BRAIN INJURY LAWSUITS
April 29th, 2019 | Michelle M. Quinn
Although data is limited, estimates indicate that over five million persons in the United States are living with a brain injury related disability. Every 15 seconds, a brain injury is suffered by someone in America. Each year, head injuries result in more than 70,000 deaths.
Brain injuries fall into one of two categories traumatic and non-traumatic. The word “traumatic’’ indicates the origin of the injury, not its severity. Both types of injuries have the potential to be permanently debilitating, life-threatening or fatal. These injuries can take an emotional and financial toll on victims and their families. If a brain injury is a result of someone else’s negligence, victims and their families may be entitled to compensation. HKQ Law Attorney Michelle M. Quinn notes that “an experienced personal injury attorney is essential to establish liability and recover damages.”
Traumatic Brain Injuries
Traumatic brain injury is defined as damage to the brain resulting from external mechanical force, such as rapid acceleration or deceleration, impact, blast waves or penetration by a projectile.
There are two types of TBIs: open and closed. Open TBIs result when the scalp/skull is broken, fractured or penetrated by an object such as a bullet. With a closed TBI the skull remains intact.
There are a number of causes for TBIs. They include:
- motor vehicle accidents
- sports injuries
Non-Traumatic Brain Injuries
A non-traumatic brain injury is typically caused by some sort of internal occurrence, including:
- cerebral hypoxia/anoxia
Effects of Brain Injuries Can Include:
- physical complications
- intellectual problems
- communication problems
- behavioral changes
- emotional changes
- sensory problems
Liability for Brain Injuries
In some cases, determining legal liability can be rather straightforward. An example would be a speeding, overloaded tractor-trailer slamming into a car in front of it.
Sports injuries cases can be more complex. A brain injury may be the result of defective equipment such as a helmet, leading to a product-liability lawsuit.
Brain injuries resulting from falls at construction sites can give rise to lawsuits if negligence is involved. Negligence may also happen at nursing homes. Falls among the elderly are common, owing to an increased incidence of impaired vision, dizziness and other destabilizing health issues.
While brain injuries are usually caused by a traumatic event, they can also occur in healthcare settings, due to negligence or medical malpractice.
Examples of these include:
- anesthesia errors
- medication errors
- missed diagnosis
- delayed treatment
- surgical errors
- improper use of birth-assisting tools
- failure to diagnose or properly treat infections
Any of these can contribute to non-traumatic brain injuries. For example, failure to detect a patient’s blood clot might lead to a stroke resulting in brain damage. The misdiagnosis of a concussion in adults, which can be somewhat common in emergency department settings, can leave the patient vulnerable to second-impact syndrome. Harmful drug interactions with anesthesia can cause injury to the brain. Urinary catheter infections, common in nursing homes, can lead to sepsis. Sepsis can lead to multi-organ dysfunction, and can result in brain damage if not diagnosed and treated in a timely manner.
In a personal injury lawsuit, compensation can be sought for economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages compensate for actual costs, such as medical expenses and lost wages due to time off for work. Non-economic damages cover intangible costs such as pain and suffering. Pennsylvania also allows an injured party to make a claim for punitive damages, damages exceeding simple compensation and awarded to punish the defendant in cases of reckless indifference or disregard.