Understanding Traumatic Brain Injuries


The problems caused by some injuries are straightforward and easy to observe or predict. A person with a broken leg has difficulty walking. A hand injury can prevent someone from playing basketball. Brain injuries, by contrast, are frequently difficult to diagnose and the impact on an individual's abilities may not be immediately apparent.

Recently, I was speaking to a family member of a 25-year-old woman who had been involved in an automobile accident while on her way to work. She was knocked unconscious and later could not remember events that occurred in the minutes leading up to the collision. She regained consciousness in the ambulance on the way to the hospital and after a thorough examination, was treated and released.

In a matter of only a few days after this incident, those people close to the young woman started to notice something strange; before the accident she was bright and energetic, now she was complaining of debilitating headaches and dizziness and would cry or lash out at those close to her for seemingly petty reasons. While the doctor who first treated her gave her permission to return to work, she had great difficulty performing her job and was soon let go. Concerned family, friends, and co-workers were left wondering: What could have possibly caused this dramatic transformation?

Perhaps, the answer can be found in the September 8, 1999, edition of The Journal of The American Medical Association (JAMA) which was solely devoted to Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI). According to one of the articles, in the United States alone, an estimated 1.5 million to 2 million people incur a TBI each year, principally as a result of vehicular incidents, falls, acts of violence and even sports injuries.

Simply put, in normal situations, the brain is surrounded by layers of connective tissue and cerebral spinal fluid. With normal movement of the head, the fluid and connective tissue are able to absorb the inertia of the brain so that it does not make contact with the skull. If the head suffers trauma, the brain's inertia may overcome the natural forces which keep it in place and the brain may come in contact with the skull. This causes the brain to bruise, nerve cells to die and possible swelling to occur as it does in any injury.

The consequences of a TBI can be dramatic and include a change in the individual's life-course, profound disruption of the family, enormous loss of income and costly lifetime expenses. In addition, TBI is now considered the leading cause of long-term disability among children and young adults and takes the lives of 52,000 people annually.

While there is no known cure for TBI's, there is some evidence that supports the use of certain rehabilitation or treatment strategies for victims. Other positive news is that legally speaking, lawyers have been working for years to protect Plaintiff interests and hold liable Defendants who cause TBI related injuries. In fact, in 1992, lawyers from around the country formed the Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group of the American Trial Lawyers Association, dedicated to raising TBI awareness and continuing the fight for the legal rights of all TBI victims.

*article courtesy of T.J. Saye.