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Brain and Head Injury Attorneys
Sacramento, Fairfield and Bay Area
Suffering a head injury, whether in a workplace accident, an auto, motorcycle, or large truck accident, a nursing home accident, or another catastrophe, can cause debilitating personal injury and even wrongful death. When the injury occurs because of another party’s negligent or deliberately wrongful actions, the victim may be eligible to receive compensation for his or her injuries. York Law Corporation is dedicated to helping head injury victims obtain the compensation they deserve. We offer the services of a talented and experienced team of brain and head injury attorneys. Our lawyers, serving Sacramento, Fairfield, and surrounding North Bay Area communities, devote themselves to protecting their clients’ best interests. Contact our firm today to schedule a case evaluation and secure the exceptional legal representation you need and deserve.
What Is a Head or Brain Injury?
Head and brain injuries occur when the head is struck with a hard object (a closed head injury) or pierced by a sharp object (an open head injury), causing damage to the brain tissue or skull. Head injuries can cause bruising, bleeding, tearing, or swelling, resulting in a temporary or permanent loss of consciousness, reasoning ability, and/or bodily control.
Symptoms of Brain Injury
There are a number of symptoms of brain injuries. The most common symptoms are loss of consciousness, vomiting, muscle weakness, loss of coordination, difficulty speaking, dizziness, memory loss, difficulty processing thoughts, paralysis and problems with body temperature.
Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) that are classified as a mild loss of consciousness or confusion and disorientation shorter than 30 minutes are the most common brain injury and are also considered mild. The symptoms are fatigue, headaches, inability to concentrate, memory loss, seizures, feeling of depression, irritability, nausea, vomiting, slowed thinking, confusion and loss of smell. While these symptoms may not be present initially, they can appear days or weeks after the injury so they are often missed by the injured person and doctors.
Moderate brain injuries usually result in loss of consciousness anywhere between 20 minutes to 6 hours coupled with physical or cognitive impairments. Severe brain injuries are ones resulting in loss of consciousness for more than 6 hours and an unconscious state.
Types of Brain Injuries
The brain acts as an information highway, delivering messages from the brain to different parts of your body. When someone experiences a brain injury, however, the brain functions are disrupted. What someone used to be able to perform with ease may now be more difficult or even impossible to carry out.
In order to understand brain injuries, it is important to understand the terminology associated with brain injuries. A brain injury is defined as any insult to the brain. Acquired brain injury is a form of brain injury that is not present before birth but is rather acquired at birth or later in life, usually the result of trauma. It typically results from internal brain damage and affects physical, social, emotional or cognitive functioning. Brain injury can either be a closed head injury – where there is a non-penetrating injury to the brain and no break in the skull – or an opened head injury – when there is a break in the skull.
A coup or contracoup injury is a common injury among motor vehicle accident patients. A coup injury occurs when there is a sudden, violent stop that causes the brain to hit the side of the skull. Countracoup injuries also occurs when there’s an unexpected stop that causes the brain to hit off one side of the skull, and then bounce off the other side of the skull. Brain damage occurs in both cases because the brain rubs against the inner ridges of the skull.
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is defined as sudden physical damage to the brain. The force causes the brain to collide with the skull and is usually the result of a blow to the head. Both coup and contracoup injuries are considered traumatic brain injuries and they often result from a sudden violent stop as a result of a motor vehicle accident. Unfortunately, TBIs are extremely common, roughly 1.5 to 2 million Americans every year suffer a traumatic brain injury.
Causes of Brain Injury
The causes of brain injury are diverse. An acquired brain injury is one acquired later in life and is not hereditary, congenital, degenerative, or induced by birth trauma. It can be caused by a number of incidents, including electrical shock, airway obstruction, heart attack or stroke, toxic exposure, among other causes.
