A traumatic brain injury, or TBI, can be fatal and have devastating effects on the lives of survivors. Many people who suffer TBIs never fully recover. They can be left with impaired cognitive function that impacts their ability to work as well as form and maintain relationships. The medical bills and rehabilitation costs following a brain injury can be extremely costly, and the injury may require ongoing care for the rest of your life.
Why Choose Our Team of Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyers in Austin?
At Shaw Cowart LLP, our Austin traumatic brain injury attorneys have witnessed firsthand the terrible effects of TBIs. We have represented many survivors of brain injuries. If you suffered a traumatic brain injury because of the actions or negligence of another person, our team of personal injury attorneys in Austin will help you pursue compensation. We serve Austin and the surrounding areas of Texas. Call 512-499-8900 today to schedule a consultation.
What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?
When a head injury is forceful enough to impact the brain the result could be a traumatic brain injury or TBI. The term, traumatic brain injury, covers a wide array of brain injuries ranging in severity from mild to catastrophic. This type of injury occurs when blunt-force trauma from a hard blow, bump, or sudden jarring motion of the head causes the brain to bump against the bony inside of the skull, causing damage. With a hard enough blow or jolt, serious damage can occur despite the layer of cushioning fluid surrounding the brain. Penetrating skull wounds from a bullet or sharp object also cause TBI.
The delicate brain tissue is packed with neurons and axons that send and receive messages to control, monitor, and operate all of the body’s systems. When sudden trauma causes damage to this sensitive tissue through swelling, bleeding, pressure, bruising, or tearing, the brain cells making up nerve fibers in the impacted area of the brain may die off. Because these cells do not regenerate, recovery is limited to the brain’s ability to “rewire” itself to transmit and receive messages through other regions of the brain. The efficiency and success of this process vary widely between individuals and depend a great deal on intense and ongoing physical, occupational, and speech therapies.
Is a Concussion Classified as a Brain Injury?
A concussion is the most common form of brain injury. Despite the relatively common diagnosis—particularly in the sports world—a concussion is a form of traumatic brain injury. Concussions result from a blow to the head that temporarily causes a change in brain function. Most do not result in loss of consciousness, but some concussions may cause the victim to lose consciousness for a few minutes or more. A mild concussion can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness, and visual problems that resolve within a few hours or several days. A more severe concussion can cause more significant symptoms and take longer to resolve.
Repeated concussions may lead to later problems with cognitive function and memory. New research indicates that repeated concussions experienced in early childhood, such as during youth football, wrestling, hockey, and other aggressive sports, can have long-term impacts on an individual’s executive functions.
Types of Brain Injuries
The damage from a TBI can be localized to one area of the brain—a focal injury—or it may cover a wide area of the brain—a diffuse injury. There are two subtypes of head injuries that result in TBIs:
- Closed Head Injury
- Penetrating Head Injury
The most common types of traumatic brain injuries include:
- Diffuse Axonal Injury (DAI)
- Subdural hematoma
- Subarachnoid hemorrhage
- Intracerebral hematoma
- Skull fractures
- Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)
TBIs are often further categorized into primary brain injuries, or those occurring immediately after injury with the destruction of brain tissue on impact, or secondary brain injuries, which may take hours or days to occur as changes in the brain due to impact or penetration cause damage to brain tissue through inflammation, infection, or bleeding.
Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms
The symptoms of traumatic brain injuries include:
- Loss of consciousness
- Confusion and disorientation
- Nausea and vomiting
- Problems speaking
- Blurred vision
- Ringing in the ears
- Memory or concentration problems
- Mood swings
- Dilation of the pupils
- Clear fluids draining from the nose or ears
Traumatic Brain Injury Causes In Austin
TBIs are caused by a blow or other injury to the head, with the severity depending on the nature of the damage and the force of impact. Brain injury causes include:
- Falls: Slip-and-fall accidents in Austin including: falling from bed, from a ladder, downstairs, in the bath, and more, are among the most common causes of TBIs among children and the elderly.
- Car accidents: Crashes involving cars, motorcycles, bicycles, or pedestrians are by far the most common cause of TBIs among adults. If you suffered a brain injury due to a car crash, talk to an Austin car accident lawyer for a consultation on your case
- Pedestrian accidents: Pedestrians struck by vehicles, cyclists, motorcyclists, or other modes of transportation make up a large percentage of TBI victims. Speak to an Austin pedestrian accident attorney today.
- Violence: Gunshot wounds, blunt force trauma, and shaken baby syndrome can all cause TBIs.
- Sports: Football, hockey, boxing, MMA, skiing, snowboarding, skateboarding, and other high-impact or extreme sports can cause TBIs, particularly in youths.
- Combat: Explosions cause concussive blasts that release a significant amount of pressure and can disrupt brain function even if a person isn’t injured by shrapnel or debris.
