Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are extremely serious injuries that can affect victims and their families for a lifetime. Our lawyers have decades of experience helping clients obtain fair compensation for their TBIs, and we strive to stay informed and educate the public and the legal community about these devastating injuries.
What Is a Traumatic Brain Injury?
A traumatic brain injury is often caused by a blow to the head or a penetrating injury that causes a disruption in brain function. Some important points about brain injuries:
- TBI symptoms may take time to manifest; always see a doctor immediately after taking a hard hit to the head, even if you believe you are not injured.
- The term “mild brain injury” is misleading. Any injury to the brain can cause serious, long-term consequences, even if the injury is not life threatening.
- A concussion is a brain injury. If you think, “I just have a concussion; I do not need a doctor,” think again. Left untreated, concussions can cause long-lasting effects.
Causes of Brain Injuries
The leading cause of TBI for adolescents and adults is motor vehicle accidents. Newborns can also suffer brain injuries at birth due to lack of oxygen to the brain. We have an extensive understanding of many areas involved with brain injuries, including:
- Long term effects of TBIs
- Long term prognosis for brain injuries
- Medical care and different brain injury therapies
- Rehabilitation techniques and different rehab facilities
- Life care plans and vocational rehabilitation
- Social Security, Medicaid, and dealing with medical bills
- Pediatric brain injuries
- Brain injury support groups
- Guardianships and special needs trusts for brain injury victims
- Here is an infographic detailing other ways you can injure your brain
Males between ages 15 and 24 are most susceptible to brain injuries due to their high-risk lifestyles. Children under age 4 and people over age 75 are susceptible to brain injuries as a result of slip and fall accidents. Other common causes of TBI include physical assault, athletic injuries, shaken-baby syndrome, and accidents at home, work, or outdoors.
Consequences of Brain Injuries
- Cognitive: Short- or long-term memory loss; spatial disorientation; difficulty concentrating, communicating or planning
- Psychological/Behavioral: Anxiety; depression; mood swings; agitation; impulsivity
- Physical: Seizures; headaches; speech impairment; partial or complete paralysis of the body; vision, hearing, smell or taste loss
Our nationally board-certified civil trial lawyers are dedicated to helping you obtain compensation for medical expenses, rehabilitation, lost income, pain, and suffering as well as other hardships you have endured due to your brain injury. Our experienced brain injury lawyers have decades of experience and have successfully recovered on behalf of our clients in Indiana and nationwide. Representing victims across the country, our attorneys serve each of our brain injury clients with compassion and the utmost skill and diligence, as well as personalized attention.
Brain Injury Symptoms
Brain injuries almost always result in a deterioration of an exorbitant amount of a person’s brain cells, but the time that it takes for someone to see any significant symptoms from brain injuries always varies, as no brain injuries are identical. According to the Brain Injury Association of America, it is estimated that about 2.6 million Americans per year suffer from some kind of brain injury, and over 5 million Americans who have suffered from a brain injury require daily assistance.
Being able to identify and treat a brain injury properly and as soon as possible is crucial for a brain injury victim’s recovery. This page is dedicated to helping individuals and their loved ones who suffer from brain injuries by providing the information they need to understand a comprehensive overview of what kinds of brain injuries commonly occur and their specific symptoms, how long head injury symptoms last, what exactly happens when someone has brain damage and the healing process of brain damage.
Brain Injury Symptoms
In order to fully understand how different symptoms occur with different brain injuries, it’s crucial to understand the variety of brain injuries that commonly occur, and how they happen. The two types of brain injuries include traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and acquired brain injuries (ABI).
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is caused by an external force that forces the brain to move inside the skull, which in turn damages the brain immediately or over time.
An acquired brain injury (ABI) happens on a cellular level and occurs due to extreme pressure being put on the brain. Sometimes a tumor is the result of this pressure and other times the pressure could be the result of a neurological illness, which is typically the case when people suffer from a stroke.
The common causes associated with acquired brain injuries include infection, poisoning/exposure to toxic substances, strangulation/choking/drowning, stroke, tumors, heart attacks, neurological illnesses, aneurysms and illegal drug abuse.