The three most common causes of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are motor vehicle collisions, firearms and falls. Falls account for the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries among all age groups; they make up more than half of the traumatic brain injuries among children between the ages of 0 to 14 years, and account for over 35% of traumatic brain injuries among all age groups. Older individuals residing in nursing homes are susceptible to traumatic brain injuries from nursing home falls. Because many nursing home patients who fall do not receive prompt medical attention and treatment, nursing home falls are especially damaging. Motor vehicle collisions are the second leading cause of traumatic brain injuries among all age groups.
How is a Brain Injury Diagnosed?
Brain injuries are scary and can be extremely serious. In milder cases, a person can lose consciousness or experience dizziness, slowed thinking or vomiting. In the most severe cases, a person can experience permanent brain damage or can die from a traumatic brain injury.
The first step in diagnosing the severity of the injury is to receive prompt medical attention and be physically examined. A physical examination can help the doctor determine whether further radiologic testing is required. A normal neurologic examination indicates that no major structural injuries to the brain have occurred, although further testing may be required for more reassurance.
If the physical examination indicates neurological brain damage, a detailed neurological examination should be administered. CAT scans, MRI, SPECT, and PET scans, which enable neurologists to see inside the brain, are also helpful. Evaluations by neuropsychologists as well as physical, occupational and speech therapists may additionally provide a definitive diagnosis.
Glasgow’s Coma Scale is used to assess the level of consciousness following a traumatic brain injury and one’s chances of recovery. It tests the patient’s verbal responses, ability to open eyes and level of neurological functioning. The test rates the patient on these three subjects. The lower the score, the worse the brain injury. For instance, a score of 15 means that the patient is normal, 13-14 signifies mild injuries, 9-12 signifies moderate injuries, and 0 is used for brain dead patients.
Life threatening brain injuries, often caused by car accidents, can cause closed head injuries which can easily be missed. Therefore, it is important that any brain injury be diagnosed as quickly as possible to avoid serious injuries.
Brain Injury Results
There are several different results of brain injuries which depend on the severity of the injury. When one has sustained a blow to the head, the person may suffer a break in the skull, also known as a skull fracture. Skull fractures can be linear (a break in the skull that follows a straight line), depressed (skull fractures inflicted by impact from blunt objects which cause dents in the skull bone) or basilar (a fracture of the bones from the base of the skull).
Brain injury patients may also sustain intracranial (inside the skull) hemorrhage (bleeding). There are four different types of intracranial hemorrhages: subdural hematoma, epidural hematoma, subarachnoid hemorrhage and intraparenchymal hemorrhage.
is any bleeding between the dura mater (a layer of tissue between the skull and brain) and the brain itself. A hematoma is a blood clot. Because subdural hematomas can be the result of minor head injuries, they can go undetected until the patient experiences neurological abnormalities. The injured patient can experience dizziness, problems balancing and slurred speech, but these may not appear until days or even weeks after the initial trauma. Subdural hematomas can also be the result of major head trauma or brain aneurysms, the bursting of a blood vessel in the brain.
is when blood accumulates between the dura mater and the skull. This causes the brain to swell which can affect one’s speech, her ability to open her eyes and may cause her to lose consciousness or breathe irregularly. The common causes of epidural hematoma are blows to the head (such as injuries from motor vehicle collisions or assault) or falls.
is a bleeding into the surface of the brain. It can cause symptoms such as headache, stiff neck, weakness in one side of your body, speech disturbance, numbness, tingling and vomiting. Treatment often does not require surgery, but instead requires careful monitoring for a change in symptoms.
also known as cerebral contusion, is when the trauma causes bleeding into the brain. A contusion is a bruise to the brain tissue. In most cases, intraparenchymal hemorrhaging does not cause any serious brain injury. In rare, more serious cases, the brain may swell.
Brain Injury In Infants And Children
Children are especially vulnerable to brain injuries. It was once thought that children were more resistant to brain trauma because of their developing brains; however, evidence suggests just the opposite. Also, a child’s skull is particularly delicate. Studies show that a child’s skull is only 1/8 as strong as adult skulls. They therefore are less able to withstand blows to the head.
