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Construction Work and Traumatic Brain Injuries: Advocating for Your Rights

Traumatic brain injuries (“TBIs”), which are defined as head injuries that disrupt normal brain function, are estimated to cause about 30% of all injury-related deaths in the United States. Generally, there are three classifications of traumatic brain injuries:

Closed Brain Injury: Occurs when the head either “snaps” back and forth or collides with another object, such as falling from a platform onto a floor, and damages brain tissues or nerve endings;

Open Brain Injury: Occurs when an object, such as a piece of construction shrapnel or tools, penetrates the skull and injures the brain; and

Acquired Brain Injuries: This is the general term for any brain injury that occurs by unnatural means and includes diffuse axonal injuries and anoxia (loss of oxygen injuries).

The two leading causes of traumatic brain injuries are falls and blunt trauma, which are among the most common dangers faced by construction workers today.

Construction Zone Dangers

According to the Department of Labor,1 the top four causes of construction zone fatalities are as follows:

Falls: A common cause of traumatic brain injury, falls often occur when floor openings are not secured or labeled properly, when personal fall equipment is not provided or utilized, or when ladders and scaffolds are not secure;

Struck-By Accidents: The second most common cause of traumatic brain injuries occurs when workers are struck in the head by either moving objects, such as cranes lifting heavy materials, or falling objects, such as loose or unsecured materials that fall from higher levels onto workers below;

Caught Between Accidents: These accidents occur when a worker is caught either in a trench, between levels of a building, or pinned by a moving piece of equipment. Such accidents cannot only injure the head, they may “crush” the worker such that he loses oxygen, which can often result in an acquired brain injury; and

Electrocution: This is also a major cause of traumatic brain injury, as a high voltage electrical shock can cause severe damages to the nerves that help the brain communicate with the rest of the body and can also cause burns and lesions within the brain.

Overall, construction zone accidents commonly result in traumatic brain injuries, which can dramatically affect the quality of your life and career.

Types of Traumatic Brain Injuries and Their Effects

For Florida construction workers, both closed and open brain injuries are common depending on the nature of the accident. Objects falling from high levels, even lighter objects such as wood splinters, can cause much greater damage than if those items fell from close range. For example, if a sharp piece of metal fell from the 20th-floor scaffolding of a construction building, that metal could easily pierce your skull on the ground, causing an open traumatic brain injury. These types of injuries can result in brain swelling, bleeding, and eventually death if not treated immediately. However, brain damage from open brain injuries is generally more localized than from closed brain injuries, so doctors are often able to tell how a particular injury will affect you based on the part of the brain impacted.

Wearing hard hats prevents many open brain injuries in construction zones, but this does not necessarily prevent TBI. Although a hard-hat may keep falling debris from penetrating your skull, a hard hit on the head may still result in a closed brain injury, which can be just as traumatic, if not more so, than an open brain injury. Unlike penetrating injuries, closed brain injuries typically occur when the brain ricochets off of the skull causing both bruising and a distribution of the impact throughout the brain. This can result in injuries that are not localized and may impact more areas of function, such as movement, communication, and memory.

Returning to Work After a Traumatic Brain Injury

Most survivors of severe traumatic brain injuries2 are unable to return to work, never recover full social independence, and rely on their families for support. Especially if you are in a physical field such as construction, a mild to severe traumatic brain injury may impact how your brain communicates with the rest of your body. If your nerves are damaged in an electrocution accident, even if your brain is attempting to send the proper signals to your legs, they will be blocked. This may result in an inability to walk or function physically, which will prevent you from resuming your career. Some workers may be able to return in a lighter capacity, such as in a strategic planning position, but this may also prove difficult if your injuries prevent you from concentrating for long periods of time or result in short-term memory loss. Such symptoms are common in closed traumatic brain injuries.

Florida Worker’s Compensation Law

Under Florida law,3 as in most states, worker’s compensation laws have been enacted to ensure that workers injured during the course of their employment are quickly provided with medical and disability benefits without the hassle of extended litigation. Under certain circumstances, this law prevents you from suing your employer for personal injuries sustained on the job; however, this is not always the case. Even if you are entitled to worker’s compensation benefits in Florida, you may have a case for personal injuries against your employer, which can help you to recover additional lost wages and for pain and suffering. For example, if the construction company knowingly purchased hard hats that were not sufficient to prevent traumatic brain injuries, but represented to their employees that such hats would protect them, you may have a claim under Florida law.

Contact a Clearwater Personal Injury Attorney for a Free Case Analysis

If you or a loved one has suffered a traumatic brain injury as the result of a construction zone accident and worker’s compensation is not sufficient to compensation you for your injuries, the Dolman Law Group can help you get the compensation you deserve. Our attorneys are your premier traumatic brain injury lawyers in the greater Tampa Bay area, and we are here to fight for your rights. Contact us today at (727) 451-6900 for a free, no-risk consultation.