The human brain is incredibly complex, and incredibly delicate. All it takes is a single injury to change your life. As attorneys who represent people injured in accidents in Delaware, we've seen the aftermath of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) over and over again. Unfortunately, too many lives have been permanently altered by preventable injuries.
We're participating in Brain Injury Awareness Month because we understand the stakes. Here's what you need to know about traumatic brain injuries - and what you need to do if you may have one.
What is a traumatic brain injury?
The medical definition of a TBI is "brain dysfunction caused by an outside force." There are several types of traumatic brain injuries, but they fall into two main categories:
- Closed-head injury: the most common type of TBI, a closed-head injury is caused by blunt force trauma, which creates bruising on the brain. A concussion is a type of mild closed-head injury.
- Open-head injury: also known as a penetrating brain injury, this type of TBI occurs when something either penetrates or fractures the skull, causing bone fragments and/or a foreign object to directly damage the brain.
While penetrating injuries are usually apparent, closed-head injuries can be subtle and may not have immediate symptoms. That's why it's important to know the warning signs and get medically evaluated.
What types of accidents cause brain injuries?
Again, a brain injury can be caused by any accident that involves a blow or jolt to the head. Falls are the leading cause of TBI, especially among older adults. Motor vehicle accidents can also cause TBI because the force of impact often causes the head to move violently. The other leading cause of TBI is "struck-by" accidents, a broad category that includes many types of work injuries as well as sports and recreation injuries.
Remember, you can sustain a TBI even if you didn't directly hit your head on anything. Any sufficiently violent forward and backward movement of the head can cause the brain to strike the inside of the skull. This can occur in rear-end accidents, even at low speeds, and is often associated with whiplash. It can also happen due to hard falls and direct blows to the body in contact sports.
What are the warning signs of traumatic brain injury?
Many people associate TBI with loss of consciousness (being "knocked out"), but while that's an obvious warning sign, it's far from the only one. Even if you weren't knocked unconscious, you may have a TBI if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Headaches that get worse or won't go away
- Sensitivity to light, blurred vision, or double vision
- Difficulty concentrating or reading
- Impaired decision-making
- Mood changes or irritability
- Changes in body temperature
- Fatigue, drowsiness, and altered sleep patterns (insomnia or narcolepsy)
- Nausea or vomiting
- Loss of balance
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Bad taste in the mouth
- Impaired sense of smell
Some warning signs might become immediately obvious, but others can take hours or even days to appear. That's why it's so important to take immediate action if you have any reason to suspect a brain injury.
What to do if you may have a brain injury
The first thing you must do after any suspected head or brain injury is get medical attention. A doctor may perform a cognitive or neurological test to assess you for a potential concussion or another brain injury. Your doctor may also order imaging tests such as CT scans or MRIs to see any potential brain damage. This is important for two reasons: first, you need to start treatment right away to limit the potential long-term damage, and second, you need an accurate diagnosis to avoid potential complications, such as second impact syndrome - a potentially fatal condition that can occur if you sustain a second concussion before the first has healed.
You also need to get legal advice as soon as possible. Many brain injuries occur in preventable accidents, and the at-fault party needs to be held accountable. Unfortunately, insurance companies are notorious for lowballing TBI victims and limiting their compensation. They know the stakes are high. You need an experienced attorney to level the playing field.
The personal injury and car accident attorneys at Gill, Welsh, and Chamberlain, P.A. have the experience and track record needed to get real results for brain injury victims. If you've been involved in an accident and have any reason to suspect a brain injury, give us a call or contact us online right away.