TBI Definition: What Is a Traumatic Brain Injury?

August 17, 2020 | David Abels
TBI Definition: What Is a Traumatic Brain Injury? Living with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) can be a painful and lonely experience. Those who have suffered a brain injury may feel alone in their struggle, but they are not. Someone in the U.S. suffers a brain injury every 9 seconds, and one out of every 60 people live with the effects of a brain injury. According to the CDC, just one year saw about 2.5 million TBI-related emergency department visits, 288,000 hospitalizations, and nearly 57,000 TBI related deaths. According to a report from the Illinois Department of Public Health, 108,101 people in Illinois sustained a TBI in just one year. Among those injured, 1,699 died, another 9,746 were hospitalized, and an additional 96,656 received emergency room treatment. There are many causes of traumatic brain injuries, such as sports-related activities, falls, and workplace accidents. Motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of brain injuries. They are the most frequent cause of traumatic brain injury among individuals aged 15 to 34, according to a report from the

What Is a Traumatic Brain Injury?

CDC defines a traumatic brain injury (TBI) as “a disruption in the normal function of the brain that can be caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, or penetrating head injury.” The injury damages the skull or causes the brain to move inside the skull, resulting in brain damage. A TBI is a complex brain injury that has a broad range of symptoms. Because no two brain injuries are alike, the effects will be different in each case. Additionally, symptoms may present themselves immediately or may not appear for days or weeks after the accident. A traumatic brain injury may affect a person’s thinking, memory, personality, and behavior.

Common Causes of Traumatic Brain Injuries in Motor Vehicle Accidents

Many of the brain injuries suffered in car accidents are difficult to detect. Common causes of head trauma from a motor vehicle crash include:
  • Contact with a stationary object. In a car accident, victims’ heads often hit steering wheels, airbags, or other objects. This is especially common in motorcycle accidents, due to the motorcyclist’s limited protection.
  • Forward momentum in an accident. In a car accident, a vehicle slows suddenly and dramatically. The car may stop, but an occupant’s body and brain keep going forward because of the momentum. Therefore, even if the brain does not strike a stationary object, it may strike the front or back of the skull.
  • Striking the ground. Drivers are often thrown from their vehicles or pedestrians are hit and land on the ground, resulting in brain injuries.

Types of Personal Injury Accidents that Cause TBIs

Traumatic brain injuries often occur because of personal injury accidents, such as motor vehicle accidents, slip and fall accidents, nursing home abuse, and more. Slip and fall accidents are known for causing brain injuries, especially if the fall involves a strike to the head. Slip and fall accidents can occur anywhere. But where they occur and why they occur determines whether or not you have a potential personal injury claim. Slip and fall accidents that occur because of someone else’s negligent behavior can occur in businesses, such as locally owned stores, grocery stores, and bigger commercially owned stores. They may also occur in apartment complexes and even a friend’s home. Slip and fall accidents may occur indoors because of clutter, messes, and spills or outdoors because of parking lot hazards, such as potholes and poor lighting. Defective or broken stairs are a common cause of both indoor and outdoor slip and falls. Motor vehicle accidents such as car, truck, motorcycle, bicycle, and pedestrian accidents can all cause brain injuries because of the extreme force involved. Motor vehicle accidents are one of the leading causes of brain injuries in the U.S. and result in thousands of hospital visits each year. When a person suffers a brain injury due to a motor vehicle accident, their life and their family’s lives can be changed forever. Head injuries and brain injuries can cause huge amounts of medical debt, long periods of lost wages, and all types of pain and suffering. When a brain injury caused by a motor vehicle accident was not your fault, the driver or party that was liable should be responsible for compensating you for your damages. Brain injuries caused in nursing homes are also common, especially since the elderly are more susceptible to brain injuries. Head injuries that occur in nursing homes are commonly caused by neglect, abuse, or poor maintenance. Neglect in a nursing home can cause a resident to suffer a TBI because of:
  • Not helping a patient who has limited mobility
  • Not answering a call to help a resident use the toilet or to bathe
  • All kinds of other situations in which staff is neglectful in helping a resident to safely do something when the alternative is them falling and hitting their head
Nursing home abuse, especially physical, can cause brain injuries for residents. For example, if a senior is shoved, they may fall and suffer a head injury. TBIs from nursing home abuse can also be caused by physical abuse like yanking someone out of bed or by aggressively moving them when they have mobility issues. Poor maintenance can also lead to a resident falling and hitting their head. Examples of poor maintenance in nursing homes include:
  • Not repairing hand rails
  • Failing to replace light bulbs
  • Not following safety measures
  • Leaving spills on the ground
No matter what type of accident caused your injury, the experienced attorneys at Abels and Annes are here to help you get the compensation and the justice that you deserve for your brain injury case.

