How Does a Traumatic Brain Injury Lawsuit Work?

Mr. Hill's Story

Employed as a public defender for over 20 years, Mr. Hill was driving on the interstate to work one morning when a semi truck slammed into the back of his vehicle. Ejected from his vehicle, Mr. Hill landed on the concrete nearly 30 feet from the point of impact. His injuries included a broken back, broken leg and traumatic brain injury involving the left parietal and frontal lobes. As a result of the brain injury, Mr. Hill experienced difficulty with concentration, memory, writing and using expressive language. Since he could no longer work as a public defender, Mr. Hill became depressed and was eventually diagnosed with general anxiety disorder.

Mr. Hill and his personal injury attorney filed a traumatic brain injury lawsuit against the truck driver, who admitted to falling asleep at the wheel. After the truck driver was found guilty of negligence, the court awarded Mr. Hill damages in the amount of $200,000, to be paid by the truck driver's insurance company.

Personal Injury Lawyers Seek Justice

Personal injury lawyers specialize in litigating traumatic or catastrophic injury lawsuits for the purpose of obtaining compensation for the victim and possibly, dependent family members.  A traumatic brain injury frequently occurs in serious automobile or motorcycle accidents and industrial accidents. In addition to accidents, traumatic brain injuries may happen due to the negligence of another individual, specifically a healthcare professional. This type of lawsuit would be referred to as medical malpractice lawsuit rather than a personal injury lawsuit.  Both kinds of lawsuits require personal injury lawyers who have experience and in-depth knowledge with state and federal laws impacting successful litigation of a traumatic brain injury case.

Legal Guide to Traumatic Brain Injuries

Traumatic brain injury attorneys are familiar with legal documentation and strategies used in brain injury lawsuits. Clinical terms like retrograde amnesia, anterograde amnesia, brain contusion, focal injury and diffuse injury all refer to specific conditions and manifestations of brain injuries.  Intracranial (brain) injuries may happen when something hits a person's head and damages a portion of the brain. In the courtroom, traumatic brain injuries, or TBI's, are designated as either closed head injuries or penetrating head injuries (when an object pierces the brain).

Health Consequences of Traumatic Brain Injuries

If someone suffers a traumatic brain injury as the result of another's negligence, compensation is rightfully deserved so the victim can pay their medical bills. In addition, TBI's often cause physical, emotional and cognitive deficits that may not emerge for months or years after the accident, demanding that the defendant also pay for all future medical expenses.

Victims suffering TBIs may require the following:

  • 24 hour nursing care, depending on the severity of the brain injury
  • Placement in a rehabilitation facility
  • Occupational, physical, speech or other specialized therapists
  • Financial assistance for supporting a family
  • Financial assistance to help pay for medication and medical equipment necessary to sustain certain physiological processes
  • Mental health counseling

Recovering from a TBI is a slow, uncertain process, causing the victim to accumulate a mountain of medical debts. If the victim worked prior to the accident, they are also losing weeks of wages they could be earning. Pain and suffering is also compensable in cases of TBI.

Components of a Traumatic Brain Injury Lawsuit

To successfully litigate a personally injury lawsuit, traumatic brain injury lawyers will use the expertise of medical experts to testify on behalf of the victim to get the maximum compensation necessary to sustain victims and their families. TBI attorneys will also use empirical evidence such as computed tomography scans and MRI's to prove the extent of the brain injury, along with other medical records that fully describe the past, present and future health status of the victim.

MRI, CT and PET records are vital to proving a traumatic brain injury is viable and compensable. In addition, neuropsychological test results are generally required in cases where the brain injury has produced dramatic personality or cognitive changes in the victim. Sometimes, these changes incapacitate the victim to the point they are no longer able to support themselves anymore. Although victims of TBI may appear physically healthy, their mental condition may permanently altered by serious injury to the brain.Brain injury lawyers may summon neurosurgeons and neuropsychiatrists to testify on behalf of their client. Healthcare specialists are necessary to clinically describe the development of trauma within the brain and show its irrevocable condition to the judge and jury. Additionally, family members of the TBI victim may called to testify on how the victim's life and their life changed following the accident.

Types of Traumatic Brain Injury Damages

TBI attorneys will argue for a client's  loss of earning capacity, life care costs and loss of enjoyment of life (pain and suffering). To show that a TBI victim has loss of earning capacity, a personal injury lawyer may call a vocational expert to the stand to testify. Vocational experts inform the court how much lifetime earnings a TBI victim stands to lose because of their injury and whether they will be able to sustain any type of employment. Life care damages calculate fees associated with physical therapy, prescription medication, caregiving and home assistance needs the victim will require for a specified amount of time (several months, several years or the rest of their life).

Loss of enjoyment of life, or hedonic damages, entered legal parlance in 1985 and continues to represent a conceptual, monetary price for "non-economic" damages.  Hedonic damages are considered by courts as a compensable aspect of pain and suffering or of a permanent disability. Experts in calculating hedonic damages may be economists who actually use mathematical computations, statistics and case studies when arriving at a specific amount.  In addition to personal injury victims, plaintiffs who win civil rights and wrongful death cases may also be awarded hedonic damages.

Related Post: 5 Most Overlooked TBI Symptoms

Proving a Traumatic Brain Injury Exists

Personal injury lawyers must establish that the defendant in a TBI case caused the injury due to acting negligently.  A legal theory used extensively in court, negligence is defined by four elements: duty, breach, causation and damages.  Attorneys must show that defendants owed victims of personal injury "duty of care"; that defendants did not act with reasonable care towards victims;  that a defendant's actions directly caused injury; and that the victim suffered physical and/or mental injuries measurable under law.

Social Security Disability and Traumatic Brain Injury

In cases of debilitating TBI, the victim's family should apply for social security disability benefits as soon as details about the injury are disclosed. SSD is a monthly payment to individuals who can no longer work due to a physical or mental issue. Even though a traumatic brain injury victims may be awarded a substantial amount of money at the end of their lawsuit, they are still eligible to receive SSD payments for the rest of their life, especially if the TBI is irreversible.