We’re pleased to welcome another guest blog from Dolman Law Group, offices in Bradenton, Clearwater and Melbourne. This is a highly informative and easy-to-read educational piece. Thank you, Dolman Law Group!
By Matt Dolman
The problem with brain injury cases is that many medical practitioners fail to properly screen for a potential brain injury and focus more on the obvious orthopedic injuries that can readily be seen or illustrated via diagnostic studies. However, traumatic brain injuries are commonly life altering and often permanent in nature. A traumatic brain injury can also devastating to the family of the victim as it may result in significant loss in income or earning potential as well as rob the victim of his/her normal personality.
Far too many Tampa, Clearwater and Tampa Bay area families know these challenges too well.
A traumatic brain injury (TBI), to keep things simple for Tampa Bay Brain Injury Blog readers, is damage to the brain secondary to trauma, which results in an anatomical change.
Some traumatic brain injuries are easily identifiable. For instance, a skull fracture, a brain bleed, or a comatose victim of an impact to the head will all objectively display signs of a closed head injury. However, in many instances an individual will suffer from what is deemed to be a “mild” or “moderate” brain injury (as if a brain injury could be considered “mild”) due to the impact of an automobile or motorcycle accident. Such injuries are more difficult to pinpoint and involve subtle issues that will manifest by way of emotions, memory, thinking, and concentration among others. In fact, the Center for Disease Control identifies a myriad of criteria that may correlate with the clinical presentation of a traumatic brain injury. Obviously, the more factors the individual manifests with, the greater the likelihood that he/she clinically presents with a traumatic brain injury that must be correlated with diagnostic study.
It is imperative to note that normal imaging such as MRI’s, CT and PET scans are often neither specific or sensitive enough to illustrate damage to delicate and sensitive axonal fibers which can be torn, stretched and damaged as a result of physical trauma which often correlates with the force found in an automobile accident or motorcycle accident. New testing procedures such as MRI with diffuse tensor imaging (DTI) and susceptibility weighted imaging (SWI) are more specific and have proven to be superior in illustrating even minor brain injuries. However, the use of both DTI and SWI are being challenged by defense attorneys and have not been fully accepted as valid scientific testing in all jurisdictions. As Florida brain injury attorneys, Dolman Law Group you up to date in our blog section on the latest changes in medicine and the legal ramifications in this rapidly evolving and very fluid area of science and the law.
In the event of negative diagnostic testing it is far more important to pay close attention to the clinical presentation of the patient/client. If such individual presents with a myriad of issues that mimic a closed head injury (i.e., loss of memory, inability to concentrate or stay on task, irritability, dramatic changes in personality, coordination issues, etc.), Neuropsychological testing may be warranted. It is very possible to suffer from a traumatic brain injury in spite of negative diagnostic tests.
As a Tampa Bay brain injury attorney, I have handled numerous claims in which my client had negative diagnostic tests but the Neuropsychological testing illustrated a substantial cognitive deficit and was correlated with a traumatic brain injury.
One giant myth repeatedly promulgated by insurance defense lawyers is that individuals must strike their heads and lose consciousness in order to have suffered a traumatic brain injury. This is absolutely bogus and is nothing more than “junk science.”
During an acceleration/deceleration event like a Tampa automobile accident or a motorcycle accident, the head will move in a rapid and very violent manner. In turn, such rapid head movement may result in alteration and anatomical change to the brain by way of the delicate axonal fibers, which may tear, twist, or stretch due to the acceleration/deceleration of the skull and the matter inside the skull.
The big misconception is that you must be traveling at a high rate of speed or receive multiple blows to fall victim to a brain injury. As a Florida brain injury attorney, I can assure you that the reality is you can sustain a brain injury from a low to moderate speed auto collision. In fact, you do not even have to hit your head in an accident to have a brain injury! One can think of the brain like an egg. The inside of the egg is protected by the shell much like our brain is protected by our skull. During an accident the brain goes from traveling at the same velocity your car is and stops abruptly. This results in the soft tissue of the brain being pressed against the very hard surface of the skull. The brain gets compressed against the skull and this may cause blood vessels to rupture. Essentially the brain bleeds.
