Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are dangerous injuries that can forever unhinge the lives of victims and their families. The effects of a brain injury are often dramatic and life-altering, all too often causing permanent damage. Florida law allows victims to recover compensation for their injuries and other losses when the brain injury was caused by the wrongdoing of another person, corporation, or other entity.
What Is a Traumatic Brain Injury and How Does It Happen?
A traumatic brain injury is usually the result of a violent blow or jolt to the head or body, or violent shaking of the head, which causes the brain to move within and strike the inside of the skull, causing bruising; or, it results from a dangerous object penetrating brain tissue. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 1.7 million people suffer a TBI annually. Of those victims:
- 52,000 die each year
- 275,000 are hospitalized
- 1.365 million are treated in emergency rooms
The effects of a traumatic brain injury range from mild to severe depending on the severity of the initial injury.
- A concussion is the most common brain injury and can cause symptoms like dizziness, headaches, sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, drowsiness, memory loss, and emotional instability.
- More severe brain injuries can result in long-term mental and physical problems that can prevent victims from working or living without around-the-clock medical assistance. These serious side effects include cognitive and motor control problems, hampered senses, communication impairment, issues with emotional regulation, and personality changes. In extremely severe cases, injured victims remain in a coma or vegetative state or never regain consciousness.
Many traumatic brain injury victims incur massive medical bills, lose time from work, and experience significant emotional and physical pain and a diminished quality of life. The science is still unsettled, but researchers are also studying TBIs for a possible link to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Treating a brain injury involves a complex regimen of medication and rehabilitation, and no two injuries are exactly the same. An injured victim may face hospitalization, spend time in the Intensive Care Unit, undergo acute rehabilitation to regain as many activities of daily living as possible, spend time at a residential rehabilitation facility, undergo outpatient therapy, and even have to stay at an assisted living facility that provides housing and care for people with brain injuries.
Any number of scenarios involving violent blows to the head can cause a traumatic brain injury. Some of the more common causes include:
- Car accidents
- Truck collisions
- Motorcycle wrecks
- Slip and fall accidents
- Sports injuries
- Construction site accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Boating wrecks
- Recreational vehicle accidents
- Commercial vehicle accidents
- Workplace accidents
- 18-Wheeler accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Physical violence
- Near drowning or deprivation of oxygen
Florida law allows victims who incur traumatic brain injuries because of someone else’s carelessness or wrongful actions to seek compensation for their injuries and associated losses. It is important for anyone involved in an accident that involved a bump or blow to the head to be fully evaluated by an experienced medical professional concerning their health and to speak with an experienced Sarasota brain injury attorney concerning their legal rights.
Newsworthy Brain Injury Lawsuits in Florida
According to an article from the Palm Beach Post, a man from Riviera Beach filed a lawsuit in September 2018, for a crash that occurred in February of 2017. The defendant in the suit: the Riviera Police Department. The accident happened while the police department was chasing an SUV that ran a stop sign, the article noted. The department has a policy that only justifies a motor vehicle pursuit when the necessity of immediate capture outweighs the level of danger posed to the community due to the pursuit, and the victim’s lawyer stated that if the department had followed that policy, the 26-year-old man would be home, raising his young son. Instead, the man—now 26 and a former personal trainer—lives with his mother in Wisconsin and is unable to walk, has trouble talking, and needs help to perform routine tasks. As reported, the man faces a tough legal battle against the city, and the damages he may receive if he wins are capped at $300,000 unless the Florida Legislature approves an award beyond that cap.
Also in September 2018, a lawsuit was filed in Tallahassee on behalf of a young man who suffered a traumatic brain injury due to a hazing incident at a Florida State University fraternity. As reported by the Tallahassee Democrat, the man, who was already a member of the fraternity, was knocked unconscious and suffered a skull fracture as a result of the fraternity’s “scumbag of the week” ritual. The suit names the fraternity and eight members of its leadership. In addition, it names one man who allegedly caused the injury. The police did not arrest that man because the state’s anti-hazing law doesn’t apply to existing fraternity members.
A September 2018, lawsuit, as detailed by Fox News, was filed against three establishments that served kratom tea to a teenager whose mother now says suffers from brain damage as a result. The lawsuit claims that the tea is a dangerous product. There is currently no FDA regulations on kratom, but the agency warns that the herb exposes users to the risk of addiction, dependence, and abuse. The FDA has linked the herb to 44 deaths in the United States. The teen reportedly suffered psychotic episodes after using it. She reportedly frequented three Pinellas County locations that served her the tea for about four years. The lawsuit says these locations failed to warn the girl of the risks of dangerous side effects, including bodily injury, before serving it to her.