Both TBI and ABI injuries are connected in that they occur after birth. TBI and ABI injuries and their symptoms are the primary focus of this page because, at times, their symptoms can be much harder for people to identify, and more frequently, can lead to litigation. One last type of injury is congenital brain damage which result from birth trauma or genetics.
How a Traumatic Brain Injury Changes Lives
At Doehrman Buba, our Indianapolis brain injury attorneys are nationally recognized for their in-depth knowledge and decades of experience regarding traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). We have worked closely with the Brain Injury Association of Indiana for more than 30 years in various leadership capacities and as a corporate sponsor. We have testified at the General Assembly and worked on legislation and grants that assist consumers, survivors, and health care providers. We have lectured extensively on the complexities of brain injury litigation throughout the country. Our experience in the area of brain injury law has provided us with a comprehensive understanding of the impact TBI will have on the victim—even a so-called “mild” brain injury (an altered state of consciousness after a blow to the head or to the brain), such as a concussion or memory loss, can change the victim’s life and have an effect on the victim’s family long-term. A traumatic brain injury can affect . . . anyone, anytime, anywhere.
TBI Treatment Options
If you suffer a brain injury because of another’s negligence, it is important to understand the treatment options available to you and your family. Treatment and therapy options for traumatic brain injuries can be costly, which is why finding the best legal representation to fight on your behalf is so important. These options include:
- Psychotherapy and physical therapy
- Neuropsychological assessment
- Diagnostic studies
- Regular office visits with a neurologist and other medical specialists
- Medications to help alleviate the effects of the brain injury
- Speech and occupational therapy
- Rehabilitation centers
- Day treatment programs
Categories of Brain Injury Symptoms
There are four primary categories of brain damage symptoms for both TBI and ABI injuries including:
Mild TBI Symptoms
It’s extremely important to distinguish the difference between mild and severe TBI injuries. TBI injuries are technically classified as mild if the victim loses consciousness or is disoriented for less than 30 minutes. Many times, mild TBI symptoms go overlooked, which is common with many concussions suffered through sports injuries, and the symptoms of mild traumatic brain injuries can occur much later than the time of the initial injury.
The cognitive or behavioral symptoms of a mild TBI include:
- Mood changes or swings
- Concentration or memory problems
- Feeling anxious or depressed
The physical symptoms include:
- Loss of consciousness for a few seconds to a couple of minutes
- A prolonged state of confusion or disorientation
- Vomiting or nausea
- Drowsiness or fatigue
- Sleeping more than usual
- Loss of balance or dizziness
The perceptual symptoms include:
- Blurred vision
- Changes in ability to smell
- Ringing in the ears
- A bad taste in the mouth
- Sensitivity to sound or light
These symptoms are often very subtle and not recognized by the injured person or their loved ones because the injured person looks normal and typically moves around normally although they are not feeling or thinking normally. This is why it’s usually the injured person’s family and friends who originally notice the symptoms and changes in behavior before the injured person realizes they have a problem.
Severe TBI Symptoms
Severe brain injuries are defined as brain injuries that result in a loss of consciousness or disorientation of over 30 minutes and can result in the Glasgow Coma Scale at 3 to 8.
There are several factors that come into play when it comes to measuring the impact of a severe TBI, a subdural hematoma, and these include things like the severity of the initial injury, the functions affected, the rate of physiological recovery and much more.
The cognitive symptoms of a severe TBI include difficulties pertaining to:
- Speed of processing
- Language processing
Speech and language problems commonly occur with a severe TBI, including the following symptoms:
- Slurred speech
- Problems reading/writing
- Receptive aphasia (not understanding spoken word)
- Expressive aphasia (difficulty speaking/being understood)
- Speaking very fast or slow
The physical symptoms include the following:
- Loss of consciousness from several minutes up to hours at a time
- Repeated vomiting or nausea
- Persistent headaches or headaches that get worse over time
- Seizures or convulsions
- Clear fluids draining from ears and nose
- Numbness or weakness in toes and fingers
- Loss of coordination
- Menstrual difficulties
- Sleep disorders
- Appetite changes
- Loss of stamina
The perceptual symptoms include the following:
- Loss or diminished sense of taste or smell
- Loss of hearing
- Ringing in the ears
- Increased sensitivity to sounds
- Partial or total loss of vision (or blurred vision)
- Weakness of eye muscles and double vision
- Involuntary eye movements (nystagumus)
- Increased sensitivity to light (photophobia)
The emotional/behavioral symptoms include:
- Dependent behaviors
- Lack of motivation
- Denial/lack of awareness of symptoms
- Flattened or heightened reactions or emotions
Acquired brain injuries also exhibit a combination of the symptoms involved in both moderate and severe traumatic brain injuries.
