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Brain Injury Overview

Every year in America, nearly 100,000 people suffer serious brain injuries that require medical treatment and affect their ability to perform everyday activities. You do not have to be traveling at a high rate of speed or to strike a hard object in order to suffer a traumatic brain injury. Serious brain injuries can result from falls, car accidents, sports activities, and work-related accidents. Any kind of trauma to the head or neck region can cause the brain to bruise, bleed, tear, or swell.

Types of Brain Injuries: Open and Closed

There are two general types of head injuries: open and closed. An open injury means the skull has been fractured, and this kind of brain injury usually results from falls or other accidents in which the head comes in direct contact with a hard surface or object. A closed head injury does not involve a fracture, but can be more serious than an open injury due to the possibility of brain swelling and the formation of dangerous blood clots inside the skull. Whether a brain injury is open or closed, the most serious of either type can cause paralysis, loss of consciousness, and even death.

Serious Brain Injury: Warning Signs

Soon after an accident or injury, it may be difficult to know whether you or a loved one has suffered a brain injury, especially when no visual indications of serious injury exist. Here are some things to look out for when evaluating an accident victim's potential for brain injuries:

  • Confusion and difficulty remembering recent events
  • Unusual tiredness or sluggishness
  • Nausea and dizziness
  • Severe headache
  • Weakness or numbness on one side of the body

If any of the above symptoms are present soon after an accident or injury, you should seek immediate medical attention. It is even possible to suffer from a brain injury and still feel fine. Some victims have suffered serious brain injuries in an automobile accident, yet have been able to get out of their car and direct traffic away from the scene. Therefore, if there is any question at all whether a brain injury could have occurred in an accident, it is critical to go to the nearest hospital for a thorough medical evaluation.

For more information about brain injuries and a list of warning signs, see the Head Injuries section of the U.S. National Institutes of Health Medline Plus portal.

Common Brain Injuries

Bruising of the brain is a common injury that results from automobile accidents, falls, and sport-related accidents. The force involved in such occurrences can force the brain forward and then backward, or vice versa. The force can cause bruising in some areas and bleeding in others.

Another common effect of trauma to the brain is called tearing. The force of a collision can cause tearing. Tearing is similar to what happens if a block of ice were to be struck with a hammer; small cracks form, yet the block remains intact. The nerve system of the brain is usually damaged and, depending on the areas in which this occurs, can cause serious impairment of bodily functions.

When the brain suffers the type of trauma described above, swelling usually occurs. The body's natural healing processes cause swelling, but the problem with swelling of the brain is that there is no room for the brain to migrate. What results is called intra-cranial pressure, which can be deadly or cause severe impairment of body functions.

Serious Brain Injuries: Medical Evaluation

Especially after a serious accident, victims of brain injuries may need financial assistance in treating the injury and in continuing with their life. Medical evaluation of the degree of an individual's impairment can have a huge impact on the level of compensation the individual will receive, from all sources. Medical evaluation will also have an impact on findings such as:

  • The injured person's ability to work;
  • The right to receive different kinds of economic compensation;
  • Eligibility for protection against discrimination;
  • Whether independent living is possible;
  • What type of physical therapy might improve his/her health.

Significantly, such an evaluation should include the significant changes an individual will undergo as he/she progresses through acute hospitalization, then returns to the home and community. An individual will likely experience the best possible outcome with rehabilitation that offers an interdisciplinary approach and coordinated care.

Pursuing a Legal Claim for Brain Injuries

If you or a loved one have suffered a brain injury as a result of an accident, and you believe that someone else may be at fault for what happened, you may be entitled to a legal remedy for any harm that resulted.

Should you decide to pursue a legal claim, your attorney may proceed under two distinct legal theories in order to prove that you were injured because of someone else's carelessness. Under a "negligence" theory of liability, your attorney will seek to prove that someone owed you a legal duty of reasonable care, failed to fulfill that duty, and caused you to suffer injury as a result. A negligence theory of liability is used most often when someone's action (or failure to act) was the main cause the injury, as opposed to a product or piece of equipment.

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