Los Angeles Brain Injury Attorney
What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) usually occurs after an accident involving a blow to the head. If the force is strong enough, the blow to your head can injure your brain. The brain has many protective features. It is encased in your skull. There are several layers of soft tissue between the skull and the brain, and the brain itself is surrounded by spinal fluid. This fact allows the fluid to absorb the shock of an impact and protect the brain from injury. Despite all these defense mechanisms, the brain can sustain injuries if the force of an accident is strong enough.
There are many different types of TBIs. A mild TBI might result in a concussion. There are varying degrees of severity, but every concussion should be evaluated by a medical professional. A mild concussion might resolve on its own, but it is still brain damage. A concussion lawyer can help prove the extent of the brain damage you have suffered. You might also have a contusion (bruising) outside your skull or inside your brain. A doctor should also evaluate these. Like any bruise, this is the result of bleeding, and any bleeding in the brain can be dangerous. You might even injure the skull itself, resulting in an “open TBI” (as opposed to a closed TBI, where the damage is internal).
Traumatic Brain Injury
April 2019: $14M settlement in a traumatic brain injury case involving a defective piece of equipment at a factory.– BRIAN BEECHER
Other Types of Brain Injuries
Not every type of brain injury is caused by physical trauma to the head. Medical conditions within the body cause some. If, for example, an anesthesiologist does not carefully monitor a patient’s vital signs during surgery, the patient’s brain could be injured due to a lack of oxygen. The same thing can happen during labor and delivery. If the obstetrician does not carefully monitor both mother and child, they could suffer a brain injury. A hypoxic brain injury occurs when the brain gets low oxygen, and an anoxic injury occurs when the brain gets no oxygen at all. Either situation can result in permanent brain damage or even brain death
How Can a Brain Injury Occur?
While medical brain injuries are caused by conditions within the body, traumatic brain injuries are caused by external accidents that damage the head, thereby injuring the brain. Almost any type of accident can result in a brain injury. Some of the most common causes include:
- Workplace accidents
- Construction accidents
- Auto accidents (as a driver, passenger, motorcycle rider, bicyclist or pedestrian)
- Slip and fall accidents
- Assault, domestic violence and other crimes
A brain injury can also occur as a result of medical malpractice. If, for example, your medical team does not respond quickly or correctly to a heart attack, your heart will not be pumping adequate blood, which is how the brain receives oxygen. Similarly, a stroke is a blood clot that goes to the brain. If the blood clot is not treated quickly, your brain will be deprived of oxygen.
Medical malpractice is not just the failure to treat a condition that already exists in your body. Negligence in treatment can actually create a problem that deprives your brain of oxygen. As we have discussed, this can occur during the administration of anesthesia. This is why a certified anesthesiologist is required to monitor your vital signs the entire time you are under the effects of anesthesia. A child can also sustain a brain injury as the result of a birth injury. Birth injuries occur during labor and delivery. They might be the result of poor prenatal care, inadequate monitoring during childbirth, negligence during the delivery process, or failure to perform an emergency C-section if needed.
What Are the Symptoms of a Traumatic Brain Injury?
According to the Mayo Clinic, the following are signs and symptoms of a mild brain injury:
- Loss of consciousness (this can be a few seconds to a few minutes)
- Feeling dazed, confused or disoriented
- Nausea or vomiting
- Fatigue or drowsiness
- Sensitivity to light or sound
- Blurred vision
- Ringing in the ears
- Changes in taste or smell
- Problems with speech
- Difficulty sleeping
- Sleeping more than usual
- Dizziness or loss of balance
You might also experience cognitive or mental symptoms, such as:
- Loss of consciousness (this can be a few seconds to a few minutes)
- Problems with processing and understanding information
- Attention, concentration and memory issues
- Language and communication problems
These symptoms can be far worse and last much longer in more severe cases of brain injury. It is always essential to get medical attention as soon as possible any time you suspect any type of brain injury.
The Long Term Effects of a Traumatic Brain Injury
Unfortunately, the initial symptoms of a brain injury are not the only losses you will suffer. Brain injuries come with many long term effects as well. Your cognitive impairments (such as memory, concentration, and communication) might last for months or years. They might even be permanent. You might also have permanent physical impairments that impair your motor ability and neurological functions. This can require the use of a scooter, walker, or wheelchair, possibly for the rest of your life. The neurological damage can even cause seizures.
In addition to your cognitive and physical symptoms, you might also experience behavioral and emotional changes. An accident is a terrifying situation. Any accident can cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You might also experience depression or anxiety in dealing with your new limitations or symptoms. These are entirely valid frustrations that can affect your mood and behaviors. Your behavior might become more impulsive or angry after an accident. In some cases, this is a temporary response to the immediate accident, but in other cases, these become permanent personality changes.
Compensation for Brain Injuries
Because the brain is so complex, brain injuries are among the costliest of all injuries. Victims are often left unable to work, in need of extensive medical care, and in some cases unable to care for their own daily needs. These financial costs and losses can quickly run into huge lifelong expenses. A negligent defendant who causes the injury has a legal obligation to compensate the victim for these costs.
