Can I Sue for a TBI from a Car Accident?
Every year, an estimated 2.8 million people in the United States suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Of those, around 282,000 victims are hospitalized and 50,000 die from their injuries.
A TBI is a contributing factor to around thirty percent of all injury-related deaths in the United States. Additionally, every day over 150 people die from TBI-related injuries.
The Law Office of Steve Roberts takes accident claims involving brain injury from car accidents very seriously. We work with the victims and their families to fight for the compensation they need and deserve for the damages they sustain.
So, can I sue for a TBI from a car accident?
Diagnosing a Traumatic Brain Injury
A traumatic brain injury can range from mild to severe, with different symptoms depending on the level of injury.
A TBI is caused by a violent blow or jolt to the head and can also be caused by an object penetrating the skull. Consequently, TBIs can result in permanent physical, cognitive, and behavioral changes.
A doctor diagnoses a mild TBI through physical, sensory, or cognitive symptoms.
A mild TBI is also known as concussion, minor head trauma, minor TBI, minor brain injury, or minor head injury. However, the words mild or minor are misnomers.
All traumatic brain injuries are serious and require immediate medical attention. Otherwise, a person runs the risk of serious, maybe even permanent, complications.
Signs of a Mild TBI
Signs of a mild TBI include the following:
- Minor loss of consciousness
- Becoming dazed, confused, or disoriented
- Nausea or vomiting
- Fatigue and drowsiness
- Slurred speech
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than usual
- Dizziness and loss of balance
- Blurred vision
- Ringing in ears
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Memory or concentration problems
- Mood swings
- Feeling depressed or anxious
Signs of a Moderate to Severe TBI
Moderate to severe TBIs can lead to bruising on the brain, torn tissues, bleeding, and other physical damage to the brain. Additionally, they can lead to serious and sometimes permanent disability and damage.
In addition to the symptoms of a mild TBI, signs of moderate or severe traumatic brain injuries are:
- Loss of consciousness for many minutes or hours
- Persistent and increasing headache
- Repeated nausea or vomiting
- Convulsions or seizures
- Dilation of one or both pupils
- Clear fluid draining from nose or ears
- Inability to awaken
- Weakness or numbness in fingers or toes
- Loss of coordination
- Profound confusion
- Agitation, aggression, or other unusual behavior
- Coma and other consciousness disorders
If you suspect that a baby or non-verbal child may have suffered a TBI, look for the following:
- Changes in nursing or eating habits
- Unusual irritability
- Persistent crying
- Change in ability to pay attention
- Change in sleep habits
- Sad or depressed mood
- Loss of interest in favorite toys or activities.
These may all be signs that the child suffered a traumatic brain injury and needs medical attention immediately.
Common Causes of Traumatic Brain Injury
The most common cause of a traumatic brain injury is a car accident.
Given the force of the impact of a vehicle and jostling around inside a car, it comes as no surprise that traumatic brain injury from car accidents are common. Car accidents are the leading cause of TBI-related deaths, and rates are highest among adults ages 20 to 24 years old.
However, there are other accidents that can also cause traumatic brain injuries for the victims. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Gun violence
- Physical or domestic violence
- Contact sports injuries
- Military attack or bomb blast
- Chemical or toxic accidents
- Accidents involving being struck by or against an object
- Shaken baby syndrome
Regardless of the cause, if you suspect a traumatic brain injury, it is vitally important that you seek out medical treatment immediately. Procrastination in medical treatment can lead to permanent disability or even death as a result of TBI.
Proving Fault in a Traumatic Brain Injury Case
Personal injury cases, including those that involve traumatic brain injury from car accidents, are based on the theory of negligence.
Negligence refers to the careless or reckless actions or omissions of a person that leads to injury. Correspondingly, the victim of TBI must prove four elements of negligence in order to hold someone liable for the damages caused by the accident:
- Duty: The person at fault owed a legal duty to the victim
- Breach: The person at fault breached that duty through their careless or reckless acts or omissions
- Causation: But for the person at fault’s acts or omissions, the victim would not have been harmed
- Damages: As a result of the breach in duty, the victim suffered actual damages
Moreover, it is important to note that a legal duty does not just refer to a doctor-patient situation or other formal relationship.
