A concussion is a type of mild TBI– a relatively common Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI). This type of injury essentially refers to an alteration in the brain’s function that has been caused by some kind of external force. Concussions typically occur when someone receives a blow to their head, although it can also happen if your upper body or head area is shaken violently for any number of reasons.
A study by the NCBI notes it estimates nearly 5 million emergency room visits each year that can be attributed to Traumatic Brain Injuries, with 4 out of 10 TBIs caused by a slip and fall. In 2020, there were more than 64,000 Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) deaths in the United States
It is noted that many concussions do not result in a loss of consciousness for those impacted, so most concussions are recognized to be mild in nature, and those who suffer a concussion typically recover fully. However, some concussions are significantly more serious and leave permanent effects that prevent victims from being able to care for themselves and being in need of a lifetime of assistance.
When thinking about a concussion, many instantly think of the result of a big hit in football or ice hockey, but the reality is that a concussion can be caused by an accident or simply by a fall. And while some unavoidable events cause concussions, there are other times when another’s recklessness, negligence, or fault may have been the cause of the injury.
Have you been the victim of an accident for which someone else was responsible? If so, you should consult with an experienced attorney to discuss your concussion lawsuit options for the injury as well as the related pain caused by the event.
What is a Concussion?
The Mayo Clinic notes that the human brain consists of delicate soft tissue that has a gelatinous consistency. =
The human brain is an amazingly complicated organ that is vulnerable to trauma and injury. It can control movement and thought simultaneously while ensuring the body maintains its homeostatic state. It is cushioned from life’s everyday movements by its own shock absorbers – the three membrane layers and the skull that surrounds the brain. However, when an accident (or some type of sudden, forceful impact) jolts the head, it drives the brain to move inside the skull in a vigorous motion. The result can often be a Traumatic Brain Injury(TBI).
The trauma caused by a concussion (and other related injuries to the brain) causes the brain to swell and fill with fluid. However, the skull only permits a certain amount of swelling before the pressure in the brain increases to a critical point, a condition that prevents blood (and oxygen) from reaching the cells in the brain. This ultimately creates further damage to the area.
How to Prove a Concussion Exists
After someone is injured by a sudden blow to their head or upper body, a concussion is typically suspected. The traditional way to determine if someone suffered a concussion is to –
- Medically Evaluate through a Physical Exam the Injured Person’s Symptoms and Signs.
- Review of the Victim’s Medical History.
- Neurological Examination and Testing that include concentration, recall, memory issues, etc.
- Imaging Tests that will include a CT Scan or an MRI to Diagnose Alterations to the Brain and Potential Complications.
Until recently, the medical community used the above list of factors to diagnose (and then medically treat) a concussion. By 2021, a blood test had been developed that detects certain proteins in the injured person’s blood after a concussion. The test offers results within only ¼ of an hour. A negative test result is a definitive tool that can help to rule out the need for an expensive (and therefore unnecessary) CT scan.
For those who have a positive TBI plasma blood test, a CT scan or MRI can be ordered to search for further conclusive evidence of the TBI or concussion. This rapid TBI test allows medical personnel to triage patients who may have a traumatic brain injury, thereby helping to prevent additional injuries.
Imaging Tests for Concussions & Traumatic Brain Injuries
Brain imaging helps to determine if a concussion exists and is typically recommended for those who exhibit symptoms that include – severe headaches, vomiting, or even seizures – all of which seem to be worsening with time. Medical imaging tests help determine if the impact on the head was severe enough to cause swelling or bleeding in the brain and skull.
A Cranial Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan
A CT scan consists of a series of cross-sectional X-rays of the skull and brain. A Computerized Tomography Scan is considered one of the standardized tests for adults to evaluate the brain after an injury has occurred.
Children who may have suffered a concussion will only be assessed using a CT scan if certain criteria are met to avoid exposing young children to radiation unnecessarily. This may include signs of a skull fracture.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
An MRI employs a combination of powerful magnets and radio waves that generate incredibly detailed images of the body. These images can be used in the diagnosis of related complications or to track changes in the brain over time.
If you have been hit with great force in the head or head area, you may need someone to medically supervise you – sometimes even spending a night in a hospital. During the first 24 hours, a caregiver may be required to wake you up regularly to ensure you are ok and awakening in a usual manner.
Concussion Causes & Risk Factors
As noted above, a concussion can be caused by a direct hit to the head that can be caused by –
- A slip and fall.
- A car accident.
- Contact sports, to name a few.
When the head is hit suddenly, the brain hits the skull with a sharp, intense force that can potentially injure the brain. The severity of the concussion or brain injury depends on the strength of the impact on the head. The damage from a concussion can be confined to one area (known as focal) or in several areas of the brain (known as diffuse). The resulting impacts are categorized as follows –
- Coup Brain Injuries
This category refers to a brain injury on the brain from an impact with the skull.
- Contrecoup Brain Injuries
This type of injury happens when the brain hits the opposite side of the skull on impact.
