It’s sad to say, but head injuries are an all-too-common outcome of car accidents. At first, it might seem like you got lucky and escaped with just a slight headache. But even minor collisions can result in traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs. Depending on the severity your life might change dramatically, and you may need years of medical care and personal support. So, after a car accident, what does it mean to have traumatic brain injury?
Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms
Traumatic brain injuries involve receiving a blow to the brain by some external force. If you’ve been in a car accident you don’t have to have hit your head to develop a TBI. The whiplash motion of your body being jerked back and forth, causing your brain to hit your skull, can also cause damage. Additionally, even minor TBIs can have a range of symptoms, which include:
- Memory problems
- Sensory problems (i.e., blurred vision, hearing difficulties, etc.)
- Speech difficulties
- Sleep issues
- Behavioral changes
More severe TBIs can result in seizures and convulsions, loss of muscle coordination, and even comas. It’s also possible for these symptoms to develop over the course of many years. Predicting whether symptoms will go away on their own is basically impossible. To have the best chance of recovery, it’s essential to be evaluated by a specialist in head trauma.
Diagnosing Brain Injuries
Diagnosing a post-accident TBI requires a neurological exam that evaluates factors like reflexes, motor and sensory functions, and cognitive ability. You’ll likely be rated on the Glasgow Coma Scale, with a higher score indicating a less severe TBI. Testing can also involve procedures like Magnetic Resonance Imaging or Computerized Tomography scans. Your doctors will use these to evaluate physiological changes in your brain and to help determine your best course of treatment. It might also be necessary to pursue supplemental testing to evaluate how your TBI has affected specific aspects of your life. These tests can include:
- Speech and language
- Social communication
- Bodily functions (like swallowing and breathing)
- Behavioral regulation and control
Unfortunately, some TBIs are difficult to diagnose and may need even more testing. But once your care providers know what needs attention, they can devise a plan to help you deal with the problems you’re facing.
Recovering From a TBI
TBIs don’t have to be permanent to have a major effect on your life. You may need short-term physical and occupational therapy to retrain skills. Matters like bathing, eating, and going to the bathroom can be much more difficult. You might also have to hire someone to assist you with tasks at home. If you’re having mood and behavioral issues, your traumatic brain injury could impact your relationship with loved ones. The impact on your body could mean taking an extended absence from work, thus affecting how you provide for yourself.
To get back to work, you might need to pursue vocational training. Additionally, even relatively minor muscle coordination and memory problems can impede physical and mental recovery. It’s also possible that you could need counseling to handle emotional trauma. Unfortunately, pursuing a personal injury claim while dealing with a TBI can make an already stressful process seem worse. But considering all that your injury is costing you, physically, mentally, and financially, the process can be worth it.
After a car accident, people often have a lot of unexpected expenses and may be desperate for cash. This can lead them to take the first offer that they get from an insurance company. Unfortunately, people don’t always understand what treatment they’ll need, and sometimes the true scope of their injuries are missed by conventional tests. Additionally, people can overestimate their healing abilities and might assume they’ll be back to normal in a few months. But then a major problem emerges and they’re out of luck, because once a case is settled that’s it – you can never recover more money. That’s why, when dealing with a car accident TBI, you’ll want an experienced brain injury lawyer at your side.
Brain Injury Accidents Average Settlement
What kind of settlement might your attorney negotiate? It’s difficult to list an average car accident TBI settlement value because the injuries themselves can vary so much in severity. Nonetheless, it’s reasonable to say that even mild traumatic brain injury cases can settle in the low six figures. It’s also not unusual for severe traumatic brain injury cases to settle in the low to mid seven figure range, if not more. Given how wide the range can be, it helps to understand the factors determining settlements.
The first and most obvious issue that affects your settlement is, as mentioned, your car accident traumatic brain injury’s severity. Some people might recover in two or three months, while others may never fully recover. Some may experience only occasional symptoms, while others feel the burden of them each day.
Your potential earnings are also taken into consideration. This includes both what you earned before your accident, and what you could have earned for the remainder of your life. Issues that affect the latter include your inability to return to your profession or to work full-time, and the need for retraining to be able to work. These issues would all be considered valid costs, along with time you had to spend away from work for medical care.
The emotional and mental impact of your car accident TBI will also be accounted for, and not just in how it affects your relationships with others. Focus will be given to the affect it’s had on your own psychological well-being and emotional stability.
