There are many different kinds of brain injuries, and concussions are perhaps the most common. Concussions can change your life. You may face a long physical recovery, and you may require surgery as well as physical therapy.
Even after the physical recovery is over, other challenges remain. After all, extensive medical care often means enormous medical debt. Furthermore, you may have lost your job because of your injuries, which can make paying any bill, or even paying the rent and putting food on the table, seem like a herculean task.
Overcoming physical, mental, and financial obstacles is challenging no matter the type of injury, but the journey back to normal is perhaps most difficult if you sustained concussion, which is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI).
People with concussions encounter unique challenges because of the brain’s central importance to every kind of human function; an individual’s critical thinking, concentration, memory, physical mobility, and speech may all suffer if the brain isn’t operating properly.
Unfortunately, concussions are incredibly individual in their effects. Even experienced doctors cannot tell you how long your symptoms will last. Similar injuries other people sustained don’t offer good frames of reference. This can make dealing with symptoms even more frustrating.
Below, we provide an overview of this far too common brain injury.
What Is a Concussion?
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “a concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury—or TBI—caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. This sudden movement can cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, creating chemical changes in the brain and sometimes stretching and damaging brain cells.”
Though a common injury, most people know next to nothing about concussions, such as how they occur, their symptoms, and if they’re treatable. This lack of knowledge contributes to the high rate of concussions and why so many go untreated.
As already mentioned, a concussion is a brain injury caused by a blow or jolt to the head. The phenomenon is also known as mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI).
The symptoms of many concussions do not manifest until days or weeks after the injury. Similarly, symptoms may last for days, weeks, or permanently.
Generally, concussion symptoms consist of mental and physical.
The mental effects include:
- A feeling of confusion or mental fogginess
- Inability to remember when, where, or how the concussion occurred
- Seeing cobwebs or stars
The physical effects include:
- Blurred vision
- Ringing in the ears
The above symptoms can vary considerably based on the severity of a concussion, whether the victim had a concussion previously, and the victim's physiology.
Usually, the symptoms of a concussion subside after a few days or weeks. However, if someone experiences multiple concussions over an extended time, the brain may sustain permanent damage.
“[M]ultiple concussions can cause depression, anger, memory loss, and other symptoms that make you feel unlike yourself, this includes an increased risk of suicide. Brain damage from a concussion can cause lasting emotional symptoms that do not resolve without treatment. Or, they may make existing struggles worse,” according to CognitiveFX.
In some instances, those that suffer numerous concussions, or experience a concussion while still recovering from a previous concussion, are at risk of developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a kind of dementia that may also impact emotional and cognitive functioning.
Where Do Concussions Happen?
Mild traumatic brain injuries can happen anywhere. Many concussions occur when individuals trip and fall around their own homes. Car accidents are also a common cause; even a minor crash can produce enough force to shake the brain within the skull.
Although concussions are not limited to specific times and places, certain professions and activities are considered high risk, including:
When it comes to collision sports, most people associate concussions with football. Due to the player-on-player hitting that’s fundamental to the sport, football players risk concussions and other TBIs. However, recently introduced safety protocols have made the game safer.
Soccer is another high-risk activity. A common move in the sport is the header, in which a player directs a moving ball by striking it with the head. If a player heads a ball traveling fast enough, it may cause the brain to rattle within the skull.
Other concussion-prone sports include rugby, hockey, and lacrosse.
Operating a car on a highway could lead to a concussion if certain circumstances arise, and the risk is even greater when a vehicle is driven off-road or in a competitive race. Motorsports participants should follow all safety guidelines, such as wearing a specialty designed helmet and racing harness.
Workers in certain fields are more likely to suffer a concussion, including firefighters, construction workers, police officers, delivery drivers, and loading dock workers.
Are Concussions Treatable?
Yes and no. Some concussions do not require any treatment at all and will heal by themselves without leaving any permanent damage. Other concussions, however, require treatment to heal—and some never will.
If someone suspects that they suffered a concussion, they must see a doctor as soon as possible. The brain could swell within the skull, which, without medical intervention, could cause permanent neurological damage.
A neurologist can perform a series of tests and exams to determine the extent of the damage. Doctors may first ask the patient a series of questions about possible symptoms, such as whether the patient is experiencing headaches and vomiting, has blurred vision, or is experiencing cognitive issues.
If the symptoms suggest that a high-grade concussion occurred, doctors may administer a CT scan to get an actual look at the patient’s brain to see if bruising or swelling is present.
The treatment regimen for a concussion includes rest, avoiding activities that require concentration, and pain medication. Although most concussions heal over time, the damage that often follows multiple concussions—brain fog, chronic headaches, and nausea—is not always treatable. Those who experience a string of severe concussions, especially over a short time, may struggle with these symptoms for the rest of their lives.
Doctors and scientists have developed alternative concussion treatments for years, but the data doesn't demonstrate the efficacy of these methods.
