Of all the injuries that can arise from an accident, a severe brain injury is one of the worst. Falls are the number one cause of these severe injuries, and it might give you pause to think of all of the hazards we face on a daily basis here in Chicago.
From falling on ice during our windy winters to a bad car accident on the Dan Ryan, the risk of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) is all around us.
The CDC defines a TBI as “a disruption in the normal function of the brain that can be caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, or penetrating head injury.” TBIs are more prevalent in young children and older adults.
In this article, we will discuss the causes, effects, and diagnosis of a TBI injury, as well as how we may help those who have suffered this injury.
Common Causes of TBI
A traumatic brain injury can be caused by something as quick and dangerous as a high-speed car accident to something seemingly less harmful like a fall.
While knowing the common causes of this type of injury can help you to be cautious and possibly avoid it, the truth is that some things are just beyond our control.
That said, here is just a partial list of common causes of TBI injuries:
- Falling – most prevalent in older adults
- Car Accidents – caused as a result of the impacting force and speed of the incident
- Sports Injuries – high contact sports may cause a blow to the head
- Child Abuse – TBIs are most common in abused children under age 4
- Blow to the head – if you run into something, a moving part of a machine hits you, or you are attacked with a blunt object
- Explosions – as a result of injury in the line of duty or other incidents where you are thrown back into something as a result of an explosion
- Penetrating Injury – Such as being shot or stabbed
What commonly happens with a TBI injury is what is known as coup-countrecoup injuries.
Essentially that means that damage is caused at the point of impact. Because of the extent of the force, damage is also caused on the opposite side of the brain as the brain slams against the other side of your skull.
It is also important to note that most personal injury cases have a statute of limitations of 2 years in Chicago. This means that you have to file your case against a negligent party within 2 years of the event occurring, or you forfeit your right to seek compensation.
Symptoms of a TBI
After a severe accident, you may be worried that you or a loved one has suffered a traumatic brain injury.
Whether you end up at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Rush University Medical Center, or one of Chicago’s many other hospitals, it’s important to seek proper medical attention to get the right care and diagnosis.
Below are some of the signs of a TBI:
- Loss of consciousness
- Disoriented feeling
- Headache or Migraines
- Blurred vision
- Bad taste in the mouth
- Feeling depressed
- Speech Problems
- Unusual sleep patterns
- Ringing in the ears
- Sensitivity to light or sound
- Memory problems
- Mood changes
Even if you feel okay after an accident, it’s a good idea to go and get checked out regardless. Early detection is key when dealing with a traumatic brain injury so that problems can be diagnosed and symptoms treated as quickly as possible.
Sometimes symptoms lag and may appear later on and you may not realize it was from a traumatic brain injury.
What Are the Long-Term Effects of Brain Injury?
There are a lot of different outcomes that can come from a traumatic brain injury.
These vary widely depending on the severity of the impact that caused the TBI as well as the frequency of the injury.
Long and short term memory loss, loss of expression or balance, communication and understanding issues, as well as depression, anxiety, and temperament changes are all possible results of traumatic brain injuries.
It is also important to note that brain injuries happening frequently over a period of time, even mild ones, can compound into a larger problem.
An example of this would be multiple concussions happening over time from a contact sport. This can lead to a condition called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), affecting how the brain functions, which can only be diagnosed after death.
How are You Diagnosed with a TBI?
Diagnosis usually involves a series of tests of your motor skills to see if your coordination and mental capacities have been affected.
The FDA states that some of these tests, “include a neurological exam. This exam includes an evaluation of thinking, motor function (movement), sensory function, coordination, and reflexes.”
The article also states that CT scans and MRIs won’t help to diagnose a TBI, but may be administered to see if any other life-threatening issues are arising.
There are also developing technologies, such as EyeBOX used here in Chicago at Rush University Medical Center, that can diagnose a concussion within minutes by analyzing eye movements and looking for movements that are congruent with having a concussion.
Is There a Difference Between Adult and Childhood Severe Brain Injury?
It is harder to diagnose young children or babies with a TBI, since they lack the proper communication skills to tell us what they are experiencing.
This makes it all the more important to watch for signs that a child may be experiencing a TBI after an accident.
Some of these signs may include:
- Eating or nursing changes
- Loss of consciousness
- Continuous crying
- Sleep habit changes
- Loss of interest in normal activities
How VanDerGinst Law Helps TBI Victims
At VanDerGinst Law, we are dedicated to helping the people of Chicago with TBIs or any other personal injuries you may have as a result of the negligence of another person or business.
