Articles Posted in Traumatic Brain Injury

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emergency-room-3323451_1920-copy-300x200Traumatic brain injury (TBI) issues are a frequent topic for us. If you have read any of our past blogs, then you know we have big concerns that TBI victims are not diagnosed, not treated and not understood by both the legal and medical systems. Many issues contribute to the lack of understanding and treatment. Even many medical professionals fail to understand the significance of TBI issues.

A recent research study published in JAMA Network Open asked an important question — Do patients with mild traumatic brain injury receive adequate levels of follow-up care? You can read my entire post for more discussion of this issue. If you want an immediate answer, then it is “no” on follow-up care. According to the study author, a large proportion of TBI patients do not receive follow-up care after a personal injury even when continuing to suffer postconcussive problems.

The study followed patients who had been to the emergency room with a TBI at 11 different hospitals. Each of these hospitals was a level 1 trauma center – A hopital that provides the highest level of care to trauma patients. If you want to know more about the distinction in hospitals, the Alabama Department of Public Health has a map that indicates the Level 1 trauma centers in our state. Sadly, only Huntsville, Birmingham and Mobile/Baldwin Counties presently have Level 1 hospitals. A Montgomery channel has even written about the lack of a Level 1 hospital in that part of the State. What does this tell us about the TBI study? It tells us that it followed patients treated at the best trauma hospitals. Keep that in mind as I suspect the percentage of patients with no follow-up is much higher when you consider other hospitals.

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Blackwell Law Firm - Helping Alabama TBI VictimsWe have prepared many cases involving traumatic brain injury (TBI). This includes TBI caused by both automobile accidents and workplace accidents. TBI cases are very different than your “normal” car wreck or personal injury case.

Do you think routine medical professionals typically understand TBI? Think again. TBI is often misunderstood by medical professionals. Many medical professionals have wrong opinions about TBI. I’ve heard non-specialists WRONGLY state a patient has no TBI because a CT scan came back normal. In truth, many patients with mild TBI have normal scans. I’ve heard non-specialists WRONGLY assume a person with a “mild” TBI will always recover fully. Wrong again. While many mild TBI patients do recover, some continue to suffer long-term or permanent impairments. Many doctors and nurses do NOT understand this injury. That lack of understanding also makes TBI cases very difficult.

Because so many people fail to understand TBI cases, we advocate for strong family involvement. The injured person’s closest family and friends are typically in the best position to observe changes in behavior, emotion, memory or cognitive ability. We also recommend testing and treatment by specialists.

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Blackwell Law FirmIn a prior post, I asked “Can A Simple Blood Test Reveal Traumatic Brain Injury?” At the time, the research looked promising. After writing that prior post, we continued to follow developments. Now, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a blood test for this purpose.

Why is a blood test for traumatic brain injury (TBI) significant? In a short answer — Many TBI victims suffer without a diagnosis, without treatment and without understanding. Following a traumatic incident, emergency rooms frequently fail to diagnose TBI cases.

Think about it. After a serious accident, you rush to the hospital. Suddenly, you are in a crowded emergency room. It can be a chaotic scene. While emergency rooms are designed to handle “emergencies” like yours, they are also overflowing with patients who lack the resources or finances to seek basic care elsewhere. Emergency room physicians and nurses work hard. They have hard jobs. They work to treat all patients. But, life and death issues take priority. They must. With so many patients and so many problems, many significant TBI cases go undiagnosed and untreated. After all, many TBI patients look normal.

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Blackwell Law Firm - TBI Cases
Many patients with a “mild” traumatic brain injury (TBI) continue to suffer problems lasting years beyond their initial injury. Sometimes, the problems are permanent. TBI patients suffering long-term problems know their injuries are anything but mild. They are serious. The word “mild” is a clinical term and it is deceiving. The problems these injury victims suffer are both serious and life-altering. This is what the Brain Injury Association of America says about the term “mild” when applied to a TBI:

The term “mild brain injury” can be misleading. The term “mild” is used in reference to the severity of the initial physical trauma that caused the injury. It does not indicate the severity of the consequences of the injury.