- Coup-contrecoup Brain Injuries
Coup-contrecoup brain injuries affect multiple areas of the brain and are among the most serious type of TBI. They occur when a head injury results in an injury on the side of the trauma and an injury to the opposite side of the brain. Coup-contrecoup injuries can lead to other related complications.
There are three types of concussion –
- Grade 1, which represents the symptoms of a mild concussion
- Grade 2, which represents the symptoms of a moderate concussion
- Grade 3, which represents the symptoms of a severe concussion
Each concussion grade is associated with specific physical symptoms that are treatable with medical intervention. However, some injuries may result in permanent injury to the brain.
What It Takes to Win a Concussion Lawsuit
A winning concussion lawsuit requires that the plaintiff (and his or her legal representative) prove that it was someone else’s negligence and responsibility for the accident that caused the brain injury or concussion.
The following elements in a concussion lawsuit must be documented –
- The negligent party had an obligation (aka – a duty of care) not to inflict harm to you.
- This required duty of care was breached by the negligent party through their actions or their failure to act.
- This negligent party’s breach of the duty of care was the cause of the concussion.
- The plaintiff suffered damages because of the negligent choices of the defendant.
There are numerous examples of how a negligent choice leads to an accident that may cause a concussion –
- A homeowner fails to repair a broken handrail on a staircase that caused an accident.
- A store owner fails to post a notice about a wet/slippery floor, and someone falls and suffers a concussion.
- An impaired driver runs a red light that causes a car crash with head injuries.
It is noted that in some concussion lawsuits, there may be multiple parties who were at fault and negligent.
Negligence in a concussion lawsuit can be proven by gathering documentation to evidence the victim’s pain and suffering and ongoing medical needs. This documentation must also prove that the injured party had none of their current medical issues prior to the accident that caused the concussion.
- Written reports from the first responders – police or ambulance.
- Reports from a medical center or hospital.
- Physician statements regarding the concussion and related treatment.
- Witness statements that corroborate the incident.
- Photographs and videos documenting the scene of the accident.
- An expert that reconstructs the accident, among others.
What are the Possible Impacts of a Brain Injury?
Certain concussion and brain injuries are mild. These concussions have symptoms that can be treated and typically disappear with time and proper medical attention. The more severe concussions may result in permanent disability, with some injured individuals needing lifelong rehabilitation due to the impact of the injury on their brains.
The potential impacts of a traumatic brain injury are quite varied and extensive. They may include the following –
Concussions may cause these cognitive deficiencies –
- Shortened attention span
- Memory problems and amnesia
- Problem-solving deficits
- Judgment issues
- Inability to understand abstract concepts
- Loss of sense of time and space
- Decreased awareness of self and others
- Inability to accept more than one- or two-step commands at the same time
Someone who has suffered a concussion may exhibit these signs of motor deficiencies –
- Paralysis or weakness
- Balance issues
- Problems swallowing
- Poor coordination
- Reduced endurance
- The tightening and shortening of the muscles – known as spasticity
- An inability to plan motor movements
A concussion may impact an individual’s perception –
- Changes to one’s senses – vision, hearing, smell, taste, and touch
- Vision issues may include reduced acuity, limited vision range, or even double vision.
- A loss of sensation (or a heightened sensation) of certain body parts
- Difficulty comprehending where one’s limbs are in relation to their body
A concussion may cause these functional deficiencies –
- An impaired ability to manage ADLs – bathing, eating, or dressing, for example.
- An impaired ability to operate a car (or other machinery)
- Problems organizing bill paying and shopping
Communication and Language Deficits
Those who are diagnosed with a concussion may experience –
- Difficulty speaking (finding the right words) and understanding speech (aphasia)
- Difficulty reading, which is a condition known as alexia
- Difficulty writing, which is known as agraphia
- Problems understanding and working with numbers
- A reduction in one’s vocabulary or a slowing of a speech pattern
- Problems identifying objects and what they are used for
- Difficulty in remembering how to perform common acts, like brushing one’s teeth
Personality or Psychiatric Changes
The personality changes that may happen after a concussion or TBI include –
- Apathy and a reduced motivation
- Emotional lability
- Irritability and moodiness
- Anxiety or increased depression
- Unusual behaviors like aggression, inappropriate sexual behavior, short tempers, or a lowering of frustration tolerance levels.
Certain psychiatric disorders may develop if the injury has somehow changed the chemical composition of the brain. This can lead to social issues like –
- Reduced ability to navigate an interpersonal relationship
- Difficulty making new friends and keeping friends
- Reduced ability to respond to the nuances of social interaction
- Fatigue or tiredness
- Modifications to sleep patterns
- Changes to normal eating habits
- Dizziness or headaches
- The loss of control of the victim’s bowel and bladder
Epilepsy is a condition of the central nervous system that manifests as abnormal brain activity, seizures, and unusual behaviors and sensations. This neurological condition may also cause someone to lose complete awareness of their surroundings. But note that this tends to happen with an injury that penetrates the body or a brain injury that is considered severe.
While most seizures will occur right after a brain injury (or within the first year), there is a possibility for traumatic epilepsy to develop years after the incident.
