Of the many types of injuries that lawyers help their clients recover from, none are more unpredictable and complicated than brain injuries. In this blog post, we explore why anyone suffering from a brain injury caused by someone else’s careless or reckless conduct should choose a lawyer with significant experience representing brain injury victims. If you have questions about your legal rights to compensation in the aftermath of brain injury, a brain injury lawyer can help answer them.
What Makes Brain Injuries so Unpredictable and Complicated
Brain injuries occur in two broadly distinct ways. As the Brain Injury Association of Florida (BIAF) explains in its invaluable publication Brain Injury: A Family Guide (also available in an español version), brain injuries are generally classified as either “traumatic” (TBI) or “anoxic or hypoxic.” The latter is also sometimes referred to as “non-traumatic” brain injury, according to Tallahassee Memorial Health Care. These classifications refer to how a patient acquires a brain injury. But the apparent simplicity of the terminology hides the vast variations in how brain injuries happen and what types of deficits and disabilities they inflict on their victims. In fact, brain injuries differ widely from one patient to the next in terms of their severity, symptoms, and prospects for recovery. Here is how. (Quotations below originate from the BIAF Family Guide unless otherwise noted.)
Traumatic Brain Injury
TBI occurs when the brain sustains a physical injury from a violent force. Doctors sort TBIs into two types: “closed” and “open.”
- A closed TBI “occurs when there is a blow to the brain as in a motor vehicle crash or a fall.” The force of the blow causes the brain to “twist or turn” on the brain stem, which causes damage to brain tissue. The blow can also cause the brain itself to “rebound” against the interior of the skull, resulting in further damage. Depending on the physical mechanics of the blow the person sustains, the damage can be limited to one location or can occur in many locations (also called “diffuse” damage).
- An open TBI “is a penetrating assault to the brain, such as from a gunshot wound, or an object going through the skull into the brain.” These injuries tend to cause severe damage to a single part of the brain, but they may also occur simultaneously with a blow that also causes “diffuse” damage.
Either of the above injuries can also lead to a secondary brain injury resulting from bleeding and swelling inside the skull, which puts pressure on—and further damages—brain tissue. TBIs range in severity. Just about everyone who has ever played a contact sport or fallen from a jungle gym and bumped their head as a child has likely suffered a concussion, also known as a “mild traumatic brain injury” (mTBI for short). These injuries tend to heal on their own with rest, although they can involve long-lasting symptoms including headaches, fatigue, and memory problems. Also, according to research, getting one concussion increases the risk of getting another. On the other end of the spectrum are moderate and severe TBIs, which involve more significant damage to the brain and more long-lasting and debilitating impairments, such as:
- Cognitive impairments, including coma, memory loss, difficulty reasoning, and lack of orientation in time and place;
- Motor impairments, including paralysis, numbness, and weakness in virtually any part of the body;
- Perceptual/sensory impairments, such as vision and depth perception problems;
- Communication/language impairments that limit a person’s ability to speak, read, or understand language;
- Functional impairments that interfere with daily life activities, such as working or keeping house;
- Social impairments affecting a person’s ability to interact with others;
- Regulatory impairments that include sleep disturbances or the ability to control bladder or bowel function;
- Personality or psychiatric impairments such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts; and
- Traumatic epilepsy resulting in seizures.
Any of these symptoms can occur after a TBI. They may occur alone or in combination. They may evolve. They may respond to therapy and medication, or they may persist. There is virtually no way to predict in advance, at least not with much certainty, what combination of impairments will occur or how long they will last.
Anoxic or Hypoxic Brain Injury
Virtually all of the symptoms and impairments that accompany TBI can also result from anoxic or hypoxic (a.k.a. “non-traumatic”) brain injury. Whether caused by a stroke, or brain swelling from disease or infection, or a lack of oxygen getting to the brain (such as through smoke inhalation, carbon monoxide poisoning, or drowning), the damage done to brain tissue through these “non-violent” injuries has largely the same outcomes as “violent” ones. Likewise, these injuries involve unpredictable recovery prospects and timeframes.
