Common misconceptions about traumatic brain injuries

As both a Clearwater personal injury attorney and Florida brain injury attorney, I am often faced with myths regarding brain injuries that have been purveyed by the insurance industry and the defense attorneys they retain.

Myth #1: Negative diagnostic tests such as MRI's, CT-scans and PET scans rule out the possibility of a brain injury

Please keep in mind that normal imaging such as MRI's, CT and PET scans are often neither specific or sensitive enough to detect damage to the delicate axonal fibers which can be torn, twisted, stretched and damaged as a result of physical trauma which often occurs in an automobile accident. New testing procedures such as MRI with diffuse tensor imaging (DTI) and susceptibility weighted imaging (SWI) are far more specific and have proven to be more effective at illustrating even minor brain injuries. However, both DTI and SWI are often challenged by defense attorneys and have not been fully accepted as valid scientific testing in all jurisdictions.

However, even if a patient/client has negative diagnostic testing it is imperative to pay close attention to the individual's clinical presentation. If a patient/client presents with a number of signs of a closed head injury, Neuropsychological testing may be warranted. It is very possible to be suffering from a mild traumatic brain injury with negative diagnostic testing. As a Florida brain injury attorney, I have seen a number of patients whom presented with a myriad of signs of a traumatic brain injury clinically, yet the diagnostic tests proved negative. On several occasions, such clients presented to a neuropsychologist by referral from their neurologist and the neuropsychological testing showed clear positive results indicating the presence of a cognitive deficit and interpreted as a brain injury.

Myth #2: An individual must strike their head and lose consciousness to sustain a traumatic brain injury

This is absolutely not true. During an acceleration/deceleration event like an automobile accident, the head will be thrown in a rapid very violent manner. This may result in damage to the delicate axonal fibers, which may twist, tear, or stretch as a result of the event. It is a widely accepted belief that during an acceleration/deceleration event, the brain may bounce off of the skull and then hit the other side. As a result the victim may suffer from a contrecoup injury. Contrecoup means the injury occurs to the opposite area. A coup injury would occur at the site of the impact. For instance, where the victim actually banged his/hear head against the steering column.

Keep in mind that the human brain has the consistency of pudding; the brain often continues moving after the head stops (i.e., "shaking baby syndrome"). Within the grey matter of the brain there are a myriad of nerve cells, which communicate with other distant nerve cells through fibers known as axons. Damage to the axonal fibers can result in symptoms that manifest as confusion, distraction and staying on task. Such individuals often experience difficulty with "executive functions," which is basically higher-level thinking that involves organizing, planning, problem solving and forming judgments. As a result, an individual suffering from a mild traumatic brain injury may have difficulty continuing employment in their pre-injury vocation/occupation.

All too often the misconception that an individual must strike their head or lose consciousness in order to suffer a true closed head injury results in the failure to detect a traumatic brain injury. As a Clearwater personal injury attorney, I often see many of my colleagues focus on the obvious orthopedic injuries while failing to pay much attention to the complaints of their client who may have symptoms that mimic a brain injury. Many physicians also fail to focus on or rather ignore latent signs of a traumatic brain injury and again focus their care on the orthopedic symptoms.

Myth #3: Mild traumatic brain injury is "mild" and "temporary"

A "mild" traumatic brain injury may be nothing more than minor damage to the axonal fibers. However, as discussed above; this may result in long lasting very significant consequences. In fact, it is not uncommon for the symptoms to grow worse over time. As a personal injury attorney, I often utilize the services of Neurologists, Neuropsychologists, Vocational Rehabilitation specialists and other professionals to illustrate the long lasting consequences of a brain injury.

Matthew A. Dolman is a Clearwater personal injury attorney and a Florida brain injury attorney who limits his practice to claims stemming from automobile accidents, traumatic brain injury, insurance carrier bad faith, wrongful death, and other catastrophic injuries caused by the negligence exhibited by an individual or corporation. For more information on traumatic brain injuries, please contact me at: matt@dolmanlaw.com

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