Traumatic Brain Injury Claims: Causes and Compensation

Traumatic brain injuries are life-altering for victims and families. Learn how to get the compensation you deserve for head injury claims.

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) occur when there is a forceful blow to the head, penetration of the skull, or forces of motion causing the brain to move within the skull.

More than 150 Americans die each day from traumatic brain injuries. ¹

Some patients who survive a traumatic brain injury will experience a full and quick recovery. Others may take several months or years to recover, and some may never fully recover.

TBIs can cause uncomfortable symptoms, complications, and permanent changes within the brain.

If you or someone you love is suffering from a TBI because of another person’s actions, you are entitled to seek compensation from the at-fault party for your current and future damages.

What Causes Traumatic Brain Injuries?

A traumatic brain injury happens when the brain moves within the skull or is penetrated due to an outside force and causes an altered mental state.

Outside forces leading to TBI include: 

  • An impact such as falling and hitting your head
  • Penetration caused by gunshot wounds, knives, or other objects
  • The rapid movement that occurs when a vehicle suddenly stops or hits a large object
  • Percussions from explosions

Common Causes of Traumatic Brain Injuries

Traumatic brain injuries are the result of a blow or other severe head injury. Head injuries can happen just about anywhere, to people of all ages, from a variety of causes.

Slips, Trips, and Falls

Motor Vehicle Accidents

Another frequent cause of traumatic brain injury is motor vehicle accidents.

Some of the most devastating head injuries happen when a motor vehicle hits a bicyclist, pedestrian, or motorcyclist, who are more vulnerable than a vehicle occupant.

Physical Violence Associated with Brain Injuries 

Victims of brain injuries caused by the violent acts of one person against another have the right to pursue criminal charges against the offender in addition to a civil lawsuit for damages.

Victims of criminal violence are eligible to apply for Victims’ Compensation Funds to help with medical costs, mental health services, and living expenses.

Contact Sport Injuries 

Brain trauma accounts for many sport injury claims and can happen from just about any recreational activity, especially in children.

High-impact contact sports like football and boxing have a dangerously high rate of brain injuries. Studies show that professional and amateur boxers and football players are at a higher risk for the development of permanent brain injury caused by multiple blows to the head during their careers.

Explosive Blasts and Other Combat Injuries

Explosive blasts that some workers and military personnel have exposure to can also cause some brain injuries. Researchers believe that pressure waves going through the brain disturbs brain function.

Defective Products

Products such as toys, machinery, and even cars and their parts are sometimes defective. If a defective product causes a traumatic brain injury, the manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, and retailers could be held responsible.

Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms

With a wide range of symptoms, brain injuries are challenging to diagnose, understand, and treat.

Traumatic brain injury symptoms are different from one patient to the next, depending on the victim’s age, gender, and severity of the injury.

Mild to Moderate Brain Injury Symptoms

Mild to moderate brain injuries are commonly called concussions and can include any combination of physical, sensory, or mental symptoms.

Physical symptoms include:

  • Loss of consciousness for a few seconds to a few minutes
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Headaches or nausea
  • Fatigue or drowsiness
  • Problems with speech
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than usual
  • Dizziness or loss of balance

Sensory symptoms include:

  • Blurred vision or seeing stars
  • Ringing in the ears
  • A bad taste in the mouth
  • Changes in the ability to smell
  • Sensitivity to light or sound

Cognitive or mental symptoms include:

  • Memory (long- or short-term) and concentration problems
  • Mood changes or mood swings
  • Feeling depressed or anxious

Moderate to Severe Brain Injury Symptoms

Patients with moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries can have any of the symptoms for mild concussions. They may experience additional symptoms within the first hours to days after a head injury.

