Car accidents and brain injuries: Resources for victims & their loved ones
As Cape Girardeau personal injury lawyers, we know that brain injuries are a common consequence of auto accidents. According to the Brain Trauma Foundation, there are currently at least 5.3 million Americans living with disabilities resulting from traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), and an estimated 53,000 more die from TBIs every year. Sadly, motor vehicle accidents are one of the leading causes of these life-altering injuries.
A brain injury can change everything in just a matter of seconds. How we think, how we function in our daily lives, how our bodies' systems function, and even our personalities can be instantly altered by a brain injury. Our brains are the most complex organ in our bodies: no two brains are alike, and accordingly, no two brain injuries are alike. In other words, a brain injury is just as complex as the brain itself. Factors like the cause of the injury, the location of the injury in the brain, and the severity of the incident can change how the injury impacts the injured person.
In the field of medicine, the severity of a brain injury is often predicted - the more severe the injury, the less improvement can be expected. In the aftermath of a brain injury, severity is typically measured by the length of the coma, the duration of the loss of consciousness, and/or the length of post-traumatic amnesia. However, the location of the injury can sometimes be a stronger indicator. For example, a TBI that involves damage to the brain's frontal lobes can be extremely debilitating, as the frontal lobes are involved in "motor function, problem solving, spontaneity, memory, language, initiation, judgment, impulse control, and social and sexual behavior."
In the legal field, the severity of a TBI is measured by its impact on a person's day-to-day life, and what it means in terms of loss of function, disability, or the need for life-time care.
A brain injury can be very obvious or very subtle. Sometimes there are no visible physical impairments or losses. A common myth is that "if a person looks okay they are okay." A person with a brain injury can seem okay in every way. However, brain injuries can present with all sorts of deficits in very different areas, from personality trait changes to memory loss to depression and malaise. Also, under certain circumstances - like significant emotional trauma, or time-based multi-tasking requirements - these deficits can become very apparent. Even if memory function tests, IQ tests, or neuro-exam results are "normal," a brain injury can still mean deficits are present and life has changed forever, both for the injury victim and for his or her loved ones.
The most important fact about brain injury is that it is individualized. The severity of a brain injury is based on how it affects a person's previous abilities, personality traits, and day-to-day capacities. It is important to treat someone with a brain injury with love, support, patience, and understanding.
If you or someone you know has suffered a brain injury, there are resources and support available. The Brain Injury Association of America provides information about support groups, treatments, and advocacy, along with other useful resources. And if the injury resulted from a car accident, it may be beneficial to seek advice from an attorney as well.