It's a surprisingly common lapse: Many personal injury attorneys fail to look for traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) in the cases they take—or hesitate to take on disputes that involve them in the first place. Diagnosing and proving a brain injury, especially a mild TBI (MTBI), can be a challenge. That makes such cases high-risk, high-reward endeavors, which many lawyers find daunting.
They shouldn’t be so quick to shy away from them, though. Identifying a TBI can increase the value of a case significantly, even if it makes negotiating a settlement or winning a trial more difficult. My firm’s recent experience with one client might be instructive: Discovering a TBI enabled us to settle for more than three times the original offer. Here’s what you should know about identifying TBIs in personal injury cases.
MBTIs in Motor Vehicle Accidents
A client was T-boned at around 35 miles per hour, injuring her and causing her car’s airbags to deploy. A family member took her to the emergency room for evaluation, where a trauma doctor performed a manual exam and concluded that our client had suffered a whiplash injury. They prescribed pain medication and anti-inflammatories, then sent her home with instructions to follow up if she experienced pain for more than two weeks.
Despite following the physician’s recommendations, our client developed severe headaches, light and sound sensitivity, ringing in the ears, lightheadedness and neck pain only 48 hours or so later. Five days after the accident, she retained Wilshire Law Firm.
The insurance adjuster initially offered our client $20,000 on a 100/300 policy (meaning the policy covered up to $100,000 of bodily injury treatment costs per injured person in an accident, and up to $300,000 of bodily injury liability costs per accident). After a full neurological evaluation and treatment, she was diagnosed with an MTBI and settled for $75,000.
Results like this are far from unusual. Identifying and pursuing TBIs and MTBIs in similar cases enables us to greatly increase the value of personal injury disputes and help our clients get the resources they need to make a full recovery.
What Should You Know About TBI Cases?
Proving the incidence of a severe TBI, which can cause long-term memory loss or motor control, can be relatively simple—but doing the same for mild or moderate brain injuries is often a far bigger challenge.
Knowledge of TBI symptoms is invaluable for personal injury attorneys, enabling them to identify which cases ought to be looked at more closely by an expert. Understanding the various types of TBIs and their symptoms also benefits injured parties who independently want to seek medical help or tell an attorney that they wish to pursue a TBI case.
What Are the Different Types of TBIs?
Most fall under one of the following three categories:
• Mild TBIs/concussions. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, three of every four traumatic brain injuries are concussions, making them the most common such injury. Generally, individuals with a mild TBI are unconscious for fewer than 30 minutes following their injury and experience confusion for about a day. It’s important to note, though, that some people with a mild TBI never lose consciousness at all.
• Moderate TBIs. Those who experience a moderate TBI are generally unconscious for longer than a half-hour and experience confusion for up to a week after the injury.
• Severe TBIs. These will usually cause a person to lose consciousness for more than a day and experience confusion for a week or longer.
Some TBIs, such as penetrating brain injuries, are more evident (and therefore easier to prove) than others. The most difficult to diagnose and prove are typically mild or moderate TBIs, which might not show up on imaging such as MRI or CT scans and require dedicated care from a neurologist to diagnose, prove and address.
Symptoms of TBIs
According to the Cleveland Clinic, common signs of a traumatic brain injury include:
- light and smell sensitivity
- dilated pupils, blurred vision and slurred speech
- lightheadedness, dizziness, fainting or fatigue
- headaches, nausea and vomiting
- restlessness, agitation and trouble sleeping
- confusion and memory problems
- behavior and mood changes
- convulsions or seizures
If you or someone you know has recently been injured and experienced any of these symptoms, discuss them with an attorney. A good personal injury lawyer will connect you to experts for consultations and integrate your TBI into your case, helping you obtain the compensation you need to recover.
If you’re an attorney and a potential client comes to you with any of these symptoms after suffering a head injury, it might be worth organizing a consultation with a neurologist and evaluating the person for a TBI. Successfully pursuing a TBI case will likely net your client more compensation, helping them cover the long-term medical care many TBIs require.
Incorporating traumatic brain injuries into our caseload at Wilshire has enabled our team to recover significantly greater recompense for clients, helping our firm grow exponentially. Whether you’re an attorney or a potential client, don’t let a potential TBI go undiagnosed. The success of your case could depend on it.
BOBBY SAADIAN, Esq., is the Founding President of Wilshire Law Firm. Since he founded the firm in 2007, it has grown to more than 50 attorneys and 250 legal professionals and was ranked Tier 1 in Plaintiffs’ Personal Injury by U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” for 2021 and 2022. Known for his legal acumen and philanthropy, Saadian sits on the board of directors for the Brain Society of California, CAOC and CAALA, among other prestigious legal, educational and charitable organizations.