Physical symptoms of a moderate to severe TBI include:

  • Loss of consciousness lasting several minutes or hours
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Dilated pupils
  • Clear fluids leaking from the nose or ears
  • Inability to awaken from sleep
  • Weakness or numbness in fingers and toes
  • Lack of coordination

Mental symptoms of a moderate to severe TBI include:

  • Profound confusion
  • Agitation, combativeness or other unusual behavior
  • Slurred speech
  • Coma and other disorders of consciousness

Measuring TBI Severity

Medical professionals categorize the severity of brain injuries using the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS). Doctors determine GCS based on the injury victim’s eye response, motor response, and verbal response.

After a head injury, emergency responders will typically check the victim’s pupils, see how well they are moving or reacting to pain, and ask them questions to gauge the victim’s response.

Medical care providers will repeat the same type of evaluation until the victim is stable.

The victim’s response rates are then used to assign a score that represents the injury’s severity. The better the patient’s response, the higher the score.

There are three rankings on the Glasgow Coma Scale:

  • Mild head injury: Score from 13 to 15
  • Moderate head injury: Score from 9 to 12
  • Severe head injury: Score of less than 9

Patients with higher scores have a better chance of recovery and a decreased chance of poor long-term outcomes.

Most patients with GCS scores between 3-8 are in a coma, meaning the person is not opening their eyes, obeying commands, or saying understandable words.

Complications of Traumatic Brain Injuries

Brain injury complications can affect how you feel, think, or behave. Complications can occur shortly after the head injury or can appear months or years later.

Potential complications include:

  • Physical problems: seizures, infections, fluid buildup in the brain, dizziness, and headaches
  • Thinking problems: inability to remember things, difficulty learning, lack of reasoning, and poor judgment
  • Functional decision-making problems: problem-solving, multitasking, organization, planning, and starting or finishing tasks
  • Perceptive problems: difficulty understanding speech or writing and trouble speaking or writing
  • Social problems: difficulty with taking turns or selecting topics in conversations, and issues starting or stopping conversations

Also, if there is damage to the brain at the base of the skull, it can affect the cranial nerves.

Damaged cranial nerves can cause short- or long-term problems, including:

  • Paralysis of facial muscles or loss of facial sensation
  • Loss of or altered sense of smell
  • Loss of or altered sense of taste
  • Loss of vision or double vision
  • Inability or irregularities swallowing
  • Dizziness
  • Ringing in the ear or hearing loss

Long-Term Outcomes of Brain Injuries

The long-term outcomes of a brain injury can be difficult for doctors to predict. Some patients should make a full recovery but don’t. Conversely, other patients make an unexpected significant recovery.

Traumatic brain injuries can result in long-term mental and behavioral problems.

Evidence shows that moderate to severe TBI, and repeat mild TBI, could cause an increased risk of progressive brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and Parkinson’s disease.

Altered Consciousness

Moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries can cause extensive and permanent damage to an individual’s awareness, responsiveness, and consciousness. Victims could end up in one of four states of consciousness, indicating the likelihood of recovery.

The four states of consciousness:

  • Coma: An individual experiencing a coma is unconscious and unable to respond to sounds or stimulus.
  • Vegetative state: A vegetative state is when a person is awake but shows no sign of consciousness.
  • Minimally conscious state: People in a minimally conscious state show minimal but definite signs of awareness to themselves and their surroundings.
  • Brain death: Brain death is the irreversible end of all brain and brainstem functions.

Compensation for Traumatic Brain Injuries

Brain trauma and spinal cord injuries are some of the most catastrophic personal injuries a person can sustain. Many injured victims and their families file civil lawsuits seeking compensation for traumatic brain injury damages.

Brain injuries are high-dollar claims that require an experienced personal injury attorney to maximize compensation for the victim.

You may need a good attorney to get reasonable compensation even in a mild traumatic brain injury settlement.

Your attorney will establish liability by proving:

  1. The at-fault person had a duty to prevent harm to others, like driving safely
  2. The person failed to uphold their duty to you, like driving drunk
  3. Their failure led to your injuries, like causing a head-on collision
  4. Your injuries led to your damages

Damages Caused by Brain Injuries

Damages represent the losses or inconveniences an injured party suffers because of their injury. The type and amounts of the individual’s damages will help determine how much compensation they should receive.

