Charlottesville Traumatic Brain Injury Attorney
TBIs kill over 50,000 Americans every year. Yet despite these high numbers, a significant number of brain injury victims seek care at emergency rooms, only to be treated and released. As outlined below, these injuries are usually hard to diagnose. They are even more difficult to treat, especially once these injuries reach advanced stages. Although TBIs are permanent, most people can live relatively lives with these wounds.
The experienced Charlottesville Traumatic Brain Injury attorneys at MichieHamlett routinely handle all kinds of personal injury claims in Albemarle County and nearby jurisdictions. So, we know how to diligently collect evidence which supports your claim. Perhaps even more importantly, we know how to put this evidence together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, so our clients obtain the compensation and justice they deserve. Through it all, we proactively communicate with you, so you are never in the dark.
Causes of Brain Injuries
Researchers are only just beginning to understand the complex nature of the human brain. So, brain injuries are an emerging science as well. For example, doctors only recently discovered that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a physical brain injury, as opposed to a processing disorder. Exposure to extreme stress creates a chemical imbalance which, in many cases, is treatable with MDMA (ecstasy).
Regardless of the underlying cause, the dedicated Charlottesville brain injury attorneys at MichieHamlett stand up for the legal and financial rights of injury victims. These rights include compensation for your medical bills and pain and suffering. These rights also include justice. We work hard to ensure that negligent actors answer for the mistakes they make, especially if those mistakes essentially ruined a person’s life.
Motor Vehicle Crashes
Although these incidents rarely make the headlines, vehicle collisions are by far the leading cause of head injuries in Virginia. These incidents combine all three major TBI causes, which are:
- Motion: Contrary to popular myth, the brain does not fit snugly inside the skull, like a head in a helmet. Instead, the skull is basically a water tank which suspends the fragile brain in cerebrospinal fluid. When victims’ heads snap violently forwards and backwards, the motion causes their brains to slam against the inside of their skulls.
- Trauma: Even the most advanced restraint system can only absorb so much force. Many of these victims hit their heads on dashboards, steering wheels, or other solid objects. Sometimes, a cell phone or other small object hits them in the head at a very high speed.
- Noise: Researchers are still trying to figure this one out. A sudden loud noise, like an explosion, triggers a shock wave, much like an EMP, which disrupts brain functions. That’s the reason so many Iraq and Afghanistan veterans come home with head injuries. Car crash witnesses routinely testify that these incidents sounded like explosions.
A third party, such as a company who employed a negligent driver or a bar that sold alcohol to an impaired customer, could also be liable for car crash damages.
Other Major Causes
Slip-and-falls cause almost as many TBIs as vehicle collisions. Although fall victims are not subject to nearly as much force as car crash victims, fall victims have no restraint or other safety systems to protect them. So, when they fall on their heads, the results are often tragic.
These injuries are especially severe if the victim had a pre-existing condition. Typically, full compensation is available in these situations.
Third-party assaults also cause many head injuries. A blow to the head, a fall during an assault, or a piercing injury, like a penetrating knife blade, could cause one of these wounds.
Property owners are typically responsible for both fall injuries and third-party assaults. These victims must show that the property owner had a duty of care and the owner knew about the wet spot, inadequate security, or other hazard which caused the injury.
Finally, some people sustain brain injuries during athletic contests. These injuries are especially common in youth sports and in adult contact sports, like basketball, in which the players do not wear solid protective helmets.
Signs of a Brain Injury
Head injuries are among the most commonly misdiagnosed injuries in Virginia. TBIs are very difficult to spot. As a result, many of these victims seek treatment in hospital emergency rooms, but they are sent home with little more than a Band-Aid. So, it’s very important for victims to recognize the signs of a head injury, so they can communicate this information to their doctors.
Head injury treatment is expensive. So, the Charlottesville brain injury attorneys at MichieHamlett work hard to obtain fair compensation for these accident victims. This compensation not only includes money for medical bills and other economic losses. These victims are also entitled to compensation for their pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment in life, emotional distress, loss of consortium (companionship), and other noneconomic losses.