How long do brain injury symptoms last?
How long brain injury symptoms last is unpredictable due to the fact that every injury is unique. Depending on the severity of the brain injury, the symptoms can last just a few weeks up to months and even years. Brain injuries typically require a very slow rehabilitation process, and within that process, the injured person will undergo an entire variety of symptoms as listed above.
Identifying and diagnosing a brain injury as soon as possible is extremely important because it allows the injured person the opportunity to educate themselves about their potential symptoms so that they can better recognize them in the recovery months ahead.
Doctors typically can only guess how long symptoms will last during the first couple of months after a severe brain injury. After about six months, an injured person will see the greatest amount of visible progress in their symptoms. Although much of the alleviating of symptoms does occur within the first six months, it is a common misconception that recovery ceases after about two years.
Today, it is perfectly normal for people to see significant decreases in their symptoms after two years of recovery, and usually people never stop re-gaining their skills and decreasing their symptoms.
Emotional/behavioral symptoms typically last the longest because they are subtle and more difficult to rehabilitate within shorter timeframes.
What happens when you have brain damage?
No matter how severe the brain injury, anyone who suffers from a brain injury must get immediate medical attention.
The first thing that typically happens when someone has brain damage is that they’ll receive a neurological exam, like an MRI or CT scan, and doctors will use these assessments to make sure that the patient can prevent further injury, ensure blood and oxygen are flowing correctly throughout the brain and also ensure that the patient’s blood pressure is under control.
Within a person’s damaged brain something called brain plasticity occurs, which essentially details how other areas of a person’s brain will take over the activities of the damaged areas. During this process, new nerve pathways can be established using undamaged brain cells, and engaging in certain rehabilitation activities helps the new nerve pathways to develop.
This is why most patients who suffer from brain damage benefit greatly from physical therapy, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and psychological support, among other forms of rehabilitation.
Many times, the symptoms of a specific brain injury are connected to the specific region of the brain in which the injury occurs. Although it can be hard to distinguish, there are specific symptoms that are connected to the frontal, parietal, occipital and temporal lobes, as well as the brain stem and cerebellum.
Essentially what happens when you have brain damage is that the areas of your brain that don’t typically function towards a specific purpose are then used for those purposes to counterbalance the damaged brain tissues and nerves, which then results in specific symptoms, like memory loss.
Can brain damage heal?
One of the major issues with brain damage is that brain cells do not regenerate once they are destroyed like almost all other cells within the body. Through brain plasticity, brain damage can heal. The major issue with the healing process of brain damage is that it simply takes time, and within the time frame of recovery a patient can undergo ebbs and flows that can be frustrating, and ultimately lead to more symptoms.
When it comes to healing a damaged brain, it’s crucial for the rehabilitation process to help the brain develop more alternative ways of functioning and essentially minimize the long-term effects of the brain injury.
Healing from brain damage also has a lot to do with coping successfully with symptoms and disabilities, and ultimately living life to the fullest potential post-injury.
You can also view our TBI Resource Guide for advice on dealing with the pain of living with a brain injury.
Treatment & Recovery for Brain Injury in Children
Recovering from a traumatic brain injury can take expensive medical treatment and long-term rehabilitation. In some instances, life-long care is required to maintain a good standard of living for the victim. We also understand the connection between pediatric brain injuries and education. Children who suffer brain injuries, especially subdural hematoma, often require additional education or educational opportunities tailored to the disabilities they have sustained as a result of their injury.
Typically, a pediatric TBI will require a detailed analysis of speech, vocational and physical therapy, or accommodation in the classroom. Most often, necessary accommodations are documented in a form of an Independent Educational Plan, also known as an IEP. It is critical that parents and caregivers know their rights and those of pediatric brain injury survivors. It is also critical parents understand what a TBI means for their children.
