Traumatic Brain Injury Attorneys in La Mesa
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is one of the leading causes of death and disability in the United States. TBI can be a serious injury with life-altering consequences for those who suffer from it. Many TBI sufferers must undergo extensive medical treatment and miss a significant amount of time from work to recover from the injury. In the most severe cases, TBI can become a permanent and debilitating condition. When such injuries are caused by the negligence or reckless actions of another party, those who suffer from them have a right to be compensated.
At Garmo & Garmo, LLP, we understand the major physical, emotional, and financial toll traumatic brain injuries take on victims and their families, and our goal is to make the legal process smooth and stress-free. Our attorneys have more than two decades of experience representing clients suffering from these and all other types of personal injury in La Mesa and throughout Southern California. We have extensive knowledge of this area of the law, and we put our experience to work to pursue maximum compensation on behalf of each client we serve.
Common Causes of Traumatic Brain Injuries
Traumatic brain injury is caused by a jolt, bump or blow to the head that causes the brain to become displaced. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), TBI contributes to the deaths of over 50,000 individuals each year. this averages out to approximately 153 TBI related deaths each and every day. More than 2.5 million emergency room visits each year are attributable to TBI, and just under 300,000 individuals are hospitalized for this condition.
There are numerous ways that someone can experience head trauma resulting in TBI, here are some of the most common:
- Slips, Trips and Falls: Falling is by far the leading cause of traumatic brain injury in the United States. Just under half of all TBI-related injuries happen because of slips, trips, and falls. Falls can occur just about anywhere, and many of them happen because of dangerous or hazardous conditions. These may include wet or slippery floors, uneven pavement, areas covered by debris and clutter, and many others. Those who fall head first or whose head slams hard against the ground are at the greatest risk for this injury from falling. These types of injuries tend to occur more commonly with children under the age of 4 and the elderly.
- Being Struck By/Struck Against Events: The second leading cause of this injury in the US is being struck by an object or slammed against a hard surface. This type of injury is common in many work sites, especially those in which employees work at a fast pace with heavy machinery and equipment. Examples may include construction sites, factories, warehouses, loading docks, ship yards, and oil drilling sites.
- Motor Vehicle Accidents: The third leading cause of this injury in the United States is accidents involving a motor vehicle. This may include auto accidents, trucking accidents, bus accidents, motorcycle accidents, and accidents in which a vehicle strikes a bicyclist or pedestrian. The risk of TBI is greater when a collision occurs at a higher speed. The impact of the crash can throw a person’s head back and forth in a fast, jerky motion. A crash can also cause someone’s head to be slammed into a hard surface, such as the steering wheel, dashboard, window, or the ground outside.
- Various Forms of Violence: Violence is the fourth leading cause of TBI in the U.S. This includes various types of assault and battery, as well as self-inflicted blows to the head. Children ages 4 and under are the most susceptible to this injury because of violence, and it is also fairly common among teens who experience domestic abuse.
- Others: There are several other incidents that can result in someone suffering a traumatic brain injury. It can result from a birth injury (often due to medical malpractice), explosions, and high impact collisions during various types of sports activities; such as helmet-to-helmet collisions during a football game.
The symptoms of traumatic brain injury tend to manifest themselves differently in each individual case. In milder cases, commonly known as concussions, the symptoms may last from a few hours to just a few days. But as mentioned earlier, severe forms can be permanent and debilitating.
Patients with moderate or severe TBI have a variety of physical symptoms that can persist for years. At least 20 percent of those with more serious injuries have reported physical health challenges, in some cases, decades after the injury occurred. Moderate or severe TBI patients might experience the following chronic complications:
Symptoms for TBI can manifest as dizziness and related problems, such as vertigo or lightheadedness. Nearly one-third of patients suffer from dizziness that persists for at least five years following the injury.
Headaches and Migraines
A common symptom shortly after an injury is headaches. However, various studies indicate that headaches are also likely to develop and worsen over time. The presence of recurring headaches in patients six months after the injury substantially increased the risk at one year and above for moderate to severe TBI. Surprisingly, people who make an otherwise complete recovery may still suffer from head pain.
Serious head injuries can have a particularly devastating effect on the eyes. A TBI can cause eye complications such as double vision or blurry vision. The risk of visual impairment is a significant risk for patients three years after the head injury.
Light and Noise Sensitivity
The sensitivity to light and noise is known as photophobia and phonophobia, and these have been shown to occur in patients within the initial three years after a brain injury. Around 25 percent of patients suffer from these sensitivities after one year, developing into a lifelong condition.