With more than one million children who sustain brain injuries every year, brain injury is the most common cause of disability and death among children in the United States. Brain injuries among children are so frequent that they account for over one hundred thousand hospitalizations annually. The injury is usually caused by motor vehicle accidents, falls, sporting injuries, bicycle accidents and child abuse.
Head injuries among children who are age three and younger will often be the result of learning to crawl, walk, and control their body functions. Younger children cannot control the muscles in their neck nor the movement in their head as easily as adults, so they are more likely to bump their heads.
When a baby is thrown, shaken, or slammed, it causes the baby’s head to move forward and backward rapidly and causes the brain to jostle and hit the sides of the skull. This is known as “shaken baby syndrome” and is a form of child abuse. The results can be devastating, including bleeding in the eyes and bleeding in the brain or even permanent brain damage.
Due to a child’s development, some neurologic deficits may not manifest itself until years after the initial trauma. Additionally, some of the skills that are impacted by the brain injury may not be tested until the child reaches school age, such as slowed reading and writing skills.
Common Brain Injuries
The following are common brain injuries.
Traumatic Brain Injury:
Traumatic brain injury is sudden physical damage to the brain by an external force which causes the brain to collide with the skull. It is often the result of a blow to the head, such as the head striking the inside door frame during a car accident, but can also be caused when a hard object pierces the skull and penetrates the brain tissue, such as a bullet.
Anoxic brain injury"
Anoxic brain injury is the result of inadequate oxygen to the brain and is also known as cerebral hypoxia or hypoxic-anoxic injury. After only four minutes without oxygen, the brain begins losing brain cells. After five minutes, permanent anoxic brain injury can occur.
Hypoxic brain injury:
Hypoxic brain injury results when the brain does not receive adequate oxygen, causing damage to both brain cells and the spinal cord. It occurs due to a lack of blood flow to the brain because of a reduction in blood flow or blood pressure.
Locked-in syndrome is a neurological disorder consisting of complete paralysis of all voluntary muscles except the muscles that control eye movement. One who suffers from locked-in syndrome is fully conscious and alert, able to both see and hear, but unable to move any body parts except vertical movements of the eyes and blinking.
Shaken baby syndrome:
Shaken baby syndrome is a form of child abuse. It is caused by vigorously shaking an infant and is often the result of a frustrated adult who shakes the baby in order to make it stop crying. Swelling, bruising and bleeding can result from the shaking and can lead to permanent brain damage or death.
Open head injury:
An open head injury penetrates the skull and enters the brain. They usually affect a certain area of brain tissue and can be caused by hard objects, such as bullets, knives or other weapons penetrating the brain.
Closed head injury:
Unlike open head injuries, closed head injuries are injuries to the brain that do not penetrate the skull. They are typically caused by blows to the head and will often result from motor vehicle collisions, falls, assaults or sporting accidents.
Brain contusions, also known as cerebral contusions, are bruises of the brain tissue caused by small blood vessel leaks. They are considered more serious than concussions because, unlike concussions, they involve structural brain damage.
Effects of a Brain Injury
The effects of a brain injury depend on the severity of the injury and the type of injury endured. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) effects can be long-lasting, debilitating and seriously impair one’s quality of life. In severe cases, individuals are left in long-term unresponsive states. Even if their brain injury is not as severe, they often require long-term rehabilitation, but even rehabilitation will never allow the patient to function as he or she once did. Mild cases of TBI can also have life-altering effects on a person’s life, impacting his or her social interactions and job performance. It can also lead to extreme depression.
Non-traumatic brain injuries have comparable effects on patients as TBIs. However, while the effects of TBIs are centered in a specific area of the brain where the physical impact occurred, damage for non-traumatic injuries is often spread throughout the brain.
Treatment of Brian Injury
Treatment options vary depending on the type of brain injury and its severity. There are three stages of treatment for Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs): acute treatment for stabilizing the patient immediately after the trauma; subacute treatment to rehabilitate the patient; and chronic treatment for continued rehabilitation.
