As the term itself suggests, traumatic brain injury (TBI) is one of the most serious and frightening injuries that a human being can suffer. The consequences can include disability, impairment, and even death.
But the term “traumatic” also leads people to believe that TBIs are rare, occurring in only the most extreme and catastrophic of accidents.
That isn’t true. Traumatic brain injuries are more common than many people believe, and they happen in all sorts of everyday accidents, from car crashes to high school sports accidents and beyond. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t serious. On the contrary, every TBI demands urgent medical treatment.
So what is a traumatic brain injury, exactly?
What are your rights if you or someone you love, such as your spouse or child, suffers a TBI?
There’s a lot to know about how traumatic brain injuries happen, as well as the law governing liability for TBI in New York. We explore these issues below.
What Is a Traumatic Brain Injury?
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “Traumatic brain injury (TBI) happens when a bump, blow, jolt, or other head injury causes damage to the brain.” In extreme cases, traumatic brain injury may also result from penetration of the brain tissue (by a bullet, for example).
Even moderate bumps or jolts can cause a TBI. The brain is surprisingly vulnerable to physical injury. Even though it is encased inside a thick skull, when the brain moves around inside the skull, it can suffer injury. For that matter, there are several points along the human head where the amount of tissue protecting the brain is no thicker than a credit card.
More than 1.7 million Americans suffer a traumatic brain injury each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). More than half of these incidents require a visit to the hospital. Many people go on to suffer serious, long-term, or permanent medical conditions as a result of brain damage.
Sadly, traumatic brain injury remains one of the leading causes of death in this country. More than one-third of personal injury deaths involve a TBI.
Do Concussions Count?
Yes. Contrary to widespread myth, every concussion is considered a traumatic brain injury and requires emergency medical attention.
In the last few years, medical scientists have come to a new understanding about concussions, which we now know are much more serious than previously believed.
For many years, high school football coaches told their players to “walk off” a concussion, and even physicians assumed that people with concussions were okay as long as they didn’t “black out.”
We now know that many people with concussions never lose consciousness. Nevertheless, they are at risk for serious or long-term complications.
While many people do fully recover from concussions, prompt and comprehensive medical treatment is imperative.
The Most Common Causes of Traumatic Brain Injury
Half of all traumatic brain injuries in the United States are caused by a motor vehicle accident. This includes crashes involving cars, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians.
Other personal injury incidents associated with traumatic brain injury include:
- Slip and fall accidents
- Medical malpractice accidents
- Construction accidents
- Falls from heights
- Dog bite accidents
- Dangerous and defective products
- Assault and battery
Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury
The Mayo Clinic categorizes TBI symptoms in three different groups, corresponding to their severity or the age of the victim.
Mild traumatic brain injury symptoms include:
- Feeling dazed, confused, or disoriented
- Fatigue or drowsiness
- Nausea or vomiting
- Speech problems
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering
- Difficulty sleeping (or, alternatively, sleeping more than usual)
- Dizziness or loss of balance
- Sensitivity to light or sound
- Mood changes / mood swings
- Depression or anxiety
- Sensory problems (e.g. blurred vision, tinnitus, a bad taste in the mouth, or changes in your sense of smell)
Moderate to severe traumatic brain injury symptoms may include any of the symptoms listed above, as well as:
- Persistent headache (or a headache that gets worse)
- Repeated vomiting or nausea
- Convulsions or seizures
- Dilated pupil in one or both eyes
- Clear fluids draining from the nose or ears
- Inability to be roused from sleep
- Loss of coordination
- Weakness or numbness in the fingers and toes
- Profound confusion
- Agitation, combativeness, or other unusual behavior
- Slurred speed
Symptoms of traumatic brain injury in children are not always as obvious because infants and small children cannot always verbalize their symptoms. Parents should look for signs of:
- A change in eating or nursing habits
- A change in personality, or loss of interest in favorite toys or activities
- A change in attention span
- Persistent, inconsolable crying
- Unusual irritability
- Sadness, depression, or other mood changes
In all three categories, the signs and symptoms of traumatic brain injury may develop slowly over the course of hours, days, or weeks.
While many concussion victims never lose consciousness, very brief losses of consciousness (a few seconds) are more closely associated with mild TBI, while loss of consciousness for several minutes or more is indicative of a more severe brain injury.
Schedule a Free Case Review with Our Kingston Personal Injury Lawyers
Don’t assume you know what a traumatic brain injury is just by looking at someone or whether they have lost consciousness. After any blow to the head — and always after an auto accident — see a doctor immediately for comprehensive diagnostic examination.
If you’ve suffered a traumatic brain injury in an auto accident or other personal injury incident, you may be entitled to financial compensation under the laws of New York. The Kingston personal injury lawyers at O’Connor & Partners can help you understand the rules of liability for TBI in New York.
At O’Connor & Partners, we fight hard to maximize compensation for the clients we represent.
We are proud to offer our legal services to individuals living throughout the State of New York, including: Kingston, Newburgh, Poughkeepsie, Ellenville, the Hudson Valley, New York City, and beyond.
If you choose to hire us after your consultation, we will not charge you a fee unless we get you money first.