Types of Brain Injuries

Several types of brain injuries may affect one or more functional areas of the brain. People injured in motor vehicle accidents often suffer one of the following types of traumatic brain injuries:
  • Concussion. A concussion is the most common type of traumatic brain injury. Both closed and open head injuries can produce a concussion.
  • Contusion. A contusion is a bruise or bleeding on the brain. A direct impact to the head may cause a contusion.
  • Coup-Contrecoup. These are contusions that occur both at the site of the impact and on the complete opposite side of the brain. They are associated with cerebral contusions or bruising of the brain.
  • Diffuse Axonal. When the brain is injured as it shifts and rotates inside the skull, resulting in shearing of the brain’s long connective nerve fibers. Victims of shaken baby syndrome often suffer these serious injuries.
  • Penetration. Penetrating injury to the brain includes both high-velocity penetrations, such as bullets or shell fragments, or low-velocity penetration, such as a knife. Penetration forces hair, skin, bones, and fragments from the object into the brain. Firearms are the single largest cause of death from traumatic brain injury. Although less common than closed head trauma, PBI carries a worse prognosis.

Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injuries

Victims suffering from a traumatic brain injury may face different symptoms depending on the severity of their injury. After the first impact occurs, the brain may swell and push against the skull, causing a secondary injury.

Physical Symptoms

  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sleepiness or fatigue
  • Dizziness and balance problems
  • Problems sleeping
  • Headaches
  • Feeling weak or numb
  • Losing consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Vision impairment or dilated pupils
  • Hearing problems
  • Altered sensations of smell or taste

Mental or Cognitive Symptoms

  • Memory or concentration issues
  • Changes in mood
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Agitation and combativeness
  • Slurred words

The Financial Costs of Traumatic Brain Injuries

The direct medical costs for the treatment of patients with TBI are extremely high, but there are also indirect costs. Studies also indicate that those with a brain injury who have failed to return to work have a lower sense of wellbeing. Studies show that 52 percent of brain injury survivors were still moderately to severely disabled one year after the injury. Many never recover full social independence. They may feel a loss of self-esteem and reduced quality of life. Four years after the injury, most survivors lived with their families and did not work or attend school. Mood disorders are common.

The Personal Costs of Brain Injuries

After a traumatic brain injury, close relationships often break down. A brain injury changes the whole family, and the family system has to alter the way that it operates. Even after many years, living with a brain injury, or caring for an injured patient, may present significant hardships for the family. A brain injury can significantly change relationships, leaving spouses and friends feeling lonely and lost. Children living with a brain-injured parent may experience emotional problems and feel neglected. Usually, the person who assumes the role of primary caregiver faces many challenges. They may have to give up their career or other interests. Caregivers frequently suffer from serious depression, particularly during the first year of injury. It takes time and resources for a victim and their family to navigate the changes they face.


The consequences of a traumatic brain injury can be overwhelming. Damages may include lost income, and other financial losses, such as medical bills, therapy and rehabilitation, in-home care, adaptive equipment and modifications to the injured person’s home. The injured person also deserves compensation for non-financial losses, such as pain and suffering, physical impairments, and diminished quality of life. The injured person’s spouse or partner may also seek compensation for loss of companionship and intimate relations. Proving damages usually requires detailed medical records and testimony from expert witnesses. Illinois law also permits punitive damages (also known as exemplary damages) when the circumstances involve malice, oppression, and fraud.

