person, his or her family, and even doctors. Common symptoms include:
- Blurred vision or tired eyes;
- Ringing in the ears;
- Bad taste in the mouth;
- Fatigue or lethargy;
- Changes in sleep patterns;
- Behavioral or mood changes; and
- Trouble with memory, concentration, attention or thinking.
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is classified as if mild if loss of consciousness and/or confusion and disorientation is shorter than 30 minutes. MRI and CAT scans are often normal.
A person with a moderate or severe TBI may show these same symptoms, but may also have a headache that gets worse or does not go away, repeated vomiting or nausea, convulsions or seizures, an inability to awaken from sleep, dilation of one or both pupils of the eyes, slurred speech, weakness or numbness in the extremities, loss of coordination, and confusion, restlessness, or agitation.
Anyone with signs of moderate or severe TBI should receive medical attention as soon as possible. Little can be done to reverse the initial brain damage caused by trauma, so medical personnel try to stabilize an individual with TBI and focus on preventing further injury. Primary concerns include insuring proper oxygen supply to the brain and the body, maintaining adequate blood flow, and controlling blood pressure.
WHAT DOES ALL OF THIS MEAN TO ME?
People who suffer from traumatic brain injury need specialized legal representation if a case is going to be pursued. Brain injury litigation is very complex and unique. It requires lawyers that are experienced and familiar with the medical and legal issues involved.
If you believe that you or a loved one suffered a traumatic brain injury or wrongful death resulting from a TBI due to another person’s or business’s negligence, please Contact our South Carolina Traumatic Brain Injury Attorneys in Columbia, South Carolina, for a free consultation.