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Three Major Brain Injury Myths

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) can devastate entire families. These injuries often go undiagnosed and untreated. Some victims don’t even understand their problems. And, victims who do realize their problems, may still deny them to others.

Even when individuals suffering brain injuries seek medical help, they often face health care professionals who lack a proper understanding of these injuries. In our law practice, we have seen countless brain injury victims lost in a medical system that provides little or no help.

Today, I want to discuss three common brain injury myths. These common myths are:

False Myth 1 — You Cannot Suffer Brain Injury Without A Loss Of Consciousness

Over the years, we’ve helped many clients suffering traumatic brain injury. More often than not, the paramedic or emergency room records contain a notation the patient did not lose consciousness. We know when we see these cases that the defense lawyer will seize upon this notation and argue there can be no brain injury. Yet, the defense lawyer is wrong in this argument. While a loss of consciousness is certainly one sign or symptom of a possible TBI, it is not necessary. According to the Mayo Clinic, another sign or symptom of TBI is also:

No loss of consciousness, but a state of being dazed, confused or disoriented

Other medical experts agree. When we work with individuals and families after a possible TBI, we conduct in-depth interviews. Often, paramedics or emergency room personnel simply mark a yes or no answer concerning a loss of consciousness. The facts can be much deeper. Many of these individuals don’t fully know whether or not they lost consciousness. That’s because the injury created a period of disorientation or a period of being dazed in a state of altered consciousness. And, these individuals can suffer from mild TBI following their accident.

History provides us a very famous example of an individual who suffered significant brain injury without any loss of consciousness. This example is often studied by specialists in the medical field. This famous example is the story of Phineas Gage. Gage was a railroad worker in the 1800s. An explosion sent a metal rod through his head. Gage never lost consciousness. According to reports, he was talking after the accident with the iron rod actually protruding through his head. Gage recovered outwardly from the explosion. Yet, afterwards, his personality and emotional behavior was reported to have been profoundly impacted.

False Myth 2 — If Imaging Studies (Such As MRIs) Do Not Show Traumatic Brain Injury, Then You Have Not Suffered Brain Injury

This is another myth often repeated by medical professionals who don’t understand or treat brain injuries. Like the simple notation that a patient did not lose consciousness, this myth also often starts in the emergency room. I recently took the deposition of a board-certified neurologist in a brain injury case. I knew the defense lawyer would argue that the negative MRI and CT at the hospital meant my client did not suffer a mild brain injury. While I knew the defense attorney was wrong, I wanted the doctor to testify to this fact. So, I asked the neurology specialist questions to obtain the following testimony:

Question:  In patients with brain injury, do CT scans in the hospital or MRIs often appear normal right after the accident?

Answer:     They can, depending on the extent of the brain injury, yes.

Question:  That’s something you see fairly often in your practice?

Answer:     Yes, more times than not.

We frequently deal with defense lawyers trying to use this myth against the victims of head trauma. In order to counter this myth, your attorney needs several things. First, your attorney needs a basic understanding of head injury cases. These cases can easily be lost by attorneys who lack that understanding. Second, your attorney needs to take the time and discuss with you and your family the details of your accident. Third, your attorney needs to develop the testimony from real medical specialists in order to educate the judge and jury at trial.

False Myth 3 — Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries Are Not Disabling

This is a false argument we hear over and over in trial. Defense lawyers like this argument because head injury victims often look perfectly normal. It’s much easier for a judge or jury to understand an injury when the victim is visibly limited physically. Brain injuries are complicated. The impacts are complex. And, the lasting effects of TBI can produce tremendous disability. In one recent case, we represented a TBI client who now suffers crippling headaches throughout the month. Sometimes this victim is able to function normally. Other times, she cannot function at all. In an earlier post, I also discussed long-lasting problems with decision-making and judgment suffered by some TBI victims. These injuries can be very devastating and very disabling. Because TBI victims may appear normal at first glance, these victims often must deal both with their disabilities and the doubts of others around them.

If you or a loved one suffer from a possible TBI, seek the medical specialists needed to treat your injury. Don’t continue to suffer simply because others believe TBI myths that are false.