Brain Injury: The Silent Epidemic

More than 1.4 million people in the United States sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI) every year, according to the Brain Injury Association of America. Yet few members of the public are aware of the significant number of people living with permanent, disabling brain injuries.

One of the cruel ironies of brain injuries is that many victims can walk and talk and appear to be just fine. Unfortunately, they have a profoundly disabling brain injury that results in memory loss, cognitive impairments, and emotional and behavioral changes that leave them unable to earn a living or, in some cases, unable to accomplish the routine tasks of daily life.

The brain injury lawyers of Greene Broillet & Wheeler, LLP, understand the causes and the after-effects of serious brain injury. Representing people who have suffered traumatic brain injuries is a significant part of our practice.

If you, or a loved one, has suffered a serious brain injury, get the legal advice and strong representation you need to get results in court. Contact an experienced brain injury attorney at Greene Broillet & Wheeler for a free initial consultation.

What Is a Traumatic Brain Injury?

Traumatic brain injuries are primarily caused by a direct blow to the head. Indirect head trauma, which often occurs in car accidents or falls, can also lead to traumatic brain injuries.

About 1.5 million people in America suffer a traumatic brain injury every year. That's more than six times the number of people who are diagnosed with breast cancer, HIV/AIDS, spinal cord injuries and multiple sclerosis combined.

About 50,000 people die of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) annually and another 5.3 million people are currently living with a disability due to a traumatic brain injury.

Symptoms of traumatic brain injury range from persistent headache, confusion, dizziness, memory loss and personality changes to blurred vision and ringing in the ears, to trouble thinking, concentrating, speaking and moving. Brain injuries can lead to coma and death.

How Brain Injuries Happen

According to a study by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, the leading causes of brain injuries are:

  • Falls
  • Motor vehicle-traffic crashes
  • Struck by/against events
  • Assaults

Sports accidents, from bicycling to skating to contact sports, can cause brain injury. Falls from bikes, motorcycles, ladders or scaffolding are also a factor. Blasts are a leading cause of TBI for military personnel in war zones.

Men are more likely than women to sustain a traumatic brain injury. Children age 0 to 4 and young people ages 15 to 19 are the two groups at highest risk for brain injury.

The Mechanism of Injury

The brain can be injured by a direct blow, or coup, to the head. The force of that initial blow can cause another injury when the brain hits the skull on the opposite side of the head. This is called a coup/contre-coup injury. A brain injury can also occur without a direct blow to the head.

Issues in Brain Injury Diagnosis

Brain injuries are often just one of many injuries caused by a serious accident. Unless symptoms are clear and obvious, a mild brain injury can easily be overlooked by doctors and nurses who are focused on other, more life-threatening injuries.

The full extent of a brain injury may not become clear until weeks or months after an accident.

The attorneys of Greene Broillet & Wheeler, LLP, have successfully represented clients with brain injuries for decades. We can assist you in finding respected medical experts who specialize in the diagnosis of brain injury. Our experts will use a variety of tools to demonstrate the extent of your injury and pursue all compensation you are entitled to:

  • Neurological workup - If doctors do suspect a head injury, you will most likely be given an initial neurological exam in the emergency room or doctor's office. You'll be rated according to the Glasgow Coma Scale on your ability to open your eyes, speak and respond to verbal and physical stimulus.
  • Imaging tests - Your doctor may order an imaging test, like an MRI or CT scan, to determine if there are skull fractures, tumors, a subdural hematoma, penetrating injuries or other observable injuries to the brain. However, no imaging test can accurately pinpoint all types of injury to the brain. This lack of objective documentation can make it difficult to prove the extent of injury-related damages.
  • Neuropsychological Testing - Neuropsychological testing can help pinpoint specific deficits that may be caused by a brain injury. Even these, however, are not infallible. People with extremely high intellectual capabilities will still fall within the normal range on a neuropsychological test even though they are experiencing significant deficits due to a brain injury. Neuropsychological testing is most accurate when a baseline test of the individual's capabilities occurred before the accident.
  • Personal Observations - The observations of friends, co-workers and family members can help diagnose a brain injury and the personality disorders that sometimes go with it. A physiatrist, a specialist in rehabilitative medicine, will interview people who knew the individual before and after the injury about the differences they have seen in the person's abilities and behavior. These interviews may reveal that before the accident she enjoyed reading and now she cannot read, or before the injury he had a calm demeanor, but now is easily frustrated. These observations can also be helpful from a legal point of view to help document the extent of the damages a person has suffered.

The Glasgow Coma Scale

Emergency room physicians or neurologists will assess the patient's degree of consciousness and ability to open his or her eyes, speak and respond to speech, move parts of the body and respond to simple commands and questions using a test called the Glasgow Coma Scale.

Imaging tests are usually ordered to determine if surgery is needed to relieve pressure or extract bone fragments from the brain. While these tests can reveal skull fractures and subdural hematomas, the full effects of a brain injury do not show up on diagnostic tests like MRIs or CT scans. Even neuropsychological testing cannot identify all deficits associated with a brain injury.

That is why every member of a brain injury rehabilitation team is so important.

Who Treats Brain Injuries?

According to the Brain Injury Association of America, the rehabilitation team may include:

  • Patient and patient's family
  • General practitioner
  • Rehabilitation medicine physician
  • Rehabilitation nurse
  • Allied health professionals: physiotherapist, occupational therapist, speech pathologist, social worker
  • Neuropsychologist, clinical psychologist
  • Vocational rehabilitation services and counselors
  • Other medical specialties: neurosurgery, orthopedic surgery

New Insights Into Brain Injury Rehabilitation

The goal of brain injury rehabilitation programs is to help people return to their former level of functioning as much as possible. Brain injury or cognitive rehabilitation programs can be in-patient, out-patient or community-based services. They typically involve a team of medical and rehabilitation professionals who assess the patient's needs and develop an individualized program to meet his or her goals.

Until fairly recently, little was known about brain injury rehabilitation. Some believed that rest, time and luck were the only essential components for recovery. Today, however, analysis of numerous studies has shown that a program of brain injury rehabilitation can help people maximize their recovery from traumatic brain injuries.

Researchers at the University of South Alabama and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte analyzed results of several hundred studies of cognitive brain injury rehabilitation. They found that just as physical therapy enhances recovery from physical trauma, cognitive rehabilitation can increase positive outcomes after a traumatic brain injury. Results are best when the rehab program is begun early.

Results for People With Brain Injuries

We have successfully represented hundreds of clients who sustained brain injuries in accidents caused by negligence. Our brain injury case results include:

To speak to an attorney about your brain injury claim, contact Greene Broillet & Wheeler, LLP. We represent seriously injured clients in the Los Angeles area and throughout Southern California and the entire state. We also consult with attorneys and clients nationwide.

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