TBI After Car Accident: What You Need To Know
Many people suffer TBI after a car accident. In Michigan, 30% of these injuries are caused by motor vehicle collisions. Nationwide, crashes were the leading cause of traumatic brain injury-related hospitalizations and deaths.
These brain injuries are difficult to diagnose because survivors can appear “normal” and TBIs don’t appear on MRIs and CT-scans.
Additionally, these injuries can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are either delayed or they are often mistakenly attributed to victims’ other collision-related injuries. When this happens, the traumatic brain injury is said to have been “masked” by the other injury. This is why this injury is described as the “invisible” injury.
Finally, symptoms of TBI after a car accident are not always immediately apparent. They may not appear for days, weeks, or months after the accident. In some cases, a victim is not aware of his or her symptoms until he or she has tried to resume normal, everyday activities or tried to return to work.
The elusiveness of symptoms and, thus, the difficulty of obtaining timely, necessary treatment make it so much more important that people seek prompt attention as soon as they suspect they have suffered a TBI after a car accident.
Here’s what we know about TBI after a car accident:
- “In Michigan, 30% of the traumatic brain injuries are caused by car accidents.”
- “Motor vehicle crashes were the . . . second leading cause of all traumatic brain injury-related hospitalizations . . .”
- “Motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of death for persons 15-24, 25-34, and older adults aged ≥75 years.”
- “Motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of these brain injury-related hospitalizations for adolescents and adults aged 15 to 44 years of age.”
(Sources: Michigan Department of Health and Human Services; CDC – TBI: Get the Facts)
What is a TBI after a car accident?
A TBI or traumatic brain injury after a car accident results from a violent blow or jolt to the head that occurred during the crash. A traumatic brain injury disrupts the normal functioning of a person’s brain, resulting in bruising, torn tissues, bleeding and loss of consciousness or amnesia.
What to do for TBI after a car accident
If you suffered TBI after a car accident, follow these steps:
- Get examined immediately: Time may be of the essence. When it comes to properly diagnosing the cause of this brain injury after a motor vehicle crash, the sooner a person gets the proper diagnostic tests and medical treatment for these symptoms, the sooner they can rule out a potentially life-threatening injury. As an injury lawyer, I always advise people that the sooner they can get the necessary and appropriate medical care, the sooner they can get back on the road to good health and a full recovery, but with this type of brain injury the key is to rule out a much more serious injury as soon as possible.
- Get medical treatment and get a referral for the appropriate diagnostic imaging to detect and diagnose if you have suffered this injury. A doctor can’t treat you until he or she knows what is causing these symptoms, and the appropriate diagnostic testing will enable your doctor to prescribe the best course of treatment for you and make the appropriate referrals for you.
- Early documentation always makes it easier to avoid future problems with your own insurance company. Early medical documentation, such as in an emergency room or as soon as possible with your family doctor, will prove to a health insurance company or a No-Fault insurance company that the motor vehicle crash was the cause of your brain injury. If it does turn out to be a more serious injury, you’ve documented the early symptoms and again will be able to avoid many of the problems that arise when an insurance company is denying a causal relationship and refusing to pay for medical treatment. Early treatment and medical documentation create the temporal relationship that insurance companies will be looking for when they are being asked to pay for necessary medical care.
- Showing a clear temporal relationship between a motor vehicle crash and the documentation of treatment for a condition or injury also makes it easier to get a full and fair legal settlement for your TBI after a car accident when it is caused by another driver’s carelessness or negligence behind the wheel. Delays in seeking treatment hurt your ability to get better faster and make a good recovery, but it also often makes it harder for your attorney to get a reluctant insurance company to pay for your treatment and makes it harder to get a fair legal settlement.
- Don’t try to “tough it out”: This brain injury is a serious injury that may even become fatal if you don’t seek treatment right away. As a lawyer, I’ve seen so many instances where people felt like they didn’t want to “complain,” but within days or weeks what they thought would be a minor injury or something that would go away becomes far more serious.
- Talk to an attorney who is experienced at helping people injured in motor vehicle crashes. Most experienced lawyers have helped people suffering from TBI after a car accident. The initial call is always free so at the very least you will be informed as to what your insurance company is responsible to pay and what medical help and wage loss you are entitled to. An attorney can also help you review your medical records as well as the treatment and care you’re receiving to make sure bills are getting paid and they can use a car accident settlement calculator to help you assess what your case might be worth if your pain and disability was caused by another driver’s negligence or carelessness.
- Tell your auto insurance company about your TBI after a car accident. If you live in Michigan, make sure to include this in your application for No-Fault benefits, which is also referred to as your “written notice of injury” – which must be given to your No-Fault auto insurance company “within 1 year after the accident.” (MCL 500.3145(1) and (4))
- Do not sign any settlements, releases, or waivers related to your crash: Until you have talked with an experienced attorney who is looking out for your interests, do not sign any settlements, releases, or waivers that are presented to you by your auto insurance company, the at-fault driver’s auto insurer or any other insurance companies or persons.
How to claim
In Michigan, you start your claim for TBI after a car accident by filing an application for No-Fault benefits with the responsible auto insurance company, according to the No-Fault law’s “priority” rules. The No-Fault insurer will pay for your medical bills and your lost wages if you cannot return to work.
Can I sue for TBI after a car accident?