Our Indianapolis personal injury attorneys will skillfully seek the full compensation and benefits you are entitled to for medical expenses, rehab expenses, and other damages if your child suffers a traumatic brain injury because of another’s negligence.
Long-Term Effects of Traumatic Brain Injuries
The long-term effects of a brain injury will depend on the severity of the injury. In a moderate or severe brain injury, the victim will typically lose consciousness, ranging from a minute-long blackout to a coma. The longer the victim is unconscious, the more serious the long-term effects typically are. Some brain injury victims do not awaken from coma and remain in a persistent vegetative state; others may awaken but maintain minimal consciousness or awareness. The most serious injuries result in brain death.
However, even “mild” traumatic brain injuries cause serious issues, although they are not life threatening. Traditionally, concussions have been viewed by many as minor injuries. In recent years, however, because of the examples from the NFL, soccer, and our returning war heroes, it is now widely recognized that a concussion is a brain injury and can lead to significant long-term consequences.
Examples of the adverse effects that a brain injury, even a “mild” brain injury, can have on a person’s life include:
- Memory loss
- Increased irritability and emotionality
- Cognitive changes causing an inability to “think straight”; in cases of severe injury, cognitive impairments can be so substantial that the victim cannot care for himself or herself
- Sleep disturbances
- Chronic headaches
- Personality changes, including violent or irrational behavior; inability to tell right from wrong; or inability to empathize with others
Because these TBI symptoms can last indefinitely and actually get worse if not properly cared for, it is important that a person who has suffered a head injury receive timely and appropriate medical care.
You can also view our TBI Resource Guide for advice on dealing with the pain of living with a brain injury.
Long-Term Outlook for Brain Injury Patients
Brain injuries are largely unpredictable, as they can affect anyone, anytime, anywhere in different ways and vary in severity. As a result, there are rarely simple answers when it comes to determining the long-term prognosis of a traumatic brain injury (TBI). This is especially true in the time soon after the injury takes place, as it can take months—even years—to determine the long-term prognosis for a brain injury.
At Doehrman Buba, our Indianapolis brain injury lawyers are skilled advocates known for their representation of traumatic brain injury (TBI) survivors, their families, and their caregivers. One of our founding partners has lectured extensively throughout the country on the complexities of traumatic brain injury claims, and our firm has worked closely with the Brain Injury Association of Indiana and the Brain Injury Association of America for more than 30 years.
Important Factors for Long-Term Traumatic Brain Injury Prognosis
Despite the difficulty in determining the long-term prognosis for traumatic brain injuries, medical specialists often look at several important factors to determine the outlook for a brain injury:
- The location and size of the trauma to the damaged portions of the brain
- The length and severity of the loss of consciousness, if applicable
- The survivor’s recovery from the brain injury, including return to work, social integration, and family interaction
In general, the more severe the brain injury is, the longer the recovery period will be. At Doehrman Buba, our Indianapolis brain injury lawyers work diligently to obtain the full compensation our clients need to cover past, present, and future medical bills and rehabilitation costs. To do this, we consult with medical experts such as neurologists, neuropsychologists, therapists, and other health care providers, friends, and family to assess the long-term effects of TBI and how that brain injury will affect your life and your finances going forward, such as medical bills, home equipment, and renovations as well as ongoing treatment. Additionally, we take on the insurance companies and fight on your behalf, so you can focus on what is important—your recovery and your family.
A guardianship is a legal relationship between a court appointed guardian and an incapacitated individual. The guardian has the legal right and the responsibility to make decisions on behalf of the incapacitated person and protect that person’s interests. Guardianships are common in brain injury cases, and it is crucial to have an attorney who understands the process and implications.
Brain Injury and Guardianships
If your loved one has suffered a traumatic brain injury, his or her life may never be the same again. It is important to understand all available options as you begin to put the pieces back together. Depending on your situation, a guardianship may be the right answer for protecting the personal, medical, and financial interests of your incapacitated loved one.
As you consider your options, remember the importance of having the advice of an experienced attorney. At Doehrman Buba, our Indianapolis brain injury attorneys have considerable experience representing brain injury victims in Indiana and across the nation. This includes experience working with doctors to obtain the proper documentation and overseeing how a guardian is impacting patient’s life and finances.
