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Lawyers are getting Mild TBI cases wrong

October 9, 2014 by Steven M. Gursten

Why even a “mild” traumatic brain injury can  cause brain damage

The word “mild” may be in the common medical classification for mild traumatic brain injury, but that doesn’t mean the brain injury itself is mild at all. The medical classification is actually quite misleading, and causes considerable confusion for juries and even many personal injury lawyers who fail to understand the significance of what this injury means for the people they represent.

MTBI is just a medical classification for a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI). And while the impact of a mild traumatic brain injury can be less serious  than other traumatic brain injuries that are classified as “moderate” or “severe,” that doesn’t mean people diagnosed with mild TBI can be taken lightly. The American Congress of Rehabilitative Medicine defines mild traumatic brain injury by at least one of the following symptoms:

  • Any period of loss of consciousness;
  • Any loss of memory for events immediately before or after the accident;
  • Any alteration in mental state at the time of the car accident such as feeling dazed, disoriented or confused and;
  • Focal neurological deficits that may or may not be transient.

It’s up to personal injury lawyers to better understand what this means for our clients.

Last week, I spoke to the Michigan Association for Justice (MAJ) on mild traumatic brain injury. My topic was called “Mild Traumatic Brain Injury  in Motor Vehicle Crash Cases – How to Identify and Prove this to Adjusters and Juries.” I told the MAJ that most injury attorneys who aren’t familiar with brain injury litigation – let alone juries – don’t understand how you can have a serious brain injury with no loss of consciousness; a perfect Glasgow Coma Scale, as well as normal MRIs of the brain.

Often, symptoms and problems with mild TBI are not immediately obvious, but manifest slowly over time.

TBI can cause brain damage, and it’s symptoms include a host of cognitive and memory issues, as well as other injuries, like chronic pain and depression.

And a new study further backs this up:

Mild may cause brain damage and thinking and memory problems, according to a study recently published in an online issue of Neurology.

Here are the details of the study:

  • 44 people with a mild traumatic brain injury and nine people with a moderate traumatic brain injury were compared to 33 people with no brain injury.
  • All of the participants took tests of their thinking and memory skills.
  • They also had diffusion tensor imaging scans DTI.
  • The people with brain injuries had their scans an average of six days after the injury.
  • A year later, 23 of those with injuries had another scan and took the cognitive tests again.

The results: Compared to the people with no brain injury, those with injuries had brain damage in brain white matter consisting of disruption to nerve axons. Click here to learn more about the study.

 – AANS Neurosurgeon, Volume 23, Number 3, 2014

Related information:

Traumatic brain injury and its true cost on society: $76.3 billion per year in lost productivity

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