There are damages with a measurable value such as:

  • Medical bills
  • Long-term care and rehabilitation bills
  • Lifecare costs
  • Medical devices
  • Medication
  • Lost wages
  • Funeral expenses

To prove these damages, you will have to provide medical bills, receipts, and wage information. These items will show the amount of money you had to pay out of your pocket, or the amount of money that you lost due to the injury.

Damages may also include things that don’t have a measurable value but still represent significant losses to a person’s life.

Examples of damages without a measurable value include: 

Establishing a dollar value for damages like pain and suffering requires careful documentation of the negative impact your injuries have had on your life.

Statements from witnesses who saw your struggles with activities of daily living can help your claim.

A good way to document the effects of a brain injury is to keep a daily journal. Write about your physical pain, your emotions, and the events and activities you missed out on. The journal can be useful as evidence.

Traumatic Brain Injuries Are High-Value Claims

Brain injuries can change your life forever. For some victims, life after the injury is less fulfilling. They may not be able to enjoy family and friends, go to events, or take part in activities that once brought them enjoyment.

Severe traumatic brain injuries typically involve long-term disabilities and ongoing medical care.

Factors that impact what your injury claim is worth:

  • The circumstances leading to the injury
  • The extent of the traumatic brain injury
  • If a secondary injury occurred (like a spinal cord injury)
  • The degree of hospitalization and medical treatment

Since a traumatic brain injury can turn out to be a long-term or permanent disability, victims and their families rightfully expect more compensation.

Permanently Disabling Brain Injuries 

Severe brain injuries may leave the victim with some level of disability. Many victims will need assistance with day-to-day living. Further, victims may require specialized medical care and equipment.

Lifetime daily assistance for individuals with a traumatic brain injury can add up to millions of dollars.

Those with permanent brain injuries due to others’ negligence are entitled to much higher compensation for pain, suffering, and emotional distress than the typical injury claimant. Pain and suffering for brain injury victims must take into account the injured person’s loss of their dreams, aspirations, and personal independence.

Future Lost Wages 

Typically, lawyers hire expert accountants to determine the potential wages the injured individual could have earned during their lifetime if they did not have a head injury.

The accountant considers the individual’s age, skills, and education, how many more years of employment the individual might have had, projected wage increases, and the expected inflation rate.

Loss of future wages is also an important calculation in wrongful death claims, especially when the person who died from their brain injuries provided financial support to family members.

Age of the Victim 

Younger traumatic brain injury victims usually receive more compensation as their permanent losses will affect more of their lives.

Not only will the victim have lost a lifetime of wage earnings, but a young brain injury victim may also have lost the opportunity to marry, have children, or pursue a chosen vocation.

Legal Concerns of a Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injuries are medically and legally complicated.

Brain injuries require immediate medical attention, expert medical care, and the support of legal expertise.

If you or a loved one has suffered a traumatic brain injury that could be the fault of another party, you must speak to a lawyer as soon as you can. You need to be sure that you are fairly compensated for such a severe injury, especially if you or your loved one will endure long-term effects.

The lifetime financial burden for one person surviving a severe TBI can be around $4 million.² The good news is that it doesn’t cost a dime to meet with a lawyer to discuss your case. Most personal injury attorneys offer a free initial consultation.

A good attorney can protect your legal rights and help you get all the compensation and disability benefits you’re qualified to receive.

Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. Until they secure compensation on your behalf, you don’t owe them anything.

Even if the at-fault party’s insurance company offers to accept full responsibility for your injuries, contact an attorney. It costs nothing to learn how to protect the interests of you and your family.

Dustin Reichard, Esq. is an experienced attorney with 20 years of work in the legal field. He’s admitted to the Illinois State Bar and the Washington State Bar. Dustin has worked in the areas of medical malpractice, wrongful death, product liability, slip and falls, and general liability. Dustin began his legal career as a JAG... Read More >>