As a crash lawyer with over 30 years of experience in handling cases in western Missouri, I have seen a dramatic increase in the number of crashes that involve head injuries during the past five years. In my view, there are two primary reasons for this increase in head-related trauma following a motor vehicle crash.
First, there is a growing awareness in the medical community that concussion symptoms should be managed much differently. In the past, the usual practice in the management of a concussion was to prescribe medication to mask the symptoms and suggest that the person rest until the symptoms subside. Now, in light of all of the publicity surrounding sports-related head trauma and the supporting medical research that has come out in the last several years, doctors are now much more proactive about how they treat concussions.
Second, because drivers are driving faster, more aggressively, and more distracted, there are more violent collisions on our roadways. The greater the vehicular force of impact, the more chance the brain will be traumatized by a blow to the head or a whiplash-related event where the brain is propelled into the skull. This also explains why we are seeing more head injuries that require medical intervention.
Since head injuries are on the rise, it is important that you know how to handle the situation should you or someone you know battle a head injury after a car accident.
Dealing with Concussions
When a motor vehicle accident victim with evidence of a head injury presents to a hospital emergency room, it is usual for the emergency room physicians to order a CT Scan of the head. What they are looking for is bleeding around the brain tissue. Obviously, brain bleeding is a serious issue and would require hospitalization.
However, if the CT Scan is normal, the patient is stabilized and often diagnosed with a concussion based on the reported symptoms. Concussions are actually mild traumatic brain injuries, so they should be treated as a serious condition. It should also be noted that a loss of consciousness isn’t required for a diagnosis of concussion.
For these reasons, it is important that car crash victims report all of their pain points and abnormal sensations. Below is a list of the more common concussion-related symptoms that need to be reported to medical professionals as soon as possible:
- Headache or dizziness
- Unusual drowsiness, or inability to wake up as usual
- Memory loss
- Speech, vision, and balance issues
- Confusion, agitation, irritability, or mood changes
- Concentration difficulties
- Sensitivity to light or noise
After being diagnosed with a concussion in the emergency room, it is important that the patient have a follow-up exam with a neurologist or a doctor who specializes in concussions. At this exam, the physician will confirm the concussion diagnosis by determining the mechanism of injury and evaluating the physical pains, cognitive issues, and psychological complaints. Concussions are usually classified in the medical record as mild, moderate, or severe.
Often the doctor will perform special neurological testing, including a neuro-ophthalmologic evaluation, for symptoms related to visual blurring, double vision, etc. Physical therapists and speech pathologists are often part of the concussion management and protocol. Based on the assessment, doctors are now more frequently referring concussion patients to individualized rehabilitation, which might involve a variety of different therapies, including vestibular, cognitive, and physical therapies.
It is also important to note that sometimes a car crash victim will appear to be fine, but present with symptoms of a concussion hours or even days after a car accident.
At Horn Law, I deal with many cases where my clients continue to experience persistent concussion-like symptoms. While some symptoms may seem to improve, others hang on and interrupt my client’s ability to return to work and get along in their daily routine. In these cases, I want to make sure that the doctors are continuing to monitor my client and make additional medical recommendations.
It is my understanding, based on medical research, that about 15% of patients will continue with symptoms after a year. Typically, the patient doesn’t have what are referred to as “neurologic deficits,” but classical symptoms of concussion remain. In order to be diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome, at least three symptoms must be persistent.
From a legal standpoint, it is important to note that brain imaging scans are often normal. This often presents an issue when it comes to proving post-concussion syndrome in a court of law. This is why it is so important that I make sure my client is receiving the best possible concussion care and management.
Good post-concussion syndrome management also requires life-style changes. In many cases, their work hours must be reduced to accommodate the brain injury. They should be getting plenty of sleep and avoiding physically demanding activities or activities that require a lot of concentration. They need to watch their diet as weight gain can accompany a loss in calorie-burning daily activity.
From a mental health standpoint, these clients must avoid stressful social situations, such as travel or being among large crowds.
It is also worth pointing out that other factors may increase the likelihood of persistent concussion-like symptoms. They include being female, being older, having a history of headaches or past concussion/brain injury, and having a history of psychiatric illness such as depression or anxiety.
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with a concussion or post-concussion syndrome following a car crash, legal consultation can help. If you are in Missouri, call Horn Law today at 816-795-7500.
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Why Legal Representation is Important in Head Injury Claims After a Motor Vehicle Accident
If you or someone you know has suffered a head injury following a car crash, it is important that they not only receive excellent medical attention but also the ability to rest and recover in order to make the best possible health recovery.
While the health recovery is primary, the head injury victim is entitled to receive a fair and full legal recovery from the driver who caused the collision. To accomplish this, it is ordinarily necessary to retain a lawyer to handle the claim. Below are some of the principal reasons for retaining a head injury lawyer as soon as possible following a head injury.
In any injury case (where it is anticipated that a claim will be made against an insurance company), it is necessary to establish liability. To establish liability, there must be proof that the driver who caused the collision was negligent. Because proving negligence is not always clear, your attorney must be prepared to perform independent investigations and secure important evidence soon after the collision.
In addition to proving negligence, your attorney must also determine the degree of negligence. This is especially true in car accident cases where the conduct of the at-fault driver may be considered “aggravated negligence.” For instance, evidence that the at-fault driver was driving aggressively, recklessly, impaired, or distracted is crucial to maximizing the client’s legal recovery.
In establishing liability, your attorney also must identify all applicable insurance policies that may provide coverage. Determining the full scope of insurance coverage is an important responsibility of your attorney and should be addressed immediately after the collision.
Handling the Claim Adjuster
Handling the Claim Adjuster is an important responsibility for your lawyer and sets the foundation for the best possible legal recovery. This is especially true in head injury cases where the Claims Adjuster will work hard to negate the short- and long-term effects of the trauma to the head.
As it relates to concussions, many Claim Adjusters are pre-disposed to thinking that a concussion type injury is not serious because the effect on the brain cannot be immediately proven by diagnostic testing or medical imaging. Adjusters are also prone to assuming that the effects of a concussion will go away quickly.
To counter the Claims Adjuster, your lawyer must gain the upper hand in these types of cases, establishing control of the evidence and making sure at the outset that the adjusters and other insurance representatives are aware of every symptom and the impact that the symptoms have had on the daily routine and responsibilities of the injured person.
Your lawyer must also regularly update the Claims Adjuster as to your physical, psychological, and cognitive changes.
Head Injury Medical Evaluations
As a lawyer who handles mild, moderate, and severe head injury cases, it is important to me, no matter what the degree of the trauma, that the treating doctor(s) know about each and every physical, psychological, and cognitive complaint or symptom.
This is so important that I regularly recommend my clients see a neurologist or a concussion specialist. More recently, I have noticed that doctors are recommending therapies to help with balance, coordination, vision, and speech abnormalities. My goal is that the doctors be fully informed in order that the medical record is clear and the best treatment recommendations can be made.
Foundations for Fair and Full Settlements
In a head injury case, a fair and full settlement must, at a minimum, include medical expense reimbursement, income loss reimbursement, personal economic loss reimbursement, compensation for pain, suffering, discomfort, loss of health, and loss of quality of life.
While it would take me pages to detail how I prove the damages identified above, the key takeaway is that this important legal work must begin at the outset of the case.