Yes. If your auto insurance company refuses to pay for – or cuts-off – No-Fault benefits related to the TBI after a car accident you have suffered and may be continuing to suffer, then you can sue for unpaid, overdue medical bills, attendant care, medical mileage, replacement services and lost wages because your injuries have prevented you from returning to work.
You can also sue the at-fault driver for pain and suffering compensation as a result of your crash-related injuries, but you will first have to show that the other driver was at-fault for causing the collision and that your mental trauma constitutes a “serious impairment of body function” under our auto law.
Additionally, you may be able to sue the at-fault driver for other economic damages, such as excess and future medical bills and lost wages.
Frequently, a TBI after a car accident is caused when a person’s head strikes a steering wheel, window, dashboard or some other solid object during a crash.
But a person’s brain can be injured even if there is no direct blow or jolt to the head.
The force created by the sudden impact of a motor vehicle crash causes a person’s head to violently whip backward and then forward, which results in the person’s brain crashing first against the front interior of the skull and then against the back interior of the skull. This can result in a contusion (bruising) or a brain hemorrhage (bleeding from the brain within the skull).
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, then you may be suffering from TBI after a car accident and you should report these symptoms immediately to your doctor so that you can be promptly diagnosed and start receiving necessary treatment:
- Loss of consciousness
- Loss of memory of events immediately before the crash
- Loss of memory of events immediately after the crash
- Feeling dazed, disoriented or confused
- Feeling drowsy and/or difficult to arouse
- Difficulty thinking clearly and reasoning
- Difficulty making decisions and solving problems
- Difficulty concentrating and paying attention
- Difficulty communicating
- Word-finding difficulty
- Problem-solving difficulty
- Poor judgment
- Lack of insight
- Slurred speech
- Movement disorders
- Nausea or vomiting
- Balance problems
- Blurred vision
- Sensitivity to noise and light
- Ringing in ears
- Lost of sense of taste and/or smell
- Change in mood
- Decrease in energy levels
- Change in sex drive
- Change in sleep patterns
- Sleep disorders
- Difficulty with planning and organization
- Increased aggression
What is a mild traumatic brain injury?
A “mild” traumatic brain injury is still a traumatic brain injury. Calling it “mild” is just a subjective medical classification. It doesn’t mean the disabilities and impairments you will suffer are mild. A mild traumatic brain injury is a very serious injury that can affect your cognitive, physical and psychological functioning for the rest of your life.
Testing and diagnosis
Even though MRIs and CT scans can show structural changes in the brain, not all brain injuries will show up on these diagnostic imaging tests.
To properly diagnose a TBI after a car accident, doctors frequently rely on functional testing as well as diagnostic imaging that includes Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and a Single Photon Emission Computerized Tomography (SPECT).
Additionally, through a series of tests, neuropsychologists can help identify the existence and extent of this injury.
Treatment for TBI after a car accident
Treatment includes: cognitive-behavioral remediation, pharmacologic management, assistive technology, environmental manipulation, education and counseling.
Recovery from TBI after a car accident
Recovery depends heavily on a prompt diagnosis and a thorough, personalized course of treatment.
The recovery challenges that survivors face include:
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Alzheimer’s Disease
Choosing a lawyer
If you or someone you know has suffered a TBI after a car accident, it’s imperative that you find a lawyer who specializes in traumatic brain injury cases, and who is very familiar with the auto law.
Why? Because traumatic brain injury lawsuits can be challenging for lawyers to prove. Many traumatically brain injured accident victims appear “normal.” They often speak well and do not display obvious signs of a brain injury. Additionally, many people – especially insurance adjusters – don’t understand that a “mild” traumatic brain injury is still a very serious injury and that the “mild” designation is nothing but a subjective medical classification that in no way describes the disabilities and impairments that a survivor will be forced to endure. Finally, many survivors are wrongly diagnosed and, thus, deprived of necessary treatment because their brain injury didn’t show up on an MRI or a CT-scan (Hint: Many of these injuries are not susceptible to detection on MRIs and CT-scans).
Therefore, if an attorney does not specialize in traumatic brain injury lawsuits, he or she will not know what to look for to prove and win your case.
Defense lawyers often hire notorious doctors, also called “independent” medical examiners, who accuse people of exaggerating their injuries or of having pre-existing conditions. It’s important to hire a traumatic brain injury lawyer who knows how to protect you, and who can expose these “experts” and their malicious, misleading accusations.
Need help finding the right lawyer for TBI after a car accident? Call Michigan Auto Law first
If you have suffered TBI after a car accident and would like to speak to an experienced injury attorney, call toll free anytime 24/7 at (800) 777-0028 for a free consultation with one of our attorneys. You can also get help from an experienced accident attorney by emailing [email protected] or you can use the chat feature on our website.
Our lawyers have been handling traumatic brain injury litigation for more than 50 years. We understand the physical, emotional and psychological hardships you are experiencing from your accident.
We can also recognize the signs and symptoms of these injuries, and we have the resources and capabilities to recover for you.
Attorney Steven Gursten is past-President of the American Association for Justice’s Traumatic Brain Injury Group and lectures to attorneys across the country on these types of cases. He also sits on the lawyer committee for the Sarah Jane Brain Project, which is dedicated to helping children with pediatric brain injury.
Steve has received the highest recorded jury verdicts and settlements for Michigan traumatic brain injury cases, according to Michigan Lawyers Weekly, including a $5.65 million verdict, a $4.2 million verdict and a $2.5 million settlement. All of those cases had defense offers of only $100,000-$250,000.