I Think I Sustained a Concussion. What Should I Do?
First of all, like with any other medical condition, never attempt to diagnose yourself. If you suspect that you have suffered a concussion, contact your primary healthcare provider right away. Only an experienced physician has the skills and expertise to evaluate your condition, make a diagnosis, and prescribe a treatment regimen.
Receiving a proper diagnosis is critical for another reason: the previously concussed are more susceptible to mTBI in the future. Additionally, the next concussion that already injured individuals experience will probably be more serious and likely to cause permanent brain damage. Considering this, people often face difficult decisions after suffering their first concussion.
As many concussions occur while individuals are at work or enjoying a favorite pastime, victims must consider if significant lifestyle changes are necessary to avoid future incidents. For example, if workers in their field are more likely to suffer head injuries, they may contemplate changing jobs. Relatedly, they may have to abandon activities in which blows to the head are common, such as collision sports and martial arts.
Do I Have a Legal Claim?
Even the most experienced lawyer cannot determine if a claim exists without first knowing all of the facts of a case. However, plaintiffs file thousands of lawsuits are filed every year over concussions.
Most concussion lawsuits are brought under a theory of negligence. In other words, the concussed is claiming that the negligent actions of another person or entity caused the concussion.
To bring a successful negligence suit, a plaintiff must demonstrate: (1) that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care, (2) that the defendant’s actions breached this duty; (3) that this breach caused the plaintiff’s injury, and (4) that this injury resulted in damages.
For example, cyclists may suffer a concussion when they’re clipped by a texting driver who failed to notice a stop sign. The cyclist could sue the driver for negligence because the driver owed the cyclist a duty of care, the driver breached that duty by running the stop sign, and the breach caused the cyclist’s concussion, which resulted in damages.
The plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s negligence act(s) caused the concussion. Without injury, even truly outrageous behavior cannot result in a claim.
What Are Damages?
If a concussion lawsuit is successful, the court will grant the plaintiff a financial award known as damages. This compensation is meant to address the losses incurred because of the defendant’s negligence. In general, damages are meant to make the victims whole again by returning them to the condition that they enjoyed before their accidents.
There are two primary types of damages: (1) monetary and (2) non-monetary.
Monetary damages address financial injuries, such as medical debt, property damage, and lost wages. These losses are easily assigned a monetary value, as they can be proven with formal documents, such as bills and pay stubs.
Non-monetary damages, on the other hand, address abstract injuries that are more difficult to convert into a dollar amount. Included in this category of damages are claims for pain and suffering, mental trauma, and loss of consortium. These claims are more difficult to prove, as concrete evidence, such as financial documents, cannot demonstrate them. Therefore, to recover non-monetary damages, a plaintiff must usually provide testimony from an expert witness, such as a doctor or psychologist.
Should I Contact a Lawyer?
If you believe that your concussion resulted from another party’s negligence or wrongdoing, then you should contact an attorney right away. Even if you don’t plan to pursue litigation, meeting with a lawyer early prepares your case if your situation changes. Additionally, brain injury lawsuits often take time to resolve and require extensive discovery, so getting started early means receiving compensation sooner.
Lawyers also provide value in other ways. Experienced TBI lawyers can negotiate with your insurance company and that of the opposing party. Furthermore, they serve as important sources of candid advice during a time of great distress.
Victims of TBI face unique challenges and arduous roads to recovery. Living a full and ordinary life might seem out of reach; holding a job, driving a car, studying for an exam—activities and pursuits once taken for granted—may now be rendered impossible.
Even performing basic life tasks and functions may prove difficult. Individuals with severe TBI may struggle to have long conversations, to recall basic facts and information, and to dress themselves and go about their daily activities.
As dire as the circumstances might seem, victims do have options. If their injuries resulted from negligence or wrongdoing, they can file a brain injury lawsuit against the at-fault parties. A successful suit could result in a significant financial award, bringing relief to the victim and the victim’s family.
The first step is contacting an experienced lawyer that handles TBI cases. An attorney can evaluate the facts of your case, determine your eligibility to pursue compensation, and craft a legal strategy around your unique objectives.
Most reputable lawyers provide significant assistance to injured individuals who wish to pursue compensation for their injuries. Lawyers advocate for their clients, providing dedicated representation, candid advice, and an empathetic voice during an incredibly challenging time.
Individuals who have sustained concussions due to the negligence of another party should act promptly. Brain injury lawsuits often require extensive investigation and may feature a prolonged litigation process. Waiting to file only means waiting longer to get the compensation that you need in your hand. Furthermore, Pennsylvania imposes a two-year statute of limitations on most cases, so failure to act promptly could mean permanently forfeiting the right to legal recourse.
If you’ve sustained a concussion due to the negligent actions of another party, contact an experienced attorney today to determine your eligibility to pursue a brain injury claim.