Patients will likely experience an exacerbation in physical and mental fatigue after the TBI, depending on the severity of the injury. Ongoing fatigue can cause emotional issues, insomnia, and an adverse effect on working status one-year post-injury.
Seizures, Post-Traumatic Epilepsy
Nearly 40 percent of people with TBI experience late-stage seizures. These patients present themselves with symptoms indicating a higher risk for the most serious of injuries. Adults or children with TBI can also develop chronic sustained seizure disorders, or, more specifically, post-traumatic epilepsy.
Higher Possibility of Death
Moderate or severe TBI and related complications lead to a higher possibility of death in patients. Depression and other psychiatric co-morbidities in TBI patients lead to a greater likelihood of suicide. In addition, elderly patients are more prone to sepsis, pneumonia, and brain-related disorders, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Persistent Emotional and Cognitive Symptoms
Besides the physical problems, various emotional and psychological complications are associated with severe TBI. Many of these symptoms develop and manifest well after the initial injury.
Impaired memory and thought seem to be an ongoing issue for patients, more so than any other complication. It is known to persist for numerous years for anywhere between 20 percent and 63 percent of TBI patients.
As traumatic brain injuries can lead to behavioral, emotional, and mental changes, along with physical ones, it may be challenging for those with moderate or serious cases to find or keep jobs or even remain employed within their same industry. It can take several years of therapy for brain injury victims to be able to function somewhat normally. They would have to undergo extensive therapy ranging from re-learning speech patterns to regaining fine motor skills.
If the head injury victim is a child, the long-term effects are even more serious. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that children suffering from a TBI face significantly increased risks of headaches, depression, and mental disorders for the five years after the event. Around 39 percent of the children in their sample study experienced such neuropsychiatric symptoms.
Problems related to Language and Communication
People suffering from TBI may experience communication problems and find it challenging to understand and express information. This can manifest in the following ways:
- Difficulty in finding the right word
- Problems initiating or following conversations or comprehending what others say
- Getting off-topic easily or rambling
- Challenges with more complex language skills, such as expressing ideas in an organized fashion
- Trouble expressing thoughts and feelings with a tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language
- Experience challenges in reading the emotions of others and not responding properly to another individual’s feelings or to the social occasion
- Trouble Learning and Remembering New Information
Traumatic brain injury patients may have problems learning and remembering new events and information. They may find it challenging to recall events that occurred several weeks or months prior to the injury (although this usually comes back with time). Individuals with TBI are typically able to recall events that occurred long ago.
It may be challenging for them to remember entire conversations or events. To address this problem, the brain tries to “fill in the gaps” of missing information and recalls things that did not actually take place. However, these false memories are not the same as lies.
Challenges with Problem Solving, Reasoning, and Judgment
Persons with TBI may find it challenging to recognize a problem, which is the initial step in problem-solving. Further, such people may have difficulty analyzing information or altering their way of thinking (or being flexible).
They may find it problematic to identify the best solution when solving problems or get fixated on one solution and not consider other, more effective alternatives. People with TBI tend to make quick decisions without adequate consideration of the consequences.
Impulsive, Inappropriate or Embarrassing Behavior
Individuals who have sustained a traumatic brain injury may not have the self-awareness or self-control to prevent them from behaving in an impulsive or inappropriate manner in social situations. They may refuse to believe they have cognitive issues, even if these are apparent to the people around them.
They may say insensitive or hurtful things, act out of line, or behave in an inconsiderate manner. They may also be unaware of social boundaries and others’ feelings, such as acting too familiar with mere acquaintances or not realizing when others are feeling uneasy.
Cognitive Outcome/Recovery and Rehab
Neuro-psychologists typically evaluate cognition. As various factors can impact how a person will improve their cognitive abilities, it is very challenging to predict how much a patient can recover. To a certain extent, cognitive problems can improve with practice.
Cognitive rehabilitation refers to therapy to enhance cognitive skills. This rehab follows two key approaches: remediation and compensation. Remediation aims to improve skills that have been impaired or lost, while compensation helps you learn to use various ways to accomplish a goal.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should speak to your physiatrist (rehabilitation expert) or the rehabilitation team. New problems could occur due to medication or necessitate further evaluation.
Damages in Traumatic Brain Injury Cases
Because TBI can leave victims with altered personalities and other cognitive and physical issues that could last a lifetime, damages can often be more extensive in these types of cases. Compensatory damages can be broken down into two general categories;
Caring for a Loved One with TBI
The following suggestions for individuals with a TBI can help your loved one recover after the injury:
- Get plenty of rest
- Avoid any other activity that could lead to a strike or blow to the head
- Confirm with the doctor when it is safe to drive a vehicle, ride a bicycle, use heavy equipment, or play sports, as the response time may be slower following a brain injury
- Take prescription meds as per the doctor’s guidelines
- Do not consume alcohol or use street drugs
- Write things down to help with memory issues
- Ask the doctor to refer rehab services that might enable a faster recovery and follow those recommendations.