The driver of a car has a legal duty to all others on the road not act carelessly or recklessly behind the wheel. Similarly, a business owner has a duty to her customers to keep the stairs clear of debris so people don’t fall.
Whether the person committed a breach is typically viewed through the lens of a reasonable person.
In that situation, would a reasonable person have acted or omitted an action in the same way as the person accused of causing the accident? Known as the “but for” test, causation requires a direct link between the acts or omissions and the injury.
And finally, the last element requires some type of injury, either economic, non-economic, or both.
If the victim of a TBI car accident proves all four elements of the negligence claim, they are entitled to compensation for the harm caused by the accident.
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Compensation for Traumatic Brain Injuries
Given the long-term effects of traumatic brain injuries and the level of care a victim may require following an accident, receiving full compensation for TBI injuries caused by car accidents or other incidents is incredibly important.
TBI victims may require special medical equipment, such as a wheelchair or around the clock nursing care for the rest of their lives. Compensation for TBI injuries may be awarded for economic and non-economic damages after an accident.
Economic damages refer to out-of-pocket costs for tangible harms. This includes present and future medical expenses, rehabilitation and therapy, lost wages, loss of future earning capacity, and property damage.
Non-economic expenses refer to the less tangible, but still present and important, harms such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, disfigurement, disability, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Under Colorado law, non-economic damages for TBI cases and other personal injury accidents are capped at $250,000 plus inflation, unless clear and convincing evidence is presented that an increase is justified.
In those cases, the non-economic damage cap is increased to $500,000 plus inflation. Given that the law was passed in 1986, that equates to roughly $550,000 and $1,100,000, respectively, and there are no damage caps on economic damages.
Issues in Cases Involving Post-Concussion Syndrome
Post-concussion syndrome is a complex disorder that can arise after a victim suffers a mild traumatic brain injury.
Symptoms of the TBI can last for weeks or months following the accident that caused the damage, and in worst case scenarios can even last for over a year. Symptoms of post-concussion syndrome include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, loss of concentration or memory, ringing in the ears, blurry vision, and noise and light sensitivity.
When it comes to litigating cases involving post-concussion syndrome, victims run into issues that typically only an experienced personal injury attorney can handle.
Mild TBI and subsequent post-concussion syndrome are more difficult to prove that a severe brain injury and are also more difficult to convince a jury to compensate for after an accident.
Given that a simple slip and fall or fender bender is enough to cause post-concussion syndrome, jurors can find it difficult to comprehend the impact the syndrome has on the victim’s life.
However, there are ways to overcome these issues in court to ensure that the victim of these injuries receives full compensation for the harm caused.
First, documentation is key. Seeking medical treatment immediately after the accident establishes a written record of the injuries and follow up visits track the progress of the TBI and post-concussion syndrome using PET scans, MRIs, and other medical testing.
Second, relying on family, friends, and coworkers that can speak to the before and after of the victim – the physical, behavioral, and cognitive changes caused by the injury – are also incredibly persuasive.
Finally, seeking out expert witnesses to testify to the causes and effects of mild TBI and post-concussion syndrome can help jurors understand what the victim is going through even though they cannot see any visible signs of injury on the victim.
Although more difficult, it is possible to prove to a jury that mild TBI and post-concussion syndrome are worth compensating the victim if presented by a well-informed, experienced personal injury lawyer.
Our Office Can Help After a TBI from a Car Accident
We do not underestimate the effects a TBI can have on the victim and their loved ones. Because of that, the Law Office of Steve Roberts is to advocate for your legal needs.
If you or a family member has suffered a traumatic brain injury or post-concussion syndrome in the Denver area, call or contact our office online now to schedule a review of your case, free of charge.