Find out what you can expect from workers’ comp if you got a concussion or head injury at work. See compensation ranges and case examples.
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a major cause of death and disability in and out of the workplace. TBI can range from mild concussions to fatal brain damage.¹
Workers’ compensation payouts for head injuries can range from a few hundred dollars for a mild bump on the head to lifetime wage benefits and millions in medical costs for a severe brain injury.²
The lifetime costs of medical care alone for a disabled traumatic brain injury patient can run from $85,000 to $3 million.³
Head Injuries and Workers’ Compensation
Always seek immediate medical attention after any impact to the head. Be sure to tell the doctor that your injury happened on the job.
An employee who suffers work-related injuries is eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Worker’s comp covers medical expenses from day one. Worker’s comp wage replacement kicks in within a week or two and is generally two-thirds of the worker’s average pre-injury wage.
Mild Head Injuries
The compensation value of a mild head injury can range from a couple of hundred dollars to somewhere under $5,000. This includes a trip to the emergency department or urgent care to get checked out, and a few days off from work. Higher estimates account for the possibility of the doctor ordering an MRI to rule out any serious problems.
Your medical expenses will be always covered by worker’s compensation insurance, even if you don’t miss much work. Keep in mind that in many states, the wage replacement part of worker’s comp doesn’t kick in until you’ve missed several days of work.
If you’ve suffered a bump on the head or mild concussion and expect a quick recovery, you’ll likely have no trouble handling your workers’ comp claim on your own. If your claim is denied, or you suffered a significant head injury, consider seeking legal advice.
Example: Concussion from Shelf Collapse
Darlene makes $18 per hour/ $720 per week as a senior secretary in a busy Florida real estate office. One day, Darlene decided to organize the office supplies closet.
Darlene decided to stack reams of copy paper onto a closet shelf. She had already emptied two copy paper boxes and was bending down to open another box when the heavy wooden shelf collapsed, hitting Darlene on the head and knocking her to the floor.
One of the realtors heard the crash, and found a dazed Darlene sitting on the floor, with a large “goose-egg” already coming up on her head. They called emergency services to take Darlene to the hospital.
The emergency room doctor ordered a CT scan that ruled out internal bleeding. Darlene was released with a mild concussion, and told to follow up with her regular doctor for headaches. Darlene was out of work for two weeks until the headaches went away, and required no further treatments.
Medical bills (hospital, doctors, CT scan): $3,000
Lost wages benefit ($480/week x 2 weeks): $960
Estimated workers’ comp settlement value: $3,960
Darlene will be back to work faster than it would take to negotiate a cash settlement with worker’s comp. She’s better off accepting her wage replacement benefit and letting the workers’ compensation insurance company pay her medical bills.
Moderate to Serious Head Injuries
A worker with a moderate concussion might be out of work for over a month while recovering from the headaches and dizziness of post-concussion syndrome. Settlement costs for a moderate concussion could range from $5,000 to $10,000. This assumes medical costs from $3,000 to $5,000 coupled with 1-2 months of lost wages for a worker making $15 per hour.
Serious head injuries are very different. They can lead to permanent brain damage and life-long impairment. Suffering a disabling head injury at work is a high-dollar claim.
Settlement values for catastrophic brain injuries that leave the worker permanently disabled can run into millions of dollars. Factors that influence value include how many more years the person would have continued working, impact on the person’s cognitive skills, and if the injured worker will be dependent on others for care.
If you’ve suffered a serious head impact with significant traumatic brain injury, contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to help you get the compensation you deserve.
Example: Brain Injury from Work-Related Vehicle Accident
Roger was an experienced driver for a well known delivery service, making $25 per hour/ $1,000 per week. He was 35 years old when he was hit head-on by a drunk driver early one morning. Roger suffered skull fractures with a traumatic brain injury that left him permanently disabled.
Medical costs (first year): $151,000
Estimated future medical costs: $2 million
Lost wages benefit ($667/week x 30 years): $1,040,520
Estimated workers’ comp settlement value: $3,191,520
Most state’s workers’ compensation laws leave it up to the injured worker (or their legal guardian) to decide if they are willing to settle for a lump sum amount or continue to receive lifetime benefits.
Some workers’ compensation settlements must be approved by a judge or commissioner, however a good workers’ compensation attorney should be hired to protect the interests of the injured employee and their family.
What to Do After a Workplace Head Injury
Head injuries are no joke. If you’ve taken a blow to the head from a fall or any other workplace accident, don’t try to brush it off, act tough, or assume you’re okay.
The top priorities following any head injury are seeking medical attention, reporting the injury to your employer, then filing a claim with your employer’s workers’ compensation insurer.
You may not look injured or have symptoms right away, but your brain can be swelling or bleeding. You won’t know anything is wrong until much later when you’ve suffered irreversible damage.
A delay in medical treatment is not only medically dangerous, it can seriously undermine your workers’ compensation claim. The insurance company will jump at the chance to argue that your injury didn’t happen on the job.