Rehabilitation aims to help your loved one function and live as independently as possible. It helps the body recover, and the brain relearns processes that help a patient recover rapidly and effectively. Also, rehabilitation will help the individual with TBI learn new techniques to perform tasks if any previous abilities have been lost.
Following the emergency life-saving treatment that your loved one receives immediately after the injury they will likely start a rehab program and will work with a team of specialists. In this rehabilitation team, the individual with the injury and their family are the most important members.
The family members should be involved in the rehabilitation and treatment processes as much as possible. Other professionals who may be members of this team include the following:
- Physiatrists: Doctors who are specialists in rehabilitation medicine who usually supervise the rehabilitation process.
- Occupational, physical, speech, and language therapists: Therapists who help the individual regain communication skills, behavioral skills, thinking skills, and physical abilities.
- Neurologists: Doctors who are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of nervous system conditions, including diseases of the spinal cord, brain, muscles, and nerves.
- Vocational rehabilitation experts: Employment coaches who help re-equip the victim with regaining employment skills.
- Neuropsychologists: Specialized psychologists trained to focus on regaining thinking skills and addressing behavior problems.
- It is crucial to understand that the process of rehabilitation may last for several years and that your loved one’s abilities will improve with rehabilitation services throughout this period. Also, the programs and treatments will change as the needs of your family member change.
- Various treatment and rehabilitation programs may benefit your loved one, including:
- Coma treatment centers: Offer medical care specifically for coma patients
- Acute rehabilitation: An intensive rehabilitation program
- Behavior management programs: Community-based (and not residential) programs that teach proper social behaviors and self-control skills.
- Transitional living programs: Non-medical residential programs that equip patients with skills for community living
- Long-term care and supervised living programs: Residential facilities offering care and rehabilitation services to individuals with TBI who are unable to function independently
- Day treatment programs: Offer rehabilitation services during the day enabling the person to return home at nighttime
The entire family is impacted when a loved one suffers a TBI. According to research studies, caregivers of individuals with injury may experience feelings of depression, anxiety, burden, and distress.
If you are the caregiver for a spouse, partner, child, close friend, or relative with TBI, it is crucial to acknowledge how demanding this situation can be and seek caregiver support services.
The services that can be most meaningful to caregivers include in-home assistance (home medical aids or personal care assistants), respite care to offer breaks from caregiving, support groups for brain injury, and continuing or short-term counseling for caregivers to align to the changes that have resulted from the injury.
Besides, you may also seek assistance from friends, family members, and the community at large for help with your loved one’s care, so prevent you from burning out.
As a caregiver, you may find it challenging to find suitable and adequate services for your family member, and you will likely have to be persistent in your quest for assistance. To get recommendations on available resources, you should tap into your network of family and friends as well as professionals.
These are actual financial losses that the victim incurs. Examples include:
- Hospitalization costs;
- Cost for medical treatment;
- Rehabilitation expenses;
- Cost of ongoing medical care and related expenses;
- Lost wages;
- Loss of earning capacity.
These are losses that are intangible and more difficult to quantify. Examples include:
- Physical pain and suffering;
- Emotional distress;
- Diminished quality of life;
- Loss of consortium (for spouses and domestic partners of victims).
With cases in which the actions of the party responsible for the injury were especially egregious, punitive damages (also known as exemplary damages) may be awarded to punish the wrongdoer and help deter them and others from engaging in similar behavior in the future.
Our country spends nearly $76.5 billion annually to accommodate for those impacted by head injuries, including medical expenses, unemployment benefits, and workers’ comp programs. These costs might appear significant, but the sad reality is that many people with TBIs still struggle to bear their basic living expenses and sustain themselves through periods of financial instability or unemployment.
Speak with a Skilled La Mesa Traumatic Brain Injury Attorney
If you or someone close to you has suffered a traumatic brain injury and another party is responsible, you may have a right to compensation. Before accepting any settlement offers from the responsible party or their insurer, it is important for you to understand your legal rights and options.
At Garmo & Garmo, LLP, we work closely with our clients, and we handle the legal process from A to Z so they can focus their recovery. For a free consultation with one of our skilled personal injury lawyers, call our office today at 619-441-2500. You may also send us a message through our online contact form. One of our attorneys can meet with you at your home, hospital room, or wherever is most convenient if you are unable to travel to our office.