In March 2018, the Miami Herald reported on a lawsuit filed against a Miami children’s hospital and a nurse who was reportedly on drugs when he caused the brain injury of an infant in her care in 2015. The suit states that the nurse pulled out the four-month-old boy’s breathing tube while giving him a bath, causing the baby to go seven minutes without breathing and his heart to stop. The child—who was hospitalized for the flu—is now unable to speak, walk more than a few steps, or eat solid foods. The nurse, who had a known previous addiction to methamphetamine, reportedly was sweating profusely when the incident occurred and had bloodshot eyes, the child’s mother witnessed. The nurse was under a contract for substance abuse and mental health monitoring at the time. However, two months after the incident, he quit the rehabilitation program, and gave up his nursing license. According to the attorney representing the child’s mother, the hospital did not perform a drug test on the nurse within 48 hours after the adverse event occurred and failed to supervise him when he returned to work after entering the rehabilitation program.
In 2017, a 13-year-old girl fell from a raft ride at Universal’s Volcano Bay in Orlando and suffered a brain injury after she became trapped beneath the ride. In April 2018, as reported by the Orlando Sentinel, a lawsuit seeking at least $15,000,000 in damages was filed by the girl’s father against NBC Universal Media, which operates the Universal Orlando Resort under its theme park division. The suit accuses the company of negligently designing, maintaining, and supervising the water slide. The lawsuit states that the girl now suffers from vision problems, severe headaches, and dizziness. She also reportedly has a fear of water now and suffers from nightmares, the report stated.
Florida’s Comparative Negligence and What It Means for Personal Injury Cases
When determining fault in a personal injury claim, Florida’s pure comparative negligence system comes into play. What this means is that one must prove that the accident that caused his or her traumatic brain injury was at least partly the fault of someone else’s wrongdoing or carelessness. However, fault can lie with more than one person or entity, and the victim may also be found to have had some fault in the accident, as well.
Comparative negligence can greatly reduce the amount of compensation you are entitled to receive for your personal injury claim. For an example, if you have been injured in an accident and a jury finds that you were 25 percent at fault for the accident, your award will be reduced by 25 percent. The other way of looking at this, however, is that if you were 75 percent at fault for the accident and the other person or entity was 25 percent at fault, you could still recover 25 percent of the damages you were seeking.
Can I Sue for Pain and Suffering Caused by My Brain Injury?
The short answer to this question is: yes. Florida provides for non-economic damages from personal injury cases for things such as pain and suffering. However, the long answer is a lot more complex. Pain and suffering rewards are available for those who suffer permanent loss of an important bodily function, permanent injury, significant scarring or disfigurement, or death. Pain and suffering involves both physical pain, experienced both during recovery as well as in the future, and mental pain, including fear, anger, and depression. When calculating pain and suffering damages, a number of factors are considered, including the severity of the injury, the length of the claimant’s recovery, age of the claimant at the time of the accident, whether the claimant had pre-existing conditions, the type of medical treatment the claimant must receive, the claimant’s prognosis, and the impact that the injury has on the claimant’s quality of life.
Florida does not place a strict cap on pain and suffering awards in personal injury cases. However, in the case of car accidents, the state’s no fault rule provides coverage from your insurance provider, regardless of who was at fault, and prevents many lawsuits from being filed for pain and suffering damages.
Florida Personal Injury Law Helps Protect Sarasota Brain Injury Victims—Time Is of the Essence
Florida law allows victims to seek compensation for their brain injuries if they establish the elements of a personal injury claim. This involves demonstrating that the injury was caused by someone else’s negligent act or omission. In personal injury law, that often means showing that the wrongdoer failed to use the degree of care that would ordinarily be used by someone in the same or similar circumstances.
Victims, however, should also know that in some situations, victims can recover even if they were partially at fault for causing the accident. In other situations, victims may be entitled to compensation without having to prove another party’s fault. Because proving each element is often a complicated legal task, the best way to determine whether someone’s negligence caused your accident is to have an experienced attorney review your case. This is because what constitutes negligence depends on the context of the accident. What may be negligent in a car accident (such as driving impaired) is going to look different from what may be negligent in a workplace injury (like failing to properly maintain machinery equipment) and what may be negligent in a slip and fall (such as a slippery floor in a grocery store).
Florida law sets out strict deadlines that govern how long a person has to file a brain injury lawsuit, often referred to as statutes of limitations. A statute of limitations is the time in which a person or representative must bring suit, or lose the right to do so. With some limited exceptions, after that time has passed the person no longer has the right to sue to recover compensation. The statute of limitation on a personal injury case is generally four years from the date of the injury, two to four years for medical malpractice, and three years for claims against state and local governments. However, the limitations are calculated based on a number of different factors, so call an attorney as soon as possible after you or someone you love suffers a traumatic brain injury.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA – Sarasota Office