With more than 20 years experience as an attorney representing survivors of traumatic brain injury, I have seen first hand that the human skull isn’t designed to take impacts at the speeds encountered in cars and motorcycles, and those that baseballs reach.
Athletes and construction workers wear helmets, but every year 1.4 million Americans wish they had been wearing a helmet, which would have prevented traumatic brain injury (TBI). It is a major public health problem with an annual medical cost for brain injuries reaching $48 billion a year.
Add to the medical cost, the financial losses caused by these personal injuries. It’s staggering and the human toll is worse.
A traumatic brain injury can put a person in a wheelchair for life and kill the personality of a survivor. Traumatic brain injuries rob people of their memories and their cognitive skills. They become different people.
Helmets are effective, and not to wear them, riding bicycles, motorcycles and skiing, is a mistake.In Italy, a study of motorcycle and moped riders reached the clear conclusion that Italy’s mandatory helmet law saves lives and prevents TBIs.
When actress Natasha Richardson died from a brain injury that she sustained on a beginner ski slope, her death brought brief attention to head injuries. She was not wearing a helmet, and some observers asked whether a helmet would have saved her. Most believe that she would have avoided serious injury if a helmet had absorbed the force of her fall.
Many medical experts also believe that she would still be alive if she had sought an examination immediately after her injury. She died of an epidural hematoma, which means that her brain swelled from a bleed, but the blood had nowhere to go and built up lethal pressure in her skull. So her death does have two messages: protect your head in all potentially dangerous activities, and seek medical attention after a blow to the head. If your bell is rung, it may be cracked and an MRI can detect a bleeding blood vessel that needs to be monitored by an ER.
In one demographic category, Natasha Richardson was a typical TBI victim because she was engaging in a risky sporting activity. But in terms of age and sex, she was not a typical victim.
Males are twice as likely as females to suffer TBIs, and young people sustain them more than older people. The two age categories with the most TBIs are 0-4 because of falls and 15-19 because of motor vehicle crashes. Those numbers mean that many brain injury survivors will require specialized care for a long time.
Not only does TBI mean that survivors of severe trauma will require specialized care for a long time, but their families will be facing a life-altering event. Caring for someone with a brain injury is extremely more than challenging. It’s also very expensive and tremendously confusing. Families have to deal with medical, legal and health insurance issues, and many questions that they never considered before. Frequently, caregivers find themselves giving up their own lives and must deal with a major depression as a result.
It is also common, after a TBI, for siblings to leave home early and for divorce to follow when a parent gives up their life to care for a severe TBI.
Medical professionals at rehabilitation centers such as the leading Santa Clara Valley Medical Center Head Injury Rehabilitation Program do a fantastic job of helping TBIsurvivors restore their lives. VMC was in the forefront of TBIrehabilitation under the great insight and professional skill of Sheldon Berrol, MD who instituted this leading traumatic brain injury facility.
Equally tragic are those whose brain injury is “mild.” A mild brain injury leaves a survivor without the ability to do all that they did before and often times leaves them unemployable, suffering a drastic loss of income. Worse, they don’t look it. They look “normal” and as though they have never suffered an injury, although to everyone who knows them “they are a much different person.” Survivors of mild traumatic brain injury present one of the most challenging personal injury cases because they simply “look good” in the eyes of a jury and defendants and defense lawyers exploit this aspect of these survivors’ grief.
The bottom line: in representing survivors of TBI for more than 20 years, I know the professional help of an experienced personal injury attorney can provide survivors and their families with unmatched results.
If you need help, contact us. That’s what we do.
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