We know the effects of a car accident TBI might last for the rest of your life. Age and prior health are major factors in determining long-term disability. A formerly healthy 20-year-old might suffer less damage than a 90-year-old cancer patient would. But that same 20-year-old may also have to deal with changes in their life for much longer than that 90-year-old would. Regardless of the conditions you might develop, you will need extensive medical support to show a disability. And sometimes, even for experts it can be hard to predict your future needs.
That’s because your car accident settlement isn’t just based on what’s already established. TBI symptoms can manifest years down the line, and a settlement must take such possibilities into account. You might suddenly lose control over part of your body and be unable to work. Or you might develop severe memory problems that leave you unable to recognize even the ones you love.
Washington State Settlement Laws
In addition, some settlements are affected by the laws where you live. Washington State is a comparative negligence state. This means that the percentage responsibility you have for your injury can proportionately reduce your settlement amount. As an example, say you were texting while driving and someone hit you. Your damages could be reduced based on how much your distraction affected the accident. These are some of the many factors that will be taken into consideration no matter your injuries.
When you’re suffering from long-term impairment, considering these factors is even more important. Even minor car accident traumatic brain injuries may require extensive care. In addition to the tests needed to determine the severity of your TBI, you might need extensive rehabilitative care. Surgery might be necessary to deal with brain and spinal cord injuries. You might also need long-term counseling to handle the emotional damage of your car accident. All this treatment requires extensive documentation, as anything that appears unnecessary or unsupported will be pounced on by the defense. This is because, as has always been the case, insurance companies are not on your side.
Insurance and Low Settlement
When you’re seeking justice for your car accident traumatic brain injury, the defendant’s insurance will do everything they can to pay as little as possible. They’ll look at every line of your medical records to claim your health issues were due to a preexisting injury or condition. They’ll look for any inconsistencies in what you said to your doctors, or evidence that you didn’t follow their recommendations. If you don’t report your TBI symptoms early enough, they might say there isn’t enough evidence to link them to your car accident. They may also accuse you of malingering, meaning you’re exaggerating your symptoms or just lying altogether. But your attorney will know about other TBI case settlements, and help you avoid these problems.
$4 Million Dollar Settlement
As an example, in 2017 a woman was hit by a bus while crossing the street and dragged for 25 to 30 feet. In addition to a traumatic brain injury, she suffered multiple upper spinal vertebral fractures, extensive musculoskeletal injuries, and neurobehavioral changes. She was eventually able to return to work, but at a diminished capacity due to her brain injury and headaches. The defense tried to say she was at-fault because, as they claimed, she ran in front of the bus to catch a different vehicle. However, her attorneys were able to prove her side of the story, that she had already been in the cross walk and the bus suddenly accelerated. Additionally, the experts they retained were able to establish the medical basis for her injuries, including her TBI. This earned her a settlement of $4,000,000.00, thanks to her attorney’s help.
Your own personal injury attorney will begin by investigating your claim in depth to clearly establish the facts of your loss and the medical basis for your TBI. This will involve hiring medical experts not just to review your treatment, but possibly recommend better care options. Your attorney will also evaluate all the damages you suffered, medical or otherwise. This allows them to put together the best possible estimates of how far into the future you’ll need medical and financial support. They’ll handle all the negotiations with insurance for you, using the knowledge and experience they have that most people just don’t. They’ll check to see if there might be others that bear liability, such as an auto manufacturer or another driver. And should your car accident TBI case go to litigation, they’ll fight your case all the way.
Your attorney may suggest alternate dispute resolution options such as arbitration or mediation as something to consider. This is because your car accident TBI lawyer must only make your case to one specific person, instead of twelve at a jury trial. One major issue of jury trials is how the jurors will perceive you. They may think you look and sound fine, so there’s no reason they should view your injuries as serious. This can happen regardless of how severe your car accident TBI is since your symptoms may be invisible at first glance.
People often don’t want to truly imagine the suffering of others. They don’t want to picture themselves going through what you’ve gone through. But your trial lawyer will clearly present your medical records, the testimony of your providers, and the evaluations of experts. They will show not just that you’ve been hurt as badly as you claim. They will do so in such a way that jurors can and will make your story their own. When this happens, the jury can then understand why you should get the TBI settlement you need.
It’s important to recognize that even minor car accident traumatic brain injury claims can take years to resolve. The stress and anxiety of fighting such a claim can only worsen the difficulties you’re facing in your recovery. No one should have to deal with that on their own. That is why we at Park Chenaur and Associates are here for you. We will use our years of knowledge and experience to help you find the care you need. We will also be ready for any tactic insurance will use to try and deny your suffering. Brain injuries can change your life forever, and we will fight for you every step of the way.