Being a victim of an accident that has caused a traumatic brain injury can be devastating in and of itself, not to mention the financial burden unexpectedly placed on you via lost wages and medical bills.
It is important to have a personal injury attorney that has experience in dealing with TBI cases and will get you the compensation you deserve to help you recover and get back on your feet.
We invite you to call us at our Chicago offices for a free consultation.
We would be honored to help.
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Full Episode Transcript
Welcome to Legal Squeaks, I’m your host, Dennis VanDerGinst. Before getting in today’s topic, I’d like to remind you all please subscribe to or follow Legal Squeaks on your favorite podcast forum. It’s free. Make sure you tell your friends and family members to check us out as well.
Now, today’s topic is traumatic brain injuries or otherwise known as TBIs. TBIs can occur in any situation where there’s an injury case that arises either on the job, you know, in the course of a worker’s compensation claim or a negligence case where somebody has been injured. And it’s important to identify these situations because TBI’s can be so serious that the amount of compensation is largely increased when it exists.
But often they’re not highlighted, highlighted by the medical provider, and some attorneys will overlook the existence of TBI’s and therefore, somebody who has suffered in this fashion might not be properly compensated. So it is important that they they be properly identified, properly treated and properly, properly monitored.
So what is a TBI, what’s a traumatic brain injury? It’s the disruption of a normal function of the brain. It can be caused by a bump, blow, a jolt, a penetrating head injury. Some, sometimes it can also be caused by what might seem to be a whiplash injury. Now, there is some difference of opinion as to whether that’s the case. But I’ve certainly heard a lot of medical experts indicate that because of the nature of a whiplash injury and the brain kind of being rattled within the skull, just like the inside of an egg inside of its shell, that a TBI can occur in that fashion as well.
The Glasgow coma scale is used to classify the traumatic brain injury severe, severity into either mild, moderate or severe categories. It grades a person’s level of consciousness on a scale of 3 to 15, based on verbal motor and eye opening reactions to stimuli. A concussion, for instance, is a form of brain injury on the lower end of the severity scale. It’s often, in fact, referred synonymously as a mild TBI.
Some providers say that moderate or severe TBI’s have to accompany a loss of consciousness, but we’re finding that that’s not so anymore. There are more providers who are willing to state that loss of consciousness is not a prerequisite to being diagnosed with a moderate or severe TBI.
Some, sometimes the symptoms to a traumatic brain injury appear right away, but other times it might not be noticed for days or months after the injury or until person resumes their everyday life.
And that’s because sometimes they are focused on a more acute injury, for instance, a fracture or something like that that needs the immediate attention of the of a provider and is causing more, more pain, more attention to be paid to that portion of the body. So sometimes it takes a while.
In fact, other times they may not recognize or admit that they’re having problems. They may not understand that their problems, what the problems are and that the symptoms they’re experiencing are actually related to a traumatic brain injury. That’s kind of part of the problem. It’s a brain injury. So sometimes you can’t process information correctly.
The signs and symptoms of a concussion can be difficult to sort out. Early on, problems might be overlooked by the person, by the family members and even by the doctors. People might look fine, even though they may be acting or feeling differently. In the presence, as I mentioned, of a TBI, vastly enhances the value of the injury claims so the client’s physical and medical well-being as well as the financial well-being is often hinging upon properly identifying and treating TBI’s.
So you have to be aware that treatment providers might not follow up an initial diagnosis for concussion because they may feel there’s nothing else to be said or done other than what is in the discharge papers. So you, as either a patient or the family member of a patient, need to be sure that there’s some reasonable follow up to make sure that you’re documenting, as well as properly treating a TBI.
So some of the things that, that you need to be aware of. If you see that in your discharge papers or any of your medical records, there’s the mention of a concussion or the words traumatic brain injury, that’s a trigger for you. That, that’s something you have to be watching. If you see or you’re aware from any other source that there is a history of trauma to the head, again, that should alert you that you need to be watching and monitoring that patient, whether it’s yourself or someone else.
If you see or notice that the patient. Is having certain difficulties that I’m going to outline here, if you either see it in the records or you’re noticing it yourself or of a family or friend, a family member or friend, these are other things that should trigger you to to make sure that you are properly following up.
