Brain injuries are among the most lethal injuries a person can suffer, and can cause devastating, long term complications for those who suffer them. And brain injuries can happen to anyone: infants, children, adults and the elderly alike. To make treatment more complicated, many brain injuries often go undiagnosed for years.
According to the CDC, every year in the United States there are around 1.5 million people who suffer a traumatic brain injury, or TBI. Out of this 1.5 million, up to 90,000 people will experience a long-term disability related to their brain injury, and around 60,000 will die as a result of sustaining a TBI. If you or your loved one has suffered a brain injury as a result of someone’s negligence, a car accident, or medical malpractice, you may have legal recourse to cover your medical bills, as well as receive compensation for your pain and suffering.
A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that changes the way your brain functions. Source: Wikipedia, shared under a CC-SA 3.0 license
Traumatic brain injuries (TBI), also known as acquired brain injuries, head trauma or concussions — can be deadly or debilitating. TBIs can result from any trauma to the head, leading to injury of the scalp, skull or brain. They often occur from an injury or an accident, such as a serious car accident.
Traumatic brain injuries are one of the leading causes of death and disability for young adults and children in the United States, with nearly 5.3 million people living in the United States suffering from permanent TBI-related disabilities, according to the CDC.
What Causes Traumatic Brain Injuries?
According to the CDC, there were over 200,000 hospitalizations for TBI related injuries in 2018, and well over over 60,000 deaths related to traumatic brain injuries in 2019. But the causes of traumatic brain injuries will vary, depending on the age group affected.
Among the elderly, the most common cause of brain injuries is falling. For infants, one of the more common causes of a TBI is being shaken violently. For young adults, specifically young men, car crashes are one of the most common causes of a TBI.
The most common causes of brain injuries across all age groups are:
- Traffic accidents: Car, motorcycle and truck accidents account for 17.3 percent of TBIs according to the CDC, but bicycle and transit accidents can be as damaging.
- Slip-and-falls: Falls lead to over half of all TBI related hospitalizations according to the CDC. Falls can be caused by a variety of issues, including premises and workplace liability or nursing home neglect.
- Physical assaults: Assault accounts for 10 percent of all TBI cases.
- Sports and other physical activities: New revelations are coming up every year about the impact that sports can have on the brain — one 2018 study found that 5 percent of all youth football players suffer concussions at some point in their playing career.
- Birth injury: Forceps injuries, delayed C-sections and the failure to diagnose or treat high-risk pregnancy issues can all lead to lifelong brain injury.
The Most Common Traumatic Brain Injuries
Our skulls are remarkably resilient, but there’s so much we still don’t know about brain injuries. Some people can withstand severe head trauma without it affecting their brains, while others sustain mild repeated damage with consequences that show up later in life.
The following are the most prevalent types of TBI:
- Coup or contrecoup: A coup injury occurs under the site of impact on the skull, whereas a contrecoup injury occurs on the side opposite the area that was hit. They can occur individually, or simultaneously, and are usually associated with cerebral contusions.
- Cerebral contusions: These are a type of TBI in which the brain is bruised. They are often caused by blows to the head, and occur in up to 30% of all serious brain injuries. Contusions can cause a decline in mental function, as well as causing the brain to squeeze past parts of the skull, which is a life threatening condition.
- Concussion: Concussions are TBIs which can affect cognitive functioning. Symptoms of a concussion may begin immediately after head trauma, but will often not show up until days after the injury.
- Diffuse axonal: This injury is the result of severed connections in the brain’s nerve fibers, which may lead to coma and permanent injury.
- Hemorrhage: Hemorrhages refer to bleeding in the brain.
- Swelling on the brain: This is caused by fluid collecting in the brain, which increases pressure and may be life threatening.
- Skull fracture: Skull fractures may or may not cause brain damage, but patients with skull fractures should always be evaluated for possible brain injury.
- Penetrating brain injury: Such injuries occur when an object or piece of skull enters the brain. Patients with a penetrating brain injury will need immediate emergency medical treatment.
The Symptoms of a Brain Injury
Many of the typical symptoms of “mild” to “moderate” TBIs are difficult to notice, even in the emergency room. It is important to know that because brain injuries are often difficult to detect, many victims rarely receive prompt treatment for their physical and cognitive impairments. In fact, health practitioners often misdiagnose a brain injury, or fail to diagnose them all together.
If you suspect a brain injury has occurred, you need to look for symptoms, which can include:
- Inability to process information at pre-injury rates of speed
- Lack of clear judgment
- Lack of memory and recall
- Reduced level of comprehension including basic information
- Reduced sense of taste and smell
- Slurred speech and incoherent sentences
- Progressive social isolation and alienation, even from immediate family and friends
- Violent behavior
Remember that these symptoms may not always show up immediately. Many people who suffer a concussion will not begin to notice symptoms for several days, and often feel completely fine – until the moment they suddenly don’t. Anyone who has suffered an injury to their head should be carefully monitored by another adult, and a physician may recommend that you be woken up every 2-3 hours from sleep to check on your cognitive functioning.
If You Have These Symptoms, Head to a Hospital Immediately
The following symptoms suggest a more serious head injury that requires emergency medical treatment:
- Altered level of consciousness
- Repeated vomiting
- Blurred vision
- Looking pale for longer than an hour
- Ringing in the ears
- Weakness in arms or legs
- Fluid leaking from ears, nose or mouth
- Increased drowsiness
- Loss of consciousness for more than 30 seconds
- Pupil changes (one pupil larger than the other, or dilated pupils)
- Severe headaches that get worse over time
- Skull fracture
- Penetrating brain injury
- Changes in behavior, confusion, or disorientation
- Slurred speech or loss of coordination
- Recurrent dizziness
- Stiff neck
The brightness in the brain’s lining on left shows damage one day after head injury; picture on right, taken 35 days after, suggests healing. Source: Flickr
Brain Injury in Young Children
One of the groups most susceptible to brain injury are young children. Many of the most common birth injuries are caused by brain injury. These injuries often don’t require any trauma to occur — a lack of oxygen to the brain, known as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, can cause irreversible damage within minutes.
Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy, or HIE can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
- Long or difficult delivery,
- Delayed C-Section
- The placenta separating too soon from the womb
- When the mother has too little oxygen
- Umbilical cord issues
- Serious infections in the mother or baby
- High or low blood pressure in the mother
- Blocked airway in the infant
Causes of Brain Injury in Children
Brain injury in children is most often caused by a fall or by assault. This is commonly referred to as “shaken baby syndrome”. The other common causes of brain injury in young children are:
- Being struck by something
- Motor vehicle accidents
Symptoms of a Brain Injury in Young Children
Symptoms in young children can be similar to those seen in adults, but there are few extra details that parents and caregivers should be on the lookout for after any sort of trauma to the head.
Since children often can’t talk about what’s wrong with them, caregivers should watch to see if the child has a dazed appearance, or becomes listless and easily tired. Irritability, excessive crying, a change in eating or sleeping patterns, or a loss of balance are also other key warning signs. If a child has a large head bump or bruise on any area other than their forehead, they should seek immediate medical attention. This is especially true for infants under a year old.
The Facts About Brain Injuries
Brain injury statistics are staggering and will likely surprise you. Some of them include:
- Every 15 seconds, someone in the US will suffer a brain injury.
- The estimated cost to treat someone with a brain injury over a lifetime is between $600,000 and $1.8 million. Severe TBIs average $4.5 million in lifetime care.
- Brain injuries are the leading cause of death and disability among children and young adults.
- The leading causes of brain injuries are falls (35.2 percent), motor vehicle accidents (17.3 percent), being struck or banging head against an object (16.5 percent) and assault (10 percent). 21 percent have unknown causes.
- Men are 1.5 times more likely to sustain a brain injury than women.
- The two highest-risk age groups are children below the age of 4 and teenagers aged 15–19.
When To Consult With an Experienced Brain Injury Attorney
If your family needs advice about your legal options in the aftermath of a brain injury, contact our experienced Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers. At McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt, we offer free consultations, and we can usually advance the expenses involved in the investigation and proof of your claim. We only recover our expenses if we successfully resolve your claims through settlement or trial.
Our attorneys have more than 30 years of trial experience with complex personal injury and brain injury litigation in Pennsylvania. Over the years, they have developed close working relationships with outstanding medical professionals, whose evaluation and expert conclusions about what caused the injury could become an essential feature of your claim. Get a free confidential consultation now by filling out our form or calling us directly at 1-866-521-0865.