You’re entitled to a fair settlement for mild traumatic brain injuries caused by someone else’s negligence. Here’s what you need to know.
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a serious type of head injury often caused by car crashes, slip and falls, assaults, and other sudden accidents.
Severe TBIs can cause permanent brain damage or even death. Catastrophic or fatal brain injuries receive a lot of publicity and often get multi-million dollar settlements.
Sure, the big cases grab headlines. But less severe brain injuries can also destroy your quality of life. Even a “mild” TBI can have negative, lasting effects on you and your family for the rest of your life.
Unfortunately, mild TBI claims are harder to justify to an insurance company. The effects of a mild TBI can seem very clear to claimants. But without experienced injury attorneys and neurologists to explain a diagnosis, it can be difficult to get a fair injury settlement without a lawsuit.
This article will discuss what a “mild” TBI is for the purposes of a personal injury claim. We’ll also examine the factors that go into obtaining an appropriate settlement and average personal injury settlement amounts for mild brain injuries.
What Is a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury?
First, we should clear up an issue about terms. A word like “mild” in connection with TBI is by its very nature vague and unhelpful.
A brain injury sounds scary, no matter the severity. But it’s a fact that certain types of TBIs are less serious than other types.
According to the National Institutes of Health, the most widely accepted definition of a mild TBI is one that is limited to the following criteria:
- The injured person loses consciousness for 30 minutes or less;
- The Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score 30 minutes after the injury is 13 to 15
- Any post-traumatic amnesia lasts less than 24 hours
Symptom measurements that exceed these parameters indicate a more severe brain injury.
The same type of accident can affect two people very differently. An injury victim with a pre-existing health problem may be severely affected by a car accident or slip and fall. The same incident may cause no symptoms in someone else.
The Eggshell Skull Rule
Some claimants suffer a more severe injury due to a prior injury or pre-existing health condition than a person without prior conditions.
For example, an elderly individual might have brittle bones that are more likely to break than a younger person. An athlete with prior concussions may be more likely to suffer a brain injury after a blow to the head. Though they are more vulnerable than the typical member of society, the person that hurt them is still liable for all their damages.
The Eggshell Skull Rule is a legal doctrine that requires the at-fault party to take the injury victim “as they find them.” In other words, your injury compensation can’t be reduced or denied just because you were more susceptible to a TBI or other type of injury.
Mild TBIs are less-severe versions of “closed head” injuries, meaning an injury resulting from an abrupt blow to the head that does not break the skull.
Common closed head injuries:
- Concussion: This is a “closed-head” injury consisting of a blow to the head with or without loss of consciousness. It can have many causes, from a slip and fall to a car accident. Even mild concussions can lead to cognitive defects (trouble thinking) in injury victims. Repeated concussions increase the risk of negative effects.
- Brain contusion: A contusion is a bruise on the brain that is also classified as a “closed-head” injury. Like concussions, they result from blows to the head and motor vehicle accidents. They can cause swelling of the brain, resulting in brain damage at levels from mild to severe.
Common symptoms of mild TBI can include:
- Temporary Amnesia
- Difficulty concentrating
- Dizziness and Nausea
- Sleep Problems
The classification of “mild” is a medical measurement for the relative severity of your brain injury. It does not describe the impact that symptoms have on your life.
Nor does it account for the differences between people. An office worker with headaches that will be less frequent over time might still be able to do their job effectively. A bus driver, with visual disturbances and difficulty focusing, may not be able to ever work in their profession again. When considering whether and how to settle your claim, consider these individual factors.
Collecting Evidence for a Brain Injury Claim
As a rule, mild TBIs tend to get smaller settlements and jury verdicts than more serious brain injuries. Often, this is because medical conditions arising from more serious incidents are worse and more easily understood by an insurance company or a jury.
Symptoms and illnesses resulting from mild TBIs, on the other hand, can be more individualized and less clear cut. This often results in settlement numbers that may be lower than you expect.
Most states have established traumatic brain injury laws that might help your claim. For example, many states require an athlete with a head injury to stop playing until fully recovered. A coach who sends your son back into the football game after a head injury may be negligent.
Settlements are also affected by the quality of evidence you offer to the insurance company or jury. When dealing with an insurance company, you or your lawyer should prepare a demand letter summarizing and presenting your evidence in order to maximize your chances of a fair settlement.
There are several kinds of evidence that can support your personal injury case, whether to an insurance adjuster or a jury:
Medical bills or other evidence of medical treatment: This evidence serves two purposes. First, it shows that you have incurred actual costs as a result of your injury, which will directly increase the settlement value of your case. Medical records also show the need for future medical care, which also increases the value of your case.
Letters or statements showing business losses: In order to have the best effect on the value of your case, these losses should be closely related to the injuries and symptoms that are the subject of your claim.
Documents or statements about your job: Documents showing wage losses are key, but don’t overlook statements by you or co-workers showing how your injuries affect job performance. Performance reviews in particular can help put a dollar amount on supposedly minor symptoms that have affected your ability to work.
A statement from you about how the injury has affected your life: While this does not translate to a direct dollar amount, it helps to establish your non-economic damages, like pain and suffering or emotional distress, that should be a part of any settlement. This is the place to describe how supposedly minor symptoms greatly interfere with your life.
Average Settlements for Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries
Let’s assume that you have provided the proper evidence to the insurance company supporting your claim for damages.
Here are some rough numbers indicating what to expect as settlement in connection with different kinds of injuries:
Concussion or contusion (closed-head injuries): Because these claims generally have more objective medical evidence than headaches, they can have a higher value. Depending on the level of treatment (assuming no surgery), a closed-head injury may settle for $40,000-$60,000.
Chronic headaches: These injuries can be subjective and difficult to value. As a rule, if they are well supported, these claims can settle for around $25,000.
If the insurance company minimizes your mild traumatic brain injury claim, you will need an experienced attorney to get fair compensation for your injuries.
Case Summary: Florida Jury Awards $160,000 for TBI after Car Crash
Constance Griffis was driving her pickup truck when she was rear-ended by Jared Green, causing minor bumper and fender damage to Griffis’ vehicle. Griffis alleges she suffered back and knee injuries, and was left with confusion, memory loss, and seizures from a traumatic brain injury.
Green accepted fault for the crash, however his auto insurance company refused to believe the low-impact crash caused the brain injuries claimed by Griffis.
Green’s defense lawyers argued that the car was traveling at less than 10 miles per hour at impact. At trial, Greene’s lawyer stated, “People don’t get hurt in accidents like this … And if they do, it’s extremely minimal.”
The jury did not agree, and awarded Constance Griffis $60,000 for medical expenses and $100,000 for her pain and suffering.
Get Help for Traumatic Brain Injury Claims
The fact that an injury is not as severe as it could have been is cold comfort to someone living with headaches or memory problems. Your case may not be worth a million dollars, but it’s still important to get the compensation that you need to get your life as close as possible to what it was before your accident.
If you or a loved one has suffered a traumatic brain injury, no matter how mild, take action today. Contact a qualified personal injury attorney for a free case evaluation.
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