Improve Your Claim Value with Documentation
A brain injury may not be easy for an insurance company to recognize. You’ll need evidence to prove the extent of your injury, and what you’ve lost besides your wages from work.
Organize all your claim-related documentation, including claim forms, correspondence with the insurance company, and all your medical records.
A good form of evidence for head injury claims is to keep a daily record, like a journal or diary, of your symptoms and activities. Your spouse or a trusted friend may need to keep this record for you.
Every day, write down the date and record anything significant or different from before the injury. Include detailed notes about your symptoms and changes to your activities of daily living.
Discuss the changes with your medical providers and your attorney. Many traumatic brain injury symptoms can’t be validated by an MRI or blood test.
The workers’ comp insurance company will fight you every step of the way to avoid a large payout for your head injury.
For example, if your treating physician says you should not work because you’re suffering from post-concussion syndrome, meaning you’re continuing to suffer from concussion symptoms, the worker’s comp insurance company might hire an IME doctor to say there’s no reason you can’t go back to work.
You’ll need good records and a good attorney to compel the insurance company to offer a fair disability settlement.
Symptoms and Causes of Traumatic Brain Injuries
According to the Mayo Clinic, some symptoms of brain injury can show up right after you’ve been hurt, while other symptoms may not appear until days or even weeks later.
The most common type of TBI is a mild concussion, with symptoms of:
Symptoms of moderate to severe traumatic brain injury can include:
- Persistent headache or a headache that worsens
- Repeated vomiting or nausea
- Convulsions or seizures
- Dilated pupils, one or both eyes
- Fluid leaking from the nose or ears
- Slurred speech
- Behavior changes
Common Causes of Workplace Head Injuries
The human skull serves as a protective shell for the brain. Inside the skull is a layer of cerebrospinal fluid that acts as a cushion between the brain and skull bone. The brain is made of soft tissue which is quite delicate and easily damaged.
A blow to the head causes your brain to slam against the inside of your skull. When the impact is strong enough, your brain can begin to swell or bleed, resulting in traumatic brain injury.
Head injuries at work are typically caused by falling objects, slip and falls, falling from heights, and vehicle accidents.
Occupations with the highest risk for head injuries:
- Construction workers
- Police officers
- Race car drivers
- Loading dock workers
- Delivery personnel
- Professional athletes
Compensation Outside of Worker’s Comp
Worker’s compensation should be available to any employee injured on the job, but the medical and wage replacement benefits are limited. In most circumstances, workers’ compensation laws prohibit workers from suing their employer. However, exceptions are made when the employer’s egregious or intentional negligence causes harm to a worker.
Employers are obligated to maintain a safe work environment. Outrageously unsafe conditions may be grounds for a lawsuit.
When you’ve suffered a head injury while working, there may also be individuals or businesses, other than your employer, who caused or contributed to your injury. The other person or business would be considered a “third-party.”
You’d want the help of a personal injury attorney to file a personal injury lawsuit against your employer, or a third-party claim or lawsuit, but the compensation could be much more than you get from workers’ comp alone.
In a third-party lawsuit, an attorney will help you recover the full amount of your current and future lost wages, a dollar amount for pain and suffering, and you may even be awarded punitive damages.
Examples of negligent third-parties you could sue in addition to workers’ comp:
- The at-fault driver if you were injured in a car crash
- The manufacturer of defective tools or machinery that caused your injury
- The contractor responsible for OSHA violations that led to your injury
- The property owner if you were injured working at a location not owned by your employer
Case Summary: Worker Awarded $33.5 Million for Head Injury
Mark Perez was only 30 years old when he suffered a catastrophic brain injury from a workplace fall. Mark was standing on tall scaffolding while working construction at a concert theater when a coworker rammed the scaffolding with a forklift.
Perez suffered a severe traumatic brain injury that left him with traumatic epilepsy, chronic pain and headaches, significant cognitive deficits in attention, processing speed, memory, visual perception, intellectual function, and executive functions, depression, anxiety, and other permanent deficits.
It took years for the Perez legal team to win a summary judgment for liability against Live Nation.
The jury at the original trial awarded Perez $85.75 million in damages. On appeal, the pain and sufferings portion was reduced to $20 million, and the $13.5 million for past and future wages and medical care was left intact, for a total of $33.5 million.
On April 13, 2021, the Supreme Court of New York confirmed the $33.5 million damages award to Mr. Perez.
Get the Help You Need
If you’ve suffered a serious head injury, especially one that may have life-long consequences for you and your family, you’ll need help.
Don’t trust the workers’ comp insurance company to look out for your financial future. They will do whatever it takes to deny your claim or reduce your benefits.
Even though you were injured on the job, there may be others who are liable for your injuries, but you won’t get very far by yourself against their big-gun lawyers and insurance companies.
There’s too much at risk for you to go it alone. Talk to a personal injury attorney about your workers’ compensation case. Most offer free consultations. It costs nothing to find out how a good attorney can help you get the compensation you deserve.
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Workplace Head Injury Questions & Answers
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