Does Your Loved One Need a Guardian?
In determining whether a guardianship is the right answer, it is important to find the answer to the following question: Is your family member able to manage his or her own property, evaluate information effectively, and then communicate an informed decision? If not, you might consider a guardianship to protect your loved one’s finances, health, and safety. Our Indianapolis brain injury lawyer can help you legally appoint a guardian or, if one is already in place, we can help make sure the guardian has the tools to take care of a brain-injured person and is upholding his or her fiduciary obligations.
Guardianships vs. Powers of Attorney
A guardianship is not the only method for helping a brain injured person with important decisions. Sometimes an adult is incapacitated and a guardianship is necessary; a guardianship, however, confers all rights to another person and puts another person in almost complete control. In some situations, injured people may not need or want a guardianship if they can make some medical or financial decisions on their own in their own best interests. A lesser form of control and oversight in the form of a power of attorney may be more appropriate in such a case.
Some of the ways in which guardianships differ from powers of attorney include:
- The court must confer a guardianship after notice and a hearing; the parties to a power of attorney can typically create the power without court approval.
- The court must approve any substantive decision or request the guardian makes on the ward’s behalf. With a power of attorney, court approval is usually not necessary.
If the brain injured person is involved in a lawsuit to get compensation for the injury, the guardian must go through the probate court for approval of any settlement, asset protection, or proceeds distribution. A power of attorney allows the parties to make decisions about when to settle and how to distribute the settlement funds without probate court interference, which can save time. However, whether a guardianship or a power of attorney is best for the injured person depends on the particular circumstances of the case, so discussing these options with an experienced attorney is the best way to begin.
Special Needs Trusts
If a loved one is disabled because of another person’s negligence, the family may be protected by a “special needs trust.” A special needs trust is generally available to those folks who are under the age of 65 and will be receiving Medicaid (or eventually Medicare) benefits because of their injuries. A special needs trust is especially significant when there is a third party case or a claim against the person that caused harm. In those circumstances, a special needs trust may protect the assets of the injured person, for his or her benefit, while continuing Medicaid and Medicare benefits in the future. If an injured person accepts any form of compensation following an injury, the government may require the family member to “spend down” or forfeit his or her right to basic benefits that they would have otherwise been entitled to until all of the settlement money is spent. This is a dangerous proposition, as your injured loved one should have access to as many benefits as possible to make the remainder of his or her life as fulfilling as the start of his or her life.
To avoid the loss of benefits in this situation, it is often necessary to set up a special needs trust. These trusts are designed to hold assets for the benefit of a disabled individual, but the trusts are set up in such a way that they allow the beneficiary to collect compensation for the injury through a lawsuit without preventing the beneficiary from collecting the public benefits like Medicaid or Medicare that he or she so desperately needs.
At Doehrman Buba, our Indianapolis brain injury attorneys work closely with brain injury victims and their family members in Indiana and throughout the nation. Our partners have lectured extensively on the complexity of brain injury litigation, and we are committed to obtaining full and fair compensation for the victims of these catastrophic injuries.
Call our Indianapolis Brain Injury Lawyers
Curiosity and a willingness to explore new situations are the most charming qualities of a child, but they can also place children at risk for suffering catastrophic brain injuries. Pediatric brain injuries can occur in a variety of situations such as accidents on the playground, car accidents, birth injuries, or injuries on dangerous premises.
If your child has suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI), you do not have to face your child’s injury alone. Our Indianapolis personal injury attorneys bring tremendous experience to our practice. We are dedicated to helping brain injury victims get the fair compensation they deserve and have worked closely with the Brain Injury Association of Indiana for more than 30 years.
Our attorneys are AV-rated* and nationally renowned for their skilled representation of TBI victims. Firm partner Tom Doehrman has lectured extensively throughout the country on the complexities of traumatic brain injury claims. Our firm has worked closely with the Brain Injury Association of Indiana (BIAI) for more than 30 years. Tom Doehrman was Chairman of the Board of BIAI from 2001–2002 after 20 years as a Board member, and he currently sits on the Emeritus Board of Directors. Our brain injury practice is a very important part of our law practice, and helping brain injury victims and their families is our passion.