Acute treatment begins when the patient is brought to the hospital and focuses on saving the patient’s life and minimizing secondary injury and life support. Doctors will attempt to stabilize the patient by administering resuscitation procedures if necessary, unblock airways, keep blood circulating and monitoring the patient’s vital functions. The injuries may be so severe that surgery is required. During surgery, blood clots are removed to relieve intracranial pressure.
After the patient is stabilized, subacute treatment begins. Subacute treatment is meant to detect any complications from acute treatment, facilitate neurological and functional recovery and prevent any future injury. Facility staff carefully monitors the patient for any infections, bed sores or other complications associated with brain injury. The patient will also work closely with rehabilitation professionals such as physical, occupational and speech therapists, neuropsychologists and nurses in order to cope with their injury and its effects.
For patients whose disabilities cause lifelong impairment, chronic treatment is required. It often includes ongoing physical and speech therapy sessions, counseling to cope with the devastating injury and medications. Chronic treatment is typical of moderate to severe TBI survivors.
Recovery from a Brain Injury
Recovery from a traumatic brain injury can be a slow and frustrating process. The pace and extent of recovery from Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs), however, varies based on the brain injury and the individual. Typically recovery from brain injuries occurs anywhere between six months to a year after the trauma, but the pace and extent of recovery may be improved through rehabilitation. Rehabilitation centers provide specialists who work closely with the patient to help him or her recover some of the functions he or she has lost. The team of specialists usually includes neurologists, psychologists and occupational, speech and physical therapists.
Costs Associated with Brain Injury
Costs for brain injury vary depending on the severity of the injury. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that direct medical costs and indirect costs (such as lost productivity) resulting from Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) totaled over $60 billion in the United States in 2000. Further, the number of TBI-related emergency department visits and hospitalizations has risen between 2002 to 2006 as well as TBI-related deaths. Therefore, it is safe to assume that the $60 billion estimate has risen within the last several years.
The costs associated with brain injuries on an individual level are hefty and go up substantially based on the severity of the injury. The cost of a severe head injury is approximately $3 million, a moderate injury is $941,000 and a mild injury is $85,000. Through these estimations, it is clear that brain injury victims and their families face substantial costs, and need the help of a skilled attorney to obtain compensation for reimbursement as well as additional compensation for pain and suffering for any injuries negligently inflicted.
Filing a Brain Injury Claim
If you are filing a brain injury claim, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- File your claim within the applicable statute of limitations. The law requires that you file a lawsuit within a certain period of time of the harmful wrongful conduct; this period is known as the statute of limitations. Failure to bring suit within this time period may bar your ability to bring suit completely. The statute of limitation differs depending on the subject matter of the case. At York Law Firm, our attorneys can advise you on the applicable statute of limitations.
- Find an experienced brain injury attorney to handle your case. If you think someone is liable to you for the injury you or your loved one sustained, you need a qualified and skillful attorney who can help you get the compensation you deserve. Complex legal and medical issues arise out of brain injury cases, so it is imperative that you speak with a knowledgeable, seasoned attorney to discuss your legal options.
If you believe you have a potential case, contact our firm to schedule a consultation with one of our brain injury attorneys.
Who is Liable in a Brain Injury Case?
Brain injuries can be caused by a number of things – botched operations, motor vehicle accidents, assault, to name a few. To succeed in a brain injury case, you must prove liability by way of negligence, strict liability, or intentional wrong.
A defendant is negligent if she did not act as a reasonable person would have acted under the same or similar circumstances.
Strict liability applies most frequently in product liability cases, or cases in which one has suffered injury due to an unsafe or defective product. Under this theory, manufacturers can be held liable for any injury resulting from their product regardless of their awareness of the defect. In order to succeed, the plaintiff would have to prove that the product was defective or unsafe at the time it left the manufacturer and that this defect caused the resulting brain injury.
