Q: What is a brain injury?
At its core, a brain injury is damage that causes either temporary or permanent functional difficulties in the brain, possibly resulting in death. There are a number of different ways to injure your brain, some of which may not be immediately obvious.
Q: What types of brain injury are there?
There are two broad categories, traumatic brain injuries and acquired brain injuries. Traumatic brain injuries include more obvious 'impact' injuries, such as penetrative injuries (an object pierces the skull and enters the brain), contusions (an impact causes localized bleeding on the brain), coup-contrecoup contusions (an impact that causes the brain to slam into the opposite side of the skull, creating a second contusion at the second impact site), diffuse axonal injury (shaking/rotational forces cause tears in various brain structures), and concussion. Acquired brain injuries are caused by oxygen deprivation. They include anoxia (absolute oxygen deprivation, possibly resulting in cell death; can be fatal), and hypoxic brain injury (partial oxygen deprivation, which may also result in cell death; can be fatal).
Q: How do brain injuries affect one's daily life?
As brain injuries are so varied, the effects on one's daily life are equally varied. Brain injuries that cause cognitive deficiencies - for example, anoxia that was not cured before damage to hippocampal (memory-forming) brain structures - may require cognitive therapy, may prevent that person from holding an intellectually demanding job, and may even require social worker aid for fulfilling certain tasks.
Certain brain injuries can affect the emotional systems of the brain, making the affected victim oversensitive and prone to emotional outbursts. This can have long-lasting negative psychological effects on victims and their families. Often, ommonly, brain injuries impede physical abilities. Patients with impaired movement/strength may require the use of canes, wheelchairs, walkers, or other physical aids, reducing the victim's mobility and quality of life.
Q: If I've suffered a brain injury, what legal claim can I bring?
Your legal claim depends on the specific circumstances of the brain injury. Slip and fall accidents, motor vehicle accidents, intentional harm (such as a fistfight, or strangulation-induced anoxia), and other impacts usually come under the personal injury or premises liability umbrella, and in some cases there may be a separate criminal action. Disease-induced, toxin-induced, and birth/labor-induced brain injuries are often brought as medical malpractice actions when the blame can be placed on the physicians, nurses, technicians, or hospital for performing below the reasonable standard of care (thereby creating the brain injury, or allowing it to progress).
Q: What are the benefits to filing a lawsuit for my brain injury?
Depending on the seriousness of your injury, and the extent to which the injury has negatively affected your life, you may be eligible for a substantial damage award. With serious brain injuries, you may require continuing and long-term cognitive/psychological/physical therapy, which may be beyond your financial means. Additionally, your injuries may preclude you from work, or reduce your workplace efficiency to such an extent that your future earnings potential is limited.
The effect of a serious brain injury on, not only yourself, but on your close friends and family, cannot be understated. Brain injuries fundamentally alter relationships and generally increase financial and emotional stresses. A successful lawsuit will, at the very least, help support you financially as you adapt to your injuries.
Q: I got into an accident several years ago. Can I bring a claim for my brain injury?
Though it's better to bring your claim as soon as possible after the accident, your claim may not necessarily be destroyed. Depending on your state, the statute of limitations may not have run out. You may be able to rely your state's discovery rule: essentially, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until you actually discover or know about the injury. If you did not bring a lawsuit earlier because you did not realize that you received a brain injury, then your statute of limitations should only begin to run at the date of discovery (when you realized that you had a brain injury).
Some state courts are stricter with their interpretation of the discovery rule, and the applicable standard is whether you knew or should have known about the brain injury. If a reasonable person would have known that they received a brain injury (for example, if you were in a car accident and hit your head against the window), then your lack of knowledge may not extend the statute of limitations. Please contact a qualified brain injury attorney to learn more about your legal options.
Contact a qualified auto accident attorney to make sure your rights are protected.