Traumatic Brain Injury Can Lead To a Vegetative State
Many different types of accidents can cause a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Car accidents, truck accidents, pedestrian accidents, falls, and more can cause a victim to suffer head trauma that damages their brain. TBI can range from a concussion, which can present symptoms for a few days, to moderate TBI, which can cause many challenges in a victim’s life, to severe TBI1 that can have permanent, life-long effects. One of the most tragic effects a severe TBI can have is to cause a victim to go into a vegetative state. Many medical professionals also refer to this state as “unresponsive wakefulness syndrome.”
A vegetative state is different from a coma, as a comatose patient is asleep while a vegetative patient is technically awake. Though the victim is awake, they are not conscious of their surroundings, cannot perceive or sense occurrences, and cannot communicate with others. In many instances, a vegetative TBI victims will have awoken from a coma but failed to regain awareness. After a few weeks, a patient is considered to be in a persistent vegetative state2 and the longer the state continues, the less likely a patient will regain awareness and emerge from that state.
Unlike comatose patients, a person in a vegetative state has some responsiveness. For example, they may open their eyes when they are fed or be able to track objects that are moving. This does not necessarily mean that they understand what is happening, however. In addition, vegetative patients may do the following:
- Shed tears
- Moan or grunt
- Smile or have other facial expressions
- Have a sleep-wake cycle
- Grind their teeth
Though these actions may give friends and family members hope of consciousness, these actions are often unrelated to any type of external stimulus and are generally involuntary. However, because of these signs and actions, discontinuing any form of life support—generally a feeding tube—is often delayed for an extended period of time and a victim can remain in this state indefinitely. Furthermore, in some cases, a victim can emerge from the vegetative state suddenly weeks or months after the injury. If the brain damage is too severe, however, they may never emerge from this state.
Challenges of TBI claims for vegetative individuals
If the severe TBI was caused by the negligence of another party, the victim deserves to recover for their losses just like any other personal injury victim. However, an individual in a vegetative state cannot file a lawsuit. In such situations, a representative will have to file a lawsuit on their behalf. There is a legal process to do so, which requires that you have the TBI victim deemed incapacitated and obtain a guardianship over them. The chosen guardian will then have the authority to manage their financial and legal affairs and make decisions for them regarding health care. The guardian will then be able to file a brain injury claim on their behalf.
Many family members of TBI victims who are in a vegetative state do not know where to turn. However, if you delay in contacting an attorney, the statute of limitations may expire and you may lose your opportunity to receive the substantial compensation that your loved one deserves for their highly extensive losses. At the Dolman Law Group, we can guide you through the process and advise you on the necessary steps to take to help your loved one.
Discuss your situation with a qualified traumatic brain injury attorney in Tampa Bay
If you have a loved one who is in a persistent vegetative state because of a sever traumatic brain injury, you should contact a highly experienced Tampa Bay brain injury attorney as soon as possible. There are many legal issues that can exist in this type of case, however, a skilled attorney can assist you in navigating the legal process and obtaining the recovery that your loved one so deserves. We understand that this is a tragic situation and we are committed to fully standing up for the rights of injured victims who have been so affected by traumatic brain injuries. Consultations are free and confidential, so please do not hesitate to call the Dolman Law Group at 727-51-6900 for help with you case today.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33756