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 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.
- Confusion or disorientation
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sleepiness or fatigue
- Dizziness and balance problems
- Problems sleeping
- Feeling weak or numb
- Losing consciousness
- 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.
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. 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.