In the immediate wake of a head injury, most victims lose consciousness. When they wake up, they usually vomit excessively, mostly because of inner ear disorientation. But not all victims show these symptoms. Many head injury victims are dazed, but they are conscious. Other victims are extremely nauseous, but they do not vomit.
Whiplash, which is a similar injury, is much the same. Many car crash victims sustain whiplash injuries. The violent back-and-forth motion affects nerves in the neck. At first, these victims are just sore. It’s easy to attribute this symptom to soreness from the accident. Since whiplash does not show up on MRIs and other diagnostic tests, most doctors stick with their initial soreness diagnosis.
This injury is progressive. If not properly treated, whiplash could eventually cause paralysis, especially among vulnerable victims.
Head injuries are also progressive. If these injuries are not promptly and properly diagnosed, the victims soon experience much more advanced symptoms.
Usually within a few days, more advanced symptoms begin to appear. Some of these head injury symptoms include:
- Personality Changes: Some head injury victims experience violent mood swings. NFL concussion physician Dr. Bennet Omalu once said he “would bet [his] medical license” that O.J. Simpson had a football-related brain injury. Other head injury victims assume new identities. Sometimes they even speak different languages.
- Headaches: These are not the mild headaches that an aspirin or two can handle. These violent headaches, which are more like migraine headaches, make it almost impossible to function at work, school, home, or anywhere else. Brain injury-related headaches usually strike without warning at full intensity.
- Flashbacks: Brain injuries often enlarge the amygdala, which is the area of the brain which controls emotional reactions. As a result, head injury victims often have symptoms like flashbacks, nightmares, and hypervigilance.
Brain injuries are permanent. When brain cells die, they never regenerate. However, a combination of therapy and surgery can control even advanced brain injury symptoms and prevent these injuries from progressing further.
Diagnosis and Treatment Issues
Many TBI victims do not get proper treatment because not all victims exhibit signature symptoms. For example, not all head injury victims lose consciousness. Many are dazed but awake. As a result, many doctors misdiagnose head injuries as shock from the accident, since this injury has similar symptoms.
Further complicating matters, many doctors do not order a full range of diagnostic tests. So, they are unable to make an evidence-based diagnosis.
Additionally, many victims are unable to effectively convey their symptoms to their doctors. The brain usually conceals its own injuries. That’s the reason many concussed athletes ask their coaches to let them return to the game. These individuals legitimately “feel fine.”
When a degenerative condition like a head injury is involved, delayed diagnosis is always a serious issue. These conditions are normally treatable, as long as doctors get off to a fast start. Unfortunately, many doctors do not properly diagnose TBI victims until these victims suffer more advanced symptoms, like headaches, personality changes, nightmares, and tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
At this point, the TBI is much more difficult to treat. Surgery to reduce brain bleeding and swelling is much more delicate. A physical therapist’s job is also much more difficult.
TBIs are almost never “accidents.” Instead, some form of negligence is usually involved. The nature of the negligence usually determines the identity of the responsible party.
In misdiagnosis cases, doctors have a fiduciary duty towards their patients. That’s the highest duty in Virginia law. As a result, compensation is usually quite high in these cases. The bigger they are, the harder they fall. However, misdiagnosis is usually not the underlying cause of the TBI.
Vehicle collisions are the leading cause of head injuries. Generally, the tortfeasor (negligent driver) is legally responsible for these injuries. Common theories include ordinary negligence, which is a lack of care, and negligence per se, which is a violation of the DUI law or another safety law.
Falls also cause a number of TBIs in Virginia. Typically, the property owner is legally responsible for a fall which occurs away from home. A Charlottesville Traumatic Brain Injury lawyer must show that the property owner had a legal duty and s/he knew about the hazard which prompted the fall.
Contact an Experienced Attorney
Head injury claims involve complex diagnosis, treatment, and legal issues. For a free consultation with an experienced Traumatic Brain Injury lawyer in Charlottesville, contact MichieHamlett. We have offices in Charlottesville and Roanoke.