Why Choosing a Lawyer With Expertise Makes a Difference
People injured by someone else’s carelessness or recklessness generally have the right to seek compensation (known as “damages”) for the harms they’ve suffered through a legal process known as a “personal injury lawsuit.” Injured people have lots of lots of options when it comes to choosing a lawyer to help them recover that compensation. Drive virtually any road and you are likely to see a billboard advertising the services of a personal injury attorney promising to get you the money you deserve. What many people do not realize, however, is that personal injury lawyers—like any group of professionals—have widely varied areas of expertise and experience. It is one thing for a lawyer to advertise on a billboard promising to help you if you’ve been “injured in a car accident.” It’s another thing entirely for that lawyer to have a depth of experience with the specific kind of car accident you were involved in, or the exact type of injury you now face the pain and expense of recovering from. Fortunately, with so many choices for lawyers, injured Floridians who spend a little time searching in the right places can connect with a lawyer whose experience and area of specialty matches up with their own accident and injury. At Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA and Sibley Dolman, we encourage anyone injured through no fault of their own to put in the effort to find that particular lawyer to help them. Because of our size and depth of practice, there is often a good chance one of our lawyers has exactly the kind of experience and knowledge a potential client needs. But, when someone walks through our doors seeking legal help after surviving a highly unusual accident or suffering a highly unusual injury, if we can’t help them, then we will do our best to refer them to someone who can. Why? Because the truth about legal services is that having a lawyer with specific expertise makes a HUGE difference in the outcome of a personal injury lawsuit. A lawyer with experience with your type of accident or injury knows what questions to ask witnesses, what evidence will prove crucial, and what points of law will hold those who harmed you accountable. When your physical, emotional, and financial wellbeing is on the line, you do not want to have to worry that your lawyer is just getting up-to-speed on the legal and factual issues that will prove critical to your future. Insurance companies, opposing lawyers, and juries know when they are dealing with a personal injury lawyer who has a mastery of the facts and the law, and they respond by making higher settlement offers and delivering higher damages verdicts.
How Choosing a Brain Injury Lawyer Can Help You
Brain injury victims, especially, benefit from having a lawyer with experience and expertise with their particular condition. As we described above, brain injuries have tremendously wide variations in how they occur, what harms they inflict, and the prospects for (and costs of) recovery. Here are the ways choosing a brain injury lawyer—not just any old personal injury lawyer—can help you in the aftermath of a brain injury.
Assessing the Scope of Your Brain Injury
Doctors and other health care professionals, obviously, will treat your brain injury. But they are not the only people who need to understand and evaluate the nature and extent of your TBI or anoxic/hypoxic injury. Your lawyer’s job is to ensure you have the financial resources and support you need to make a full recovery and to compensate you for the difficulty you face. To do that job well, your lawyer needs to have a detailed working knowledge of brain injury terminology and diagnosis, so that your lawyer can understand and fully appreciate the contents of medical records and the opinions and assessments of your condition delivered by your medical team.
Evaluating Whose Actions Caused Your Brain Injury
A lawyer with experience in and knowledge about brain injuries also serves your interests when it comes to finding out who may have legal liability to you for damages. As we described above, brain injuries happen in all kinds of ways, for all kinds of reasons. A lawyer who understands the mechanics of how you sustained a blow to your head, or were deprived of oxygen, or contracted a dangerous infection, is one who can pinpoint whose decisions and/or actions led to the harm you have suffered. And, the more precisely a lawyer can pinpoint the party or parties whose conduct led to your injury, the higher the likelihood you will recover the compensation you deserve.
Calculating the Full Scope of Your Brain Injury Damages
Because brain injuries have complicated diagnoses and recovery prospects, it is not easy to determine exactly what costs they might inflict on their victims. The longer a lawyer’s track record in representing brain injury victims and their families, the more knowledge and resources that lawyer has to draw upon to help calculate what a brain injury might “cost” in terms of medical and therapeutic care, assistive services, lost wages and earning opportunities, and pain and suffering. One danger of hiring an inexperienced lawyer is that he or she will not appreciate the countless ways a brain injury affects a person’s day-to-day life and wellbeing, each of which constitutes a data point on which to base a damages calculation. By choosing an attorney with a brain injury specialty, you ensure every difficulty you endure as you recover from your brain injury will get counted and compensated.
Explaining Your Brain Injury Damages to Others
Lawyers advocate for their clients. They aim to recover compensation from people who harmed their clients. That advocacy happens in two principle settings: settlement negotiation and jury trial. In both settings, the job of advocating for a brain-injured client is sometimes complicated by the fact that the people sitting “across the table” or “in the jury box” have limited experience and expertise with brain injuries. It is up to the lawyer to help them understand and appreciate the important details of a brain injury and its costs, while not overwhelming them with technical detail or medical/legal jargon. That is no easy task. It takes a lawyer with top-notch communication and analytical skills, and deep, broad knowledge of brain injury science, medicine, and recovery, to pull it off effectively.
How to Find Your Brain Injury Attorney
Do not choose the lawyer to help you recover compensation for your brain injury merely by calling the first phone number you see on a highway billboard. Try to limit your search to lawyers who advertise for brain injury clients in particular, and then insist on the attorney explaining to you the nature and extent of his or her brain injury law practice. The lawyer for you should have already represented numerous clients with brain injuries similar to yours or your loved ones, acquired in a similar type of accident or incident. To speak with a team of lawyers with broad and deep experience in representing clients whose lives have been turned upside-down by brain injury, contact a highly rated brain injury law firm today. Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA 800 North Belcher Road Clearwater, FL 33765 (727) 451-6900 https://www.dolmanlaw.com/legal-services/brain-injury-attorneys/