- Bicycle accidents: Our Austin bicycle accident lawyers know that riding I bike both with and without a helmet is one of the leading causes of head injuries in the Austin area.
Lucid Intervals After a Traumatic Brain Injury
One dangerous aspect of TBIs is known as the “lucid interval.” This refers to when, after a traumatic brain injury that included a loss of consciousness, a person is seemingly fine and shows little to no symptoms associated with TBIs. The lucid interval can last up to several hours.
However, during this period, the injured person is anything but fine. During a lucid interval, they may be suffering from an epidural hematoma, or bleeding between the brain’s outer membrane and the skull. These can progress rapidly and lead to coma and death. Cerebral edema, or the potentially fatal swelling of the brain, can also occur after a lucid interval.
It’s vital never to be fooled by a lucid interval. You must seek medical attention immediately after a head injury, even if you feel okay, or another person seems okay. Contact your local Austin traumatic brain injury lawyer if you believe you were injured due to the negligence of someone else.
In 2009, for example, actress Natasha Richardson suffered a head injury while skiing and refused immediate medical treatment because she felt fine. Hours after the injury, though, she was hospitalized with a severe headache and died days later from an epidural hematoma.
Traumatic Brain Injuries and CTE
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, is a recently documented disease that is caused by multiple head injuries. Although CTE is most commonly discussed in the context of football players, hockey players, and boxers who have been documented to suffer from it, those are not the only groups at risk.
CTE has been found in the brains of combat veterans. Research also indicates that anyone with multiple brain injuries has a 30 percent chance of developing the disease. CTE cannot currently be definitively diagnosed in a living patient, but its symptoms manifest as early-onset dementia.
Damages in a Traumatic Brain Injury Case in Austin
Depending on the circumstances of your injury, you may be entitled to damages including:
- Current and future medical expenses
- Ongoing rehabilitation and daily care
- Lost wages
- Lost earning potential
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of quality of life
Brain injuries are costly to address. Often, intensive months and years of rehabilitation, speech, occupational, and physical therapies are required to maximize a patient’s recovery to the best extent possible depending on the type and severity of the damage. A brain injury victim may be unable to return to their previous career for many months or may never be able to return in their previous capacity at all. For these reasons, damages for a brain injury include compensation for future losses such as lost or diminished earning potential and compensation for ongoing healthcare. In some cases, damages include compensation for home health care nurses and equipment.
While financial compensation can’t erase pain and suffering, it can add to the total amount of compensation you recover after an injury caused by someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing. This type of compensation helps open doors to the best possible medical care. It also relieves financial worries while the victim focuses on maximizing their healing.
Long-Term Consequences of Brain Injuries
Brain injuries can have a wide variety of long-term effects depending on where the damage occurred and the severity of the injury. For instance, damage to the left side of the brain impacts logic, speech, and receptive language (understanding) while problems to the right side of the brain affect visual processing and the ability to perform routine daily tasks. Damage to the frontal lobe affects personality, reasoning, impulse control, planning, and mood.
Possible long-term consequences of TBI include:
- Memory problems
- Dizziness and balance problems
- Problems with speech and language skills
- Visual problems
- Sleep disturbances
- Problem-solving challenges (cognitive impairment)
- Irritability, irrationality, lack of impulse control
- Engaging in risky or inappropriate behaviors
Recovery from a traumatic brain injury may mean maximizing recovery to the greatest extent possible when a full recovery isn’t achievable or reasonable to expect. Texas offers a wide array of resources for individuals living with the long-term consequences of brain injuries.
Texas Statute of Limitations on Brain Injury Claims
Like all states, Texas places a time limit on an injury victim’s opportunity to file a personal injury claim, including for a brain injury. In Texas, a victim has two years from the date of the accident or incident that caused the injury in which to file a claim, but two important exceptions exist:
- If the victim was a minor, the 2-year limit begins on their 18th birthday.
- If the injury victim was unconscious, comatose, or cognitively unaware of their injury, the 2-year time limit begins on the date that they regain awareness
The second exception to the statute of limitations on Texas injury claims can be of critical importance to a brain injury victim who may take many months to regain cognition and awareness if they’ve suffered a severe injury. In spite of this exception to the Texas statute of limitations, it typically benefits an injury victim to file a claim as soon as possible after an injury or after they gain a clear understanding of the long-term financial impacts of an injury. While 2 years may seem like ample time, lawsuits take time to file, negotiate, and settle, and in some cases may require in-court litigation.
Contact Our Austin Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyers Today
At Shaw Cowart LLP, our seasoned traumatic brain injury lawyers in Austin are dedicated to helping our clients find justice. If you or a loved one suffered a traumatic brain injury because of the actions or negligence of another person, we will fight on your behalf.