It is a widely accepted belief that during an acceleration/deceleration event, the brain can bounce off of the skull and immediately strike the other side. As a result the victim may suffer from a contrecoup injury. Contrecoup means the injury occurs to the opposite area. A “coup” injury would occur at the site of the impact. For instance, where the victim actually banged his/hear head against the steering column, such impact may result in a “coup” injury.
As a Clearwater auto accident lawyer, I see this happen routinely.
Please note that the human brain is commonly described by medical practitioners, as having the consistency of pudding. The brain often continues moving after the head ceases movement (i.e., “shaking baby syndrome”). Within the grey matter of the brain there is a maze of nerve cells. These very cells, communicate with other distant nerve cells through fibers known as axons. Alteration to the axonal fibers may result in clinical symptoms that manifest as confusion, difficulty with concentration and staying on task. Such individuals often experience difficulty with “executive functions,” which is a term describing higher-level thinking that consists of organizing, planning, problem solving and forming judgments. As a result, an individual suffering from a mild traumatic brain injury may have difficulty continuing employment in their pre-injury vocation/occupation.
All too often the myth that an individual must actually strike their head against an object or lose consciousness in order to suffer a true closed head injury results in the failure to detect a traumatic brain injury. As a Tampa Bay brain injury attorney, I often see many of my colleagues focus on the obvious orthopedic injuries while failing to pay much attention to the complaints of their client who may have symptoms that mimic a brain injury. Many physicians also fail to focus on or rather ignore the obvious signs of a traumatic brain injury and again focus their care and treatment protocol on the orthopedic injuries only.
There are essentially two paths by which a brain is susceptible to trauma. If an individual’s head directly impacts an object the cerebral cortex may become contused/bruised. in the event where the head is whiplashed (rapid acceleration/deceleration) it is very possible the deep white matter found within the brain may suffer an axonal tear. When the axons are torn or stretched and thus altered, they can be permanently damaged. Many attorneys and physicians who lack experience representing or treating clients/patients with brain injuries fail to recognize that their clients have indeed suffered a brain injury and instead focus on clear orthopedic ailments. This generally occurs with a client who did not suffer a significant closed head injury (i.e. their head did not strike an object and they did not lose consciousness). Failing to lose consciousness does not preclude the determination of a traumatic brain injury. It is accepted science that the average automobile crash of 5 miles per hour exerts 50,000 pounds of force. We believe 50,000 pounds of force to be quite substantial. In my experience, we have encountered many clients at the Dolman Law Group who sustained significant head injuries in what the applicable insurance carrier labeled a very minor impact. Further many of my clients who sustained traumatic brain injuries did not lose consciousness or impact their head as a result of the car accident or motorcycle accident.
It is essential that you consult with an experienced Florida traumatic brain injury attorney if you or a loved one, are experiencing any of the physical, cognitive or emotional symptoms of a traumatic brain injury, even a if you believe it to be a mild concusions or “no big deal.”
If you or a loved one has sustained a blow to the head or a whiplash mechanism acceleration/deceleration injury as a result of the negligence exhibited by an individual or corporation, it is important to be treated by a physician familiar with traumatic brain injury to determine whether an injury to the brain has actually occurred. Further, it is equally imperative that you retain an attorney/law firm that is experienced in handling traumatic brain injury claims and the unique issues and complications associated with such cases.
A traumatic brain injury can have a pronounced effect on your quality of life including the ability to interact with loved ones and friends as well as the ability to work. Please contact a Florida brain injury lawyer for a free, no obligation, and confidential evaluation of your case and possible traumatic brain injury. As a Clearwater personal injury attorney, I consistently deal with insurance adjusters, defense lawyers and even physicians who are unfamiliar with the mechanisms behind a traumatic brain injury and the relationship between a closed head injury and whiplash. Many practitioners are mistakenly under the assumption that the head must strike an object to have a legitimate closed head injury. It is essential to retain an attorney who is not only familiar with traumatic brain injuries but also the latest science in this rapidly evolving area of medicine.
Dolman Law Group is a Pinellas County and Manatee County personal injury law firm that routinely handles claims and litigates cases involving closed head injuries as a result of an automobile accident or motorcycle accident. We actively litigate auto accident and motorcycle accident related cases in Pinellas County, Hillsborough County, Sarasota County, Manatee County and Pasco County.Google+