What Factors Affect the Worth of my Case?

After you suffer a traumatic brain injury in an accident, you may have lots of questions about the amount of compensation you’ll be able to receive and whether or not it’s worth it to settle your case or take it to trial. Your attorney will be able to answer all of these questions and guide you with your best interest in mind. There is no exact calculation for how much your case is worth as it’s based on a variety of different factors. And every case is completely different. However, there are some things we can review to understand what factors affect the value of your case.

The Severity of Your Injuries

The severity of your injuries plays a large role in how much your case will be worth. If you have a concussion, your case will be worth less than someone who has severe brain damage. Obviously, this will affect the amount of damages you have and the amount of sympathy you will elicit from an adjuster or juror. In these cases, insurance adjusters and juries are also likely to award more compensation for injuries that are highly visible. A talented attorney will, however, be able to argue your case, explaining how your injury is severe even if the effects are not necessarily visible.

The Impact on Your Life

How much your injury has changed your life also plays a big part in your case’s value. If your life has changed greatly, your case could be much more valuable than another individual’s, whose life hasn’t changed much at all. Quite simply, the more an injury has negatively affected your life, the better your chances are of getting a fair settlement that covers all your damages.

Your Total Damages

The total amount of damages you have, including both economic and non-economic damages, is one of the most important factors in determining how much your case is worth. If you have $5,000 worth of medical bills and only 2 day of missed work, your case will clearly be eligible for less compensation than a case with $250,000 in medical bills and the victim being left paraplegic. Although this example is dramatic, it is not always so extreme. Two people may have the same type of injury, like whiplash, but one recovers in 2 weeks and the other needs surgeries and months of therapies. Although they have similar injuries, they obviously do not have similar damages.

Available Insurance

In a personal injury case, the money you get as compensation most often comes from an insurance company. Therefore, you can’t receive more money for damages than an insurance company is able to payout. This is why your case’s value is largely based on how much coverage is available. A large corporation is much more likely to have very good insurance coverage than a person driving a beat-up car. Quite simply, you are not likely to get more money than there is coverage. This is why it is important to carry additional auto insurance coverage like underinsured/uninsured coverage.

Do I Need to Hire a Brain Injury Attorney?

A lot of people ask themselves whether or not they actually need to hire an attorney in order to be successful with their case. Many people think that representing themselves will be easy and doable. While that can be true in rare circumstances, it is never true for a case that involves a serious brain injury. Hiring an experienced brain injury attorney is your best bet at receiving a fair settlement and getting the amount of compensation you need in order to rebuild your life. The attorneys at Abels & Annes have years of experience working on brain injury cases and are very familiar with how insurance companies operate and the tricks they use. Because of this, we are strong negotiators when it comes to settling a brain injury case prior to trial. If a case does have to go to trial because a fair settlement cannot be reached, we can retain the experts, and we have the resources and experience necessary to present a strong and compelling case in court so that you have the best possible chance of getting the verdict you need.

Consult a Brain Injury Lawyer

The TBI may be the result of another’s negligence. Negligent behavior usually consists of actions, but it may also consist of omissions if there is a duty to act with reasonable care. Like all states, Illinois sets time limits for filing a brain injury lawsuit. We know how difficult it can be to recover from and live with a brain injury, but our talented attorneys are ready to help you with your case. We can help you get the compensation that you deserve, as well as the peace of mind that you need. If you or a loved one has suffered a traumatic brain injury, it is important to consult an experienced, compassionate traumatic brain injury attorney as soon as possible.
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David Abels


David Abels has carved a niche for himself in the personal injury law sector, dedicating a substantial part of his career since 1997 to representing victims of various accidents. With a law practice that spans over two decades, his expertise has been consistently recognized within the legal community.

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