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Hope on the Horizon for Traumatic Brain Injury Accident Victims

July 22, 2010 by Steven M. Gursten

Michigan traumatic brain injury lawyer discusses the promise of blood biomarkers for TBI victims

I read an article in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal that promises hope to traumatic brain injury victims and survivors and the TBI lawyers who help them in America’s courtrooms.

The article is a must read for any lawyer who represents people who have suffered traumatic brain injury. What makes the article notable is that it discusses how serious traumatic brain injuries can be, how difficult TBI is to diagnose, how emergency rooms and doctors often miss many of the subtle symptoms of TBI, and how this delay in diagnosis leads both to improper treatment and sometimes catastrophic consequences for accident victims who have suffered serious closed-head injuries.

What makes the article most interesting is that it then goes on to discuss how researchers today are now close to identifying “biomarkers” that may soon make it possible to pinpoint brain injuries with a simple blood test that can be administered in hospitals after a car accident.

For traumatic brain injury lawyers used to dealing with scorched earth defenses and victim blaming in such personal injury cases, biomarkers that could identify TBI soon after an auto accident would be as close to a game changer as we could get. It promises hope and finally, better medical treatment and legal settlements that fairly compensate injury victims.

How could the world change with biomarker blood tests?

We’ve all heard that in America’s courtrooms, it isn’t what’s true that matters, it’s what a jury believes is true. And sadly, this is what makes representing traumatic brain injury accident victims so difficult. It’s also why so many personal injury lawyers won’t even take on clients with TBI cases.

These cases are so challenging because so much of what we might ordinarily believe is wrong when it comes to TBI cases. In most cases, there is no loss of consciousness. The MRIs and CT scans of the brain are often normal (even expected to be normal in cases of mild to moderate TBI). Hospital emergency rooms, EMTs and family doctors often miss diagnosing them, resulting in months of delayed treatment.

This delay in treatment raises suspicion in the minds of many. Insurance company defense lawyers often play upon this suspicion by arguing that if these injuries were really serious, they would have been diagnosed far earlier. And since these cases are expert-intensive, they are expensive. Now, assuming a brain injury attorney does everything right and spends the money to bring in the experts to separate the truths from the misconceptions, there is still the jury.

What makes these cases truly so difficult is that at the very end, many people have a psychological need to believe that these terrible, life-altering changes can’t just happen from a simple auto accident or bump on the head. The psychological principle at play is called defensive attribution, and it manifests itself in jurors trying to convince themselves to overlook the evidence and testimony, because if the world really is that scary, it means their own children are at risk and this is too troubling to believe. Defensive attribution causes many jurors to have a need to reject clear and convincing evidence of brain injury in courtrooms across the country.

This Wall Street Journal article addresses so many of these misconceptions, from how often traumatic brain injury is not diagnosed to how often medical doctors miss the subtle symptoms. And if indeed science is close to creating biomarkers that can, through a simple blood test, provide early detection of TBI for accident victims, then this new medical development can change everything.

Take a look at the full Wall Street Journal article, New Test for Brain Injury on Horizon.

Steven M. Gursten received a trial verdict of $5.65 million for a TBI victim in 2008; the largest reported auto negligence verdict in Michigan for the year. He frequently speaks on traumatic brain injury for lawyers across the country. Steve is a member of the American Association for Justice Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group and several foundations devoted to helping brain injury victims, including the Brain Injury Association of Michigan and the Sara Jane Brain Project.

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons, by Abhishek Jacob

Related information:

Michigan traumatic brain injury law

Documenting TBI for the jury

Steps TBI victims must take after a car accident

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