If the wrongdoer intentionally acted to inflict the injury on the plaintiff, such as in cases of assault, she will be found liable. In such cases, the plaintiff would only have to prove that the defendant intended to cause the plaintiff harm.
Legal Considerations in a Brain Injury Case
Statute of Limitations:
As with any lawsuit, brain injury lawsuits must be filed within a certain period of time of the harmful wrongful conduct, a period known as the statute of limitations. Failure to bring suit within this period may bar your ability to bring suit completely. The statute of limitations, however, differs depending on the subject matter of the case. At York Law Firm, our attorneys can advise you on the applicable statute of limitations.
For a more complete evaluation of your case, contact one of our skilled attorneys. We at York Law Firm offer a free case evaluation.
Recovering Damages in a Brain Injury Case
The injured plaintiff can recover past and future damages, medical expenses and non-economic damages, also referred to as pain and suffering – the harms, injuries and losses suffered. Punitive damages can also be awarded when the plaintiff can prove that the wrongdoer acted fraudulently, maliciously or recklessly.
Types of Damages
Compensatory damages are damages meant to “right the wrong.” In other words, they are meant to reimburse/make up for the injuries, harms and losses sustained by the victim.
There are two types of compensatory damages: economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include quantifiable amounts such as out-of-pocket expenses like medical bills, lost wages or property damage. Non-economic damages include pain and suffering, loss of companionship, physical injuries/harms, mental anguish and emotional distress. They also include “loss of consortium,” or damages for loss of society, comfort and care of the injured plaintiff. Because they cannot be calculated, they are more difficult to quantify and depend on the person’s subjective experiences. Non-economic damages will often exceed the amount of economic damages awarded, which is why you need to contact one of our skilled attorneys at York Law Firm. We have extensive experience in advocating for recovery of damages.
Damages awarded to the victim in order to punish the wrongdoer for his or her gross negligence are known as punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded where the conduct was malicious or in reckless disregard of the plaintiff’s rights, displaying an indifference to the rights and safety of others. Punitive damages may also be awarded when the defendant’s conduct is fraudulent or oppressive.
Brain Injury FAQs
Head and Brain Injury Compensation
The compensation a head or brain injury victim is able to obtain depends on several factors, including the circumstances surrounding the accident, the severity of the injuries, and the skill of the victim’s attorney. Depending on the circumstances, medical malpractice, premises liability, and product liability laws may also impact a victim’s claim. Damages may include:
- Medical expenses related to the injury
- Lost income
- Decreased earning potential
- The cost of maintaining the victim’s household during recovery
- Decreased enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
Brain Injury Resources
Brain injuries are often debilitating and life-altering, affecting one’s ability to function as she once did. It is important for a patient who has recently suffered brain injury and her family to understand how to live and cope with the brain injury and to be able to contact people who can answer any questions. The Brain Injury Association of America provides a wealth of information regarding brain injuries, including brain injury support groups, state resources and professional services. You can also visit their California Brain Injury website. There, you can find information about support groups, current research and upcoming events in your area.
If you or someone you loved suffered a traumatic brain injury, visit the Traumatic Brain Injury Services of California website. The TBI Services of California is a network of seven service providers who offer various services to survivors of TBI, including service coordination, supported living, community reintegration, information and referral, public and professional education and vocational supportive services.
The California Department of Rehabilitation is also a great resource. It provides services to people with disabilities, and also provides a list of California’s Independent Living Centers. For more information, visit the California Department of Rehabilitation website.
For a list of additional resources for traumatic brain injury patients and family members, visit the Family Caregiver Alliance website.
Contact Our Brain Injury Attorneys
If you or a member of your family has suffered a head injury or a traumatic brain injury, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Contact York Law Corporation to schedule a case evaluation with our experienced brain and head injury attorneys. Our lawyers serving Sacramento, Fairfield, and surrounding North Bay Area are renowned for their skill in presenting the strongest cases possible on behalf of their clients.