Damages for Concussion-Related Injuries
Concussions are like any other medical condition or diagnosis. Damages can only be claimed for a concussion injury if a doctor or medical professional denotes in the medical records that the incident in question was the cause of the medical issues currently being experienced.
The costs and losses of the concussion (that was caused by someone else’s negligence) are known as damages. There is no way to exactly anticipate what someone’s damages in a concussion lawsuit would be because each case or lawsuit is unique. However, awarded damages for these types of lawsuits can range from several thousand dollars to millions of dollars. The case scenario and circumstances will dictate the amount of recoverable damages.
These types of damages are representative of the money that is awarded to cover both the victim’s economic and noneconomic losses and injury. There are two types of compensatory damages –
- Actual Compensatory Damages – damages that are provided to replace actual losses.
- General Compensatory Damages – these are more complex as they are not representative of monetary expenditures but something less tangible.
Economic or Specific Damages
These damages are for those losses which can be objectively verified and measured.
- Medical & rehabilitation costs
- Loss of past and future income/earnings
- Loss of business opportunities
- The cost to modify a home or a car to accommodate the disability caused by the injury
- Damage to property
- Burial & funeral costs if there was a death.
Noneconomic damages are the awards for subjective losses that are non-monetary and, therefore, non-quantifiable. Noneconomic damages are highly subjective and vary from case to case. Additionally, since noneconomic are challenging to measure objectively, they are typically subject to restrictive guidelines set forth by the ruling jurisdiction and, often, statutory caps.
Examples include –
- Pain and suffering
- The injury itself
- Physical impairment
- Mental anguish
- Embarrassment & humiliation
- Emotional distress
- Loss related to the victim’s reputation
- Loss of quality or the enjoyment of life and consortium.
Punitive damages refer to compensation awarded as a means of punishment, not as compensation for a loss. Punitive damages are awarded to deter negligent, intentional, or reckless behaviors that have been motivated by malintent. These types of damages are neither economic nor noneconomic compensation.
The factors and aspects of the concussion lawsuit that may be considered when determining potential damages or compensation include the following –
- The magnitude, significance, and permanence of the concussion or brain injury
- The medical and rehabilitative treatment expenses associated with recovery and care
- The victim’s age, family scenario, income capacity
- If the injured person or victim can return to work at all
- The impact on the victim’s quality of life
- If the victim needs continuing care
- The negligent party’s assets and insurance coverage
- The degree of negligence and the evidence provided regarding the defendant’s negligence
- The judge and jury selected
- If a wrongful death was involved
Symptoms that persist past the expected time period (a usual recovery period is weeks to months) refer to a condition known as Post-Concussion Syndrome. Post-concussion syndrome is a complicated medical condition that impacts about 10% of those individuals who are injured and receive a concussion by the incident or accident. These symptoms can potentially last from weeks to months, and some even may last more than one year.
Post-concussion symptoms vary (and can often be vague) but are similar to those experienced by a concussion.
- Dizziness, and
- Problems with concentration and memory
However, post-concussion symptoms may also begin to include anxiety, light/noise sensitivity, unusual irritability, fatigue, insomnia, and emotional changes. Post-concussion headaches have the potential to feel like a migraine or a tension headache.
The specifics of the physiology that causes post-concussion syndrome are still not fully understood by the medical community, with medical professionals still disagreeing on why certain injured individuals get post-concussion while others do not.
Most individuals who have post-concussion syndrome will recover with appropriate rest, medical guidance, and the reduction of daily stress.
Be Sure to Document Every Concussion Symptom
Are you experiencing typical symptoms of a concussion?
If so, it is essential to get medical care immediately. Do not underestimate the importance of the immediacy of medical care because this is where you begin to document the injury, its impact, and the resulting consequences.
Caretakers and family members can supplement and augment your documentation as they will personally experience your pain and suffering and other adverse effects from a concussion injury. If possible, keep an ongoing journal of your experiences, as this is an effective way to remember new and reoccurring symptoms.
If, after a concussion, you have no apparent symptoms, it is still a good idea to be cautious and seek medical attention, even if you only suspect you have suffered a concussion. This is important because certain concussion symptoms manifest slowly, over time, while others grow increasingly worse without treatment.
If an injury leads to a hematoma (bleeding in the brain), a concussion can be fatal. So, anyone who has been hit in the head should be regularly monitored for hours after the event. If symptoms begin to grow worse, it is important to get emergency medical attention right away.
If you or someone you love/know has been involved in an incident or accident and received a sharp blow to your head, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible after the event. Even a mild concussion can have potentially adverse impacts on your life and your ability to function normally.
With the new rapid blood test, it has become easier than ever to begin the appropriate diagnosis of a concussion, which ultimately prevents further complications and related conditions.
If the damage is serious (and perhaps life-altering), you will need ongoing medical care to manage the changes to your lifestyle caused by a concussion or TBI.
How Can a Concussion Attorney Help?
A concussion that is caused by someone else’s negligence may entitle you to damages caused by the incident.
Those who suffer a brain injury or concussion will find it especially helpful and important to have legal representation when moving forward with a concussion lawsuit.