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Understanding Brain Injury

Brain injury is one of the leading causes of disability in the United States. Currently, there are more than 5.3 million Americans living with disability as a result of a brain injury.

The most common causes of brain injury are vehicle crashes, falls, sports injuries, and violence. Other acquired brain injuries can be caused by medical events such as anoxia (loss of oxygen to the brain), aneurysms, and infections to the brain, tumors, or stroke.

The Brain Injury Association of the United States (BIAUSA) categorizes brain injury on three different levels: Severe Traumatic Brain Injury, Moderate Traumatic Brain Injury and Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. Furthermore, BIAUSA states that the severity of neurological injury to the brain can be initially determined using an assessment called the Glascow Coma Scale (GCS). The terms Mild Brain InjuryModerate Brain Injury, and Severe Brain Injury are used to describe the level of initial injury in relation to the neurological severity caused to the brain.

There may be no correlation between the initial Glascow Coma Scale score and the initial level of brain injury and a person’s short-term or long-term recovery or functional abilities. Keep in mind that there is nothing “Mild” about a brain injury. Any injury to the brain is a real and serious medical condition.

Acquired vs. Traumatic

A traumatic brain injury can be classified as either acquired (ABI) or traumatic (TBI). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a traumatic brain injury (TBI) is defined as a blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the function of the brain. Not all blows or jolts to the head result in a TBI. The severity of such an injury may range from “mild” (i.e., a brief change in mental status or consciousness) to “severe” (i.e., an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury). An acquired brain injury (ABI) is an injury to the brain that is not hereditary, present at birth, or degenerative in nature. Causes of ABI include any condition which may cause a lack of oxygen to the brain, such as a heart attack, a stroke, a seizure or toxic exposure.

Brain injuries can be very difficult to diagnose, especially in the presence of other more immediate physical injuries. It is important to consider that any blow or jolt to the head may result in disruption of brain function. It is also important to know that significant disruption to the brain may occur even in the absence of any loss of consciousness or even a negative CT scan or MRI. It is extremely important to be screened by health care professionals who are experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of brain injury.

For additional information about brain injury, please contact our brain injury nurse specialist at Nolan Law Group.

Symptoms Of A Brain Injury

Since all areas of the brain must work together to create a “person,” even a so-called “mild” injury can have devastating consequences in a person’s life. Physical abilities, thinking, behaviors and interpersonal relationships can often be profoundly affected with an injury of this nature.

The following is a brief list of some of the symptoms which may be experienced after a brain injury:

  • Physical symptoms may include loss of speech or slurred speech, loss of hearing and taste, inability to swallow, headaches, visual disturbance, muscle spasticity, dizziness, fatigue, sleep disruption.
  • Cognitive symptoms may include loss of memory (both short-term and long-term), lack of awareness and attention, inability to concentrate, faulty judgment, and loss of flexibility in thinking. Sequencing even a simple task may become very difficult, such as getting dressed in the morning or even brushing your teeth.
  • Behavioral/emotional symptoms include changes in mood, personality, depression, inability to manage anger, increased aggressive behavior, lack of motivation, loss of ability to cope with even the smallest challenges, low self-esteem and an excessive display of emotions and the inability to inhibit inappropriate behavior.

Impact On Victims And Families

Just as each person is unique so is each brain injury. No two are alike. It is an injury that can affect nearly every aspect of one’s life from being able to take care of personal needs to work and to family relationships.

Depending upon the severity of the injury, physical, cognitive and emotional/behavioral consequences can range from mild and manageable with the proper therapies to complete dependence in all areas of care. Also, many brain injuries go undiagnosed in the presence of more life-threatening and visible physical injuries.

There can be no doubt that a person sustaining a sudden, traumatic brain injury has had a life-changing event. A catastrophic brain injury affects nearly every area of a person’s life including the physical, the emotional, the social and the financial. It is an injury that also changes the lives of families, loved ones and friends, not to mention the community at large. Every 23 seconds one person in the United States sustains a brain injury. It is the second leading cause of disability in the U.S. — developmental disability being the first.

No matter how the brain injury is classified, from catastrophic to so-called “mild”, life is not the same for the injured or their family members.

Families are the ones who often experience shock, disbelief and feelings that the situation is not real. It can be extremely confusing and frightening when confronted with the need to make important medical decisions at a time when it is nearly impossible to think clearly. The family may feel overwhelmed with anxiety and frustration when faced with the need to make any important decisions for which they are totally unprepared. There will be disruption in the family’s routine and a resetting of priorities as time and attention are needed by the family member with the brain injury. Families and loved ones may also experience extreme stress as well as post-traumatic stress disorder.

The financial impact of a catastrophic injury can be profound. The person with the brain injury may not be able to work for months or years, if at all. If that person was the main support of the family, the effects on family life can be devastating. Loss of the value the person brought to their family, work situation and community life can be incalculable. According to the Brain Injury Association of Illinois, the cost of traumatic brain injury in the United States is estimated to be nearly $50 billion annually, with hospitalizations alone accounting for nearly $32 billion.

At Nolan Law Group, we recognize the profound impact a catastrophic brain injury has on not only the person experiencing the injury but also on the family and community. Help is available, and it is our committment to provide clients and families with whatever guidance, support, information and resources they may need.

How To Select A Brain Injury Attorney

It is extremely important to use great care in selecting a brain injury lawyer to handle your case. It is a very specific area of expertise and a head injury attorney must have that expertise to competently handle your case.

Ask the law firm what percentage of the practice is devoted to brain injury:

  • Does the firm handle the cases themselves or do they refer out to other traumatic brain injury attorneys? Ask about recent verdicts in their brain injury cases.
  • Is the lawyer involved in their State Brain Injury Association or the Brain Injury Association of America? Ask about membership and involvement in legal associations in the area of brain injury.
  • Has the lawyer been invited to speak at any brain injury medical or legal events?

Head injury lawsuits can be very costly and require a vast amount of resources at the disposal of the law firm:

  • Does the lawyer have the resources to most effectively litigate your brain injury lawsuit?
  • Do they know and use the best experts in the country when handling your case?
  • Do they have the latest technology and know how to use demonstrative evidence to prove even the most difficult of cases involving a brain injury to a jury?
  • In order to fairly consider a brain injury case, a jury needs to understand the extent of an injury that often they cannot see.

A person who has an acquired brain injury may seem fine to the casual observer but, in fact, may have very significant damage to the brain. Your brain damage lawyer must be able to prove your case to a jury. At Nolan Law Group, we devote a major portion of our practice to brain injury and have the resources to do the very best job in litigating your case. We use the best experts in the country, are pioneers in using the very latest technology in the courtroom to prove your case, and we are involved on all levels of the brain injury community – local, state, and national.

Our head injury attorneys have years of experience in litigating the most difficult brain injury cases with great success. Nolan Law Group has an on-staff brain injury nurse specialist who is available to answer any of your questions and provide you with any resources you may need.