Complex brain injuries lead to complex medical care. Victims often consult with a wide variety of medical specialists such as neurologists and neurosurgeons. You may also have complex rehabilitation needs involving a team of occupational therapists, speech pathologists, and physical therapists. In some cases, victims may need medical care for the rest of their lives. Throughout all of this, you will need to continue to coordinate your complex medical care through a primary care doctor. These medical costs become very expensive, very quickly.
Severe brain injuries can impair your ability to take care of your own daily needs. Grocery shopping, driving, and even bathing might not be possible for a person who has physical limitations as a result of a brain injury. If you have cognitive impairments, you might not be able to manage your finances or medical care. Many brain injury victims require full-time nursing care, social services, or case management. When these services continue for years and decades, the costs become enormous. Your attorney will likely need expert testimony from a life care planner to project these expenses.
In the case of a mild brain injury, you might only miss a few days or weeks from work. In this case, your employer will document the exact number of hours you missed and the wages you would have earned for these hours. (If you are paid on a salary basis, your wages will be prorated based upon a forty-hour workweek.) The defendant is then obligated to compensate for these lost wages.
In the case of more severe injuries, you might be left permanently unable to work. Even if you can work, you will likely have to take a significant pay cut due to working reduced hours or taking on fewer responsibilities. This creates a difference between the wages you are earning and the wages you would have received if you had not sustained a brain injury. A negligent defendant must compensate you for this difference. The defendant must also pay you for lost employment benefits (like health insurance, or employer contributions to a retirement fund). In these cases, your brain injury lawyer will need to hire an economist to act as an expert witness and project these costs.
You are entitled to compensation for your pain and suffering. In the case of a lifelong brain injury that permanently affects your ability to work and manage your daily life, this is significant. Unfortunately, insurance companies like to take advantage of the fact that damages for pain and suffering are not a specific expense. You can almost guarantee that you will get a lowball offer for your pain and suffering. This is why it is so important to consult with your own brain injury lawyer.
In some simple cases (such as a mild concussion after an auto accident), it might be possible to negotiate a fair settlement for your pain and suffering. In the case of long-term injuries, your pain and suffering will be far more complex. You might no longer be able to play a sport you enjoyed or engage in other hobbies. You might lose the self-confidence you felt from working every day. You might not be able to hold your own children or walk across the stage at your graduation. These are genuine, tangible losses. If the insurance company does not make a fair offer to compensate you for them, you can take your case to a jury. Jurors understand how painful it can be to lose out on the big and little moments of life.
Where Brain Injuries Are Treated in Los Angeles
Brain injuries can require complex and consistent medical treatment. Luckily, some of the best neurological experts in the world are right here in the Los Angeles area. It is crucial to find the medical institution that will offer the right services for your particular case. Surgery, research, rehabilitation, and pediatric injuries require different areas of expertise. Here are just some of the many excellent local treatment centers for brain injuries:
Brain Injury Research Center (BIRC)
The Brain Injury Research Center (BIRC) is associated with UCLA. The Department of Neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine provides a steady stream of medical students, residents, fellows, professors, and other medical professionals to treat brain injuries. They also maintain an academic program of cutting-edge research. This allows them to offer the most current information and treatments. For the past twenty years, the UCLA neurosurgery program has made U.S. News and World Report’s list of top neurosurgery programs in the country.
Centre for Neuro Skills
The Centre for Neuro Skills was developed by a doctor with a personal mission. In 1972, a young man named Steve Ashley was left permanently disabled at the age of 21 as the result of a devastating brain injury. His brother, Dr. Mark Ashley, founded the Centre with the goal of treating brain injury patients with respect and dignity. They work with brain injury patients to help them reach their maximum potential for rehabilitation. Even small areas of independence can help brain injury victims regain some control over their world.
The Neurological Institute at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles
Children have unique treatment needs after a brain injury. Their brains are still developing, and this can make an injury either more or less susceptible to damage and receptive to treatment. It is vital for a child brain injury victim to receive treatment from neurological experts who have specific experience with children’s brains. It is also essential to get the right treatment started as soon as possible. While time is of the essence in any brain injury, it is especially critical in addressing injuries to a developing juvenile brain.
The Neurological Institute at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles has been ranked among the top ten programs in the nation for pediatric neurology and neurosurgery. The Institute has a high patient volume, which gives their staff extensive experience in a short amount of time. Children come from all over California – and even other states – to receive treatment for brain injuries at the Neurological Institute. The Institute has designed its hospital and programs toward children, and staff has experience in helping children through the complicated (and often frightening) procedures they must endure. This helps reduce the emotional toll that brain injury treatments can take on a child.
Mild Traumatic Brain Injury
Verdict in a mild traumatic brain injury case involving a motor vehicle collision.– JUDD ROSS ALLEN