So if there are difficulties, for instance, in thinking clearly. If the person is feeling slow down. They’re having problems concentrating, difficulty remembering new information. If they’re experiencing headaches. If they have vision problems. If they especially early on, if they have nausea or vomiting. Sensitivity to noise or light. If they have balance problems. If they’re feeling tired, like they have no energy. If they’re moody and irritable, sad, emotional, nervous, anxious.
If they’re having difficulty sleeping, either having, you know, wanting to sleep more or not sleeping enough or having trouble sleeping. Those are all triggers for you to know that there’s the possibility that there is a traumatic brain injury that needs to be followed up on. So if you’re the patient or if you are a family or friend of a patient, there are some things you need to do under those circumstances.
One, and this, by the way, is, there are a number of reasons why you’re doing it, you know, certainly to get the proper medical attention. But also if you do have an underlying injury claim, you want to make sure that you are properly documenting everything.
So one of the things you want done is to journal what’s going on with the patient, the difficulties that the patient is experiencing. This can be, you know, simply on a pad of paper. It can be typed. It doesn’t have to be. It can be done by the patient or it can be done by a family or friend who’s monitoring the patient.
Certainly you want to follow up with your primary care provider to make sure that he or she is getting you the proper medical attention and that proper medical attention is often going to start with a referral to a specialist. Normally, the first specialist you would see with a traumatic brain injury is going to be either a neurologist or a neurosurgeon. You know, for instance, if there’s a hematoma or something along those lines, that needs to be addressed surgically.
Sometimes along the treatment profile, you’re going to see there’s a need for physical therapy, occupational therapy, sometimes if it’s pronounced problem, you may need speech and language pathologist to get involved, recreational therapist, vocational therapist to help reintroduce a patient to the the ability to work and make a living.
Often when someone is going through a traumatic brain injury, they suffer from depression. They’re, they’re frustrated. They are confused. They don’t understand what’s going on or why. So they might need to see a psychiatrist or psych, psychologist or another therapist or counselor along those lines.
If they have those vision problems that we mentioned, obviously, they might need to see an ophthalmologist. Sometimes someone like a nutritionist might be worth speaking to. Certainly a physiatrist might be helpful in order to to to monitor all of the treatments and make sure there’s one source, that can be the family doctor or can be as someone separate, who is monitoring all of the treatment providers.
And then certainly once the treatment is secured, the proper treatment to address the underlying problems, in order to indicate what kind of cognitive or behavioral problems that the patient has gone through, you might need to see a neuropsychologist who can document any losses along those lines. For that reason it’s also helpful that perhaps school transcripts, prior psychological testing, IQ tests, things like that, those are great to have so that a baseline can be established from what the patient was like before the accident and now what they’re facing as as far as cognitive and behavioral losses as a result of the injuries from the accident.
So that’s all, those are all things that should be secured and monitored, you know, as the patient is treating. In addition, there are some danger signs that you have to be mindful of because in rare cases, dangerous blood clots can arise that crowd the brain against the skull and develop issues that might need emergency attention. So if you, if you as the patient, you begin to get a headache that gets worse and doesn’t go away right away, that’s something that you might want to be wary of.
Weakness, numbness or decreased coordination, repeated vomiting and nausea, especially if it’s after the first few days. Slurred speech, looking drowsy, not being able to wake up, having one pupil in the middle of the eye larger than the other. Certainly if you’re having convulsions or seizures, if you can’t recognize people or places, you get more confused, you get more agitated. Any unusual behavior. Certainly if you lose consciousness, any of those situations would require getting medical attention right away.
In addition to medical attention and legal attention, there are a lot of support groups available to those who have suffered a TBI. For instance, The Brain Injury Association of America. So simply look online for one of those near you because there are a lot of them available and they are extremely useful for those people who are suffering those frustrations.
I hope this information was useful. As always, please be sure to follow or subscribe to Legal Squeaks for free on your favorite podco, podcast platform.
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Please join us next week for another episode of Legal Squeaks.
And in the meantime, have a great day. Stay safe. And I love you all.
The information contained on this website is presented by VanDerGinst Law P.C. It is not intended nor should it be construed as professional legal advice. The information is general in nature about the Firm, the scope of services we offer, and our community outreach, it is not legal advice. Please contact us by phone, email, mail, or via this website for inquiries. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please contact a personal injury attorney for a consultation regarding your situation. This website is not intended to solicit clients outside the State of Iowa and/or the State of Illinois.