The Lawyer’s Role in Recognizing Brain Injury
Closed head injury (internal brain injury without any visible injury to the head) followed by post-concussion syndrome is the most common serious neurological disorder in the United States today.
The Important Vantage of the Personal Injury Lawyer: Without timely recognition, brain injury victims may never receive proper treatment/rehabilitation for the physical, cognitive and psycho-social impairment which follows a brain injury. A personal injury claim that is quickly settled may overlook brain injury and related damages. The personal injury lawyer is, more often than not, the first/only professional to be in a position to view all facts and symptoms circumspectly. The personal injury lawyer should, therefore, educate himself or herself in the complicated and sophisticated area of head trauma and disorders associated with brain injury.
The Silent Epidemic: Victims of head injury can suffer brain damage without having sustained skull fractures, coma, or loss of consciousness. Many head-injury victims are treated only at the emergency room, a time before the victim manifests obvious signs of post-concussive syndrome. There are usually no medical pictures of the brain injury. Victims generally have trouble remembering the accident, and may be unaware of the effects of the brain injury. Disturbing short-term and potentially long-term problems caused by closed head injuries are often not recognized by the medical care providers, since they are treating the obvious physical injuries caused by the trauma. Subtle symptoms later voiced by a victim may be dismissed as a degree of hypochondria.
These are reasons why TBI is call the “the silent epidemic.”
Post-Concussion Syndrome: Persons suffering so-called “mild” brain injuries can enjoy complete recovery from the physical symptoms associated with their injury, but still suffer serious cognitive and psycho-social consequences. Post-concussion syndrome usually follows mild to moderate head injury and usually involves some of the following symptoms: headaches; lack of coordination; muscle spasticity; paralysis; dizziness; tinnitus; seizures; speech, hearing, vision, tactile and olfactory dysfunction; memory deficits; concentration problems; slowed thinking and problems with perception, sequencing, judgment and communication, including impaired reading and writing skills; emotional and behavioral dysfunction; fatigue; loss of empathy; depression; anxiety; sexual dysfunction; lack of motivation and emotional volatility, including excessive laughing or a general difficulty in relating to others. Common complaints include problems with organizing thoughts, keeping track of things, selecting the right word in speaking, functioning in a job as well as before, difficulties in getting along with family and friends, learning and retaining new information, and difficulty in finding the way from place to place. Other symptoms include double vision, hypersensitivity to light and sound, confusion and fear in crowded places, and an overall feeling of confusion and agitation.
The Important Role of Informants: Informants are lay witnesses who know the victim and are in a position to complete the personal injury lawyer’s “Summary of Symptoms”
Brain Injury Fact Sheet, which is a “before and after” snapshot of the victim as a person. This information provides the personal injury lawyer information needed to begin the process of determining if the client received a brain injury and has continuing cognitive damage. It also provides the factual basis for beginning the process of obtaining treatment/rehabilitation for the post-concussion disorders. The personal injury lawyer must be prepared to quickly help his or her client obtain the needed testing, treatment, and rehabilitation. Brain rehabilitation treatment is available but only during a short window of time. The process of helping brain injury victims takes time, money, and know-how. Brain injury claims are very difficult, but rewarding when needed help is provided.