A guide published by the State of Michigan to help TBI victims with their recoveries lists many of the long-term problems these patients suffer. They include:

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Photo by Dierk Schaefer
Are traumatic brain injuries (TBI) being diagnosed by emergency rooms? It’s a topic of concern in our personal injury practice. We frequently help families struggling because a loved one suffers a TBI from an accident. We regularly see these injuries in both car accidents and work-related job site accidents. Traumatic brain injuries can drastically change the lives of individuals as well as entire families.

Early documentation and diagnosis are frequent issues in our TBI cases. Why do many TBI victims lack early diagnosis or treatment? Initially, emergency rooms focus on immediate life-saving issues. A mild TBI may not be immediately life-threatening. Emergency rooms often neglect to document or diagnose broader cases of head trauma. This lack of documentation and care may continue beyond the initial ER visit. Later physicians are often inexperienced in mild traumatic brain injuries. These physicians may focus on the particular physical injury within their specialty while neglecting a TBI. Insurance companies also contribute to the problem with proper care. In workers’ compensation cases where the insurance company selects your doctors, insurers routinely ignore complaints. For insurance companies, it’s about saving money instead of providing care. These patients may never see a physician experienced or skilled with TBI issues.

The delayed diagnosis of TBI cases has two very bad effects. First, delays in diagnosis impact healing. Second, delays in diagnosis make it much more difficult to prove an accident caused your injury in court. Causation (did the accident cause your TBI) can become a huge issue in these cases.

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Photo by Mark Goebel
In June, I wrote a post discussing distracted driving by commercial truck drivers. You can read the post here: Distracted Driving And Commercial Trucks — A Deadly Combination. That post discusses a terrible distracted driving case where a truck driver crashed into a group of nursing students.

The crash killed five nursing students and severely injured others. Afterwards, the trucking company quietly settled claims from the families of the nursing students killed. However, one of the severely injured nursing students and her lawyer prepared for trial.

In January, a jury awarded $15 Million to this surviving nursing student. The student suffers from a traumatic brain injury caused by the crash. I have two instant takeaways from the jury verdict.

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Photo by KOMUnews

Emergency Rooms Fail To Diagnose Many Traumatic Brain Injuries

In past posts, I’ve discussed problems with emergency room protocols for accident victims who may be suffering a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Emergency rooms often fail to diagnose significant cases of TBI as well as significant disc injuries in the spine. Our office regularly interviews victims of car accidents and work-related accidents with injuries left undiagnosed by emergency room personnel.

I get it. Emergency rooms are often crowded and chaotic. Emergency room professionals must worry about immediate life and death issues. Will the patient live? Is the patient at risk of paralysis? How do we stabilize the patient? These questions take priority. Yet, many significant TBI cases are left undiagnosed and untreated.

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Did you know pituitary gland damage is common in traumatic brain injury (TBI) cases? According to a recent article discussing pituitary gland damage in TBI cases:

Many studies have shown that a high percentage of patients who suffer mild, moderate, or severe TBIs may have some form of pituitary dysfunction in the first three months following the injury. While most of these patients’ symptoms go away over the following nine months or so, many still have pituitary hormone dysfunction by the end of a year.

Recent medical research shows a significant number of TBI patients actually continue to suffer chronic, or long-term, pituitary gland injury:

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In the article “Getting Back on the Bike:  My Insurance-Driven Recovery,” a brain injury patient tells his recovery story. The patient, David, was riding his bicycle when a car struck him. In the years following his accident, David has healed from his physical injuries. Yet, he continues to suffer problems from his brain injury.

David’s story involves a life forever changed following a traumatic brain injury. It’s a story other head injury patients will understand.

Traumatic brain injuries affect many families. Many families have a loved one who suffers head injury problems from an automobile accident, motorcycle accident, bicycle accident or workplace accident. David’s story of healing reveals several common truths for brain injury patients. What are these common truths? They are:

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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: