Brain Injury

Brain injuries are among the most lethal injuries a person can suffer, and the worst of them — 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. Brain injuries can happen to infants, children, adults and the elderly alike. To make treatment more complicated, they often go undiagnosed for years. 

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 — a lack of oxygen to the brain, known as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, can cause irreversible damage within minutes.

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that changes the way your brain functions. Source: Wikipedia, shared under a CC-SA 3.0 license

What Causes Traumatic Brain Injuries?

According to the CDC, about 2.9 million Americans are afflicted by TBIs each year, leading to around 55,000 deaths. Among the elderly, the most common cause of brain injuries is falling. TBIs can occur with infants as a result of being shaken violently. 

The most common causes of brain injuries 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: Falling is the biggest category of TBI causes at 35.2 percent of the total — their causes may be a matter of 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 contrecoup: This injury occurs both on the side of the skull that experiences impact, and on the side opposite the area that was hit
    • Concussion: Concussions are TBIs which can affect cognitive functioning
    • 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
  • Penetrating brain injury: Such injuries occur when an object or piece of skull enters the brain


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, and victims rarely receive prompt treatment for their physical and cognitive impairment. 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:

  • Headaches
  • 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

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
  • Bleeding
  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion
  • Convulsions
  • Fluid leaking from ears, nose or mouth
  • Increased drowsiness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Pupil changes
  • Severe headaches
  • Skull fracture
  • Slurred speech
  • 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

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. Sever 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 1-800-590-4116.