Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyers

Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI): Traumatic brain injuries generally result from some type of impact. TBIs occur when the brain gets pushed against the skull, leading to possible bruising of the brain, tearing of nerve fibers, and bleeding.

If you or someone you love suffered a traumatic brain injury, you may look the same on the outside but be forever changed on the inside. Brain injuries can be some of the most serious and complicated injuries, and we've seen firsthand the devastation they cause.

That's why we've spent over 35 years helping accident victims and their families get the money they need to pay medical bills and move on with their lives. Our attorneys are experienced in handling all aspects of brain injury cases. We know you have questions, and we're here to help you get the information you need.

The next few weeks, months, and even years might bring a lot of confusion, and you may not be sure where to turn. Let us handle the hassles of your case so you can focus on recovery.

Do I Have a Brain Injury Case?

Every accident is unique, so the best thing you can do is call our law firm for a free, no-obligation legal consultation. You tell us about the accident and your injuries (or your loved one's injuries), and we'll tell you if we think you have a brain injury case.

Here are some of the factors we use to determine whether you have a case:

  • The type of accident that caused your brain injury (car accident, motorcycle accident, slip,trip, and fall accident, pedestrian accident, etc.)
  • Who was at fault (another person, a defective product, a dangerous drug, a business, etc.)
  • The severity of your brain injury and brain trauma
  • Whether you were hospitalized, and whether you needed—or will need— surgery
  • How long it will take you to recover
  • If there is permanent damage or scarring
  • If you missed work because of your head injury
  • How your injury affects your family's financial security
  • Insurance coverage details (such as if you have full-tort coverage on your car insurance policy)

How We Prove Your Brain Injury Case

Brain injury cases are some of the most complicated types of legal claims. Insurance companies know the system and will try to take advantage of your lack of experience and, unfortunately, there are many opportunities for them try to get away with paying much less than they should.

That's why it's important to hire an attorney to protect your rights. At Edgar Snyder & Associates, we will fight to get you the most money possible for your brain injury case.

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Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer for a Brain Injury Case?

Yes, it is critical to hire an attorney if you suffered a severe head injury in an accident. Brain injury cases can be tricky, with complex paperwork and critical deadlines—that's why you need Edgar Snyder & Associates. We know how the insurance companies work, and we'll help you through this difficult time.

Why Are Brain Injury Cases Complicated?

Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of TBI cases is how hard it is to predict the amount and type of medical care you or your loved one will need in the future. Traumatic brain injuries—especially closed head injuries—tend to be "invisible injuries." While specialists are skilled at diagnosing and treating TBIs, it's difficult to foresee future medical complications.

When Should I Contact an Attorney?

You should get in touch with an attorney right away. In many cases, traumatic brain injury victims have no memory of the accident itself—they only remember getting in an ambulance or waking up in the hospital.

The sooner you get in touch with us, the sooner we can get started preserving evidence and reconstructing the accident. This gives us the best chance of getting you the compensation you deserve.

Don't Trust the Insurance Company to Look Out for You

While you're faced with all of these obstacles, the insurance company that covers the person or business at fault for the accident will try to offer you the lowest settlement possible. It's their job to:

  • Delay handling your claim, or rush you to accept a settlement
  • Deny that your loved one is injured
  • Defend their decisions in lengthy court battles

The insurance company may make you an offer that seems like a lot of money. However, with the amount of medical bills associated with traumatic brain injuries, that offer may not even cover the initial hospital stay. They may argue that your loved one isn't as injured as they truly are, or they may drag you through lengthy court proceedings to delay giving you the money you are entitled to, and may desperately need.

The bottom line: You need an experienced attorney who understands what fair compensation means for TBI survivors, and has the resources to prove your case. At Edgar Snyder & Associates, we will fight to recover the maximum amount of money possible for your brain injury.

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How Much is My Brain Injury Case Worth?

You need money to pay those bills, and you deserve compensation for your pain and suffering, and the person, business, or manufacturer at fault for your brain injury should be held responsible.

You shouldn't trust insurance companies or law firms that tell you upfront how much your brain injury case is worth—it's impossible to know that information until future medical needs are addressed. Each brain injury claim is unique, and there are various factors to consider, but there's one thing that never changes: You're more likely to receive more compensation if you hire an experienced attorney.

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How Much Does Hiring a Lawyer for My Brain Injury Case Cost?

Because severe head injuries can lead to piles of medical bills, hospital stays, surgeries, rehabilitation, and more, you may wonder whether hiring an attorney is affordable. It's tough enough to deal with the physical and emotional effects of a brain injury, let alone the financial problems it can cause.

You may be skeptical because you hear the phrases "free legal consultation" and "no fee" all the time. Because so many law firms claim to offer "free" services, it's easy to assume it couldn't be true. At our law firm, we want you to know exactly what we mean when we say "no fee."

  • We offer a free, no-strings-attached legal consultation. Know that when you call us for your free legal consultation, there's no catch. We'll discuss the details of the accident, and then we'll tell you if we think you have a case. You're not obligated to use our services.
  • We have what's called a contingent fee policy. This means we only collect money if we win your brain injury case or settle it in your favor. Sometimes proving a case costs money—lots of money. There are costs involved in gathering evidence, hiring experts, obtaining medical records, going to court (if necessary), etc. However, if we don't recover compensation for your brain injury case, all of those costs are our problem, not yours. There are no upfront or hourly attorney fees—you truly won't owe us anything if we don't get money for you.
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What is a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?

When a traumatic brain injury occurs, the neurons or nerve tracts can be affected. When that happens, they do not function correctly and, ultimately, affect the body's ability to perform daily tasks. Damaged neurons or neuron tracts can cause impairment or a complete inability to do a particular function.

Injury to the left side of the brain can cause:

  • Impaired logic
  • Decreased control over right-sided body movements
  • Difficulty speaking and understanding language
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Problems remembering words

Injury to the right side of the brain can cause:

  • Visual memory disturbance
  • Loss of "big picture"-type of thinking
  • Decreased control over left-sided body movements
  • Visual and spatial impairment

Injury to both sides of the brain—called a diffuse brain injury—can cause:

  • Confusion
  • Difficulty thinking and concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Cognitive impairment, including trouble remembering, learning new things, and making decisions
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Types of Brain Injuries

There are several different types of brain injuries:

  • Open Head Injuries – Open head injuries occur when an object goes through the skull and damages the brain. Typically, the damage will occur in the area where the object penetrated the skull, and can incude a skull fracture in addition to brain damage.
  • Closed Head Injuries – Closed head injuries—those that do not include penetration of the skull—are common in car accidents, slip, trip, and fall accidents, as well as pedestrian accidents. In closed head injuries, damage occurs at the point of impact but can affect every part of the brain. Many TBIs tend to be closed head injuries.
  • Deceleration Injuries (Diffuse Axonal Injuries) – These injuries occur when the brain is slammed back and forth inside the skull—like during a car accident. The axons, or single nerve cells, within the brain's neurons are compressed, stretched, and sometimes even torn. Torn axons die and cause brain damage. Severe brain injuries usually involve massive axon and neuron death.
  • Chemical/Toxic - Chemicals can damage the brain's neurons and cause widespread damage to the brain. Types of injuries caused by harmful chemicals and toxins include carbon monoxide poisoning and lead poisoning.
  • Hypoxia (Lack of Oxygen) – Hypoxia occurs when blood doesn't receive the oxygen it needs to deliver to major organs such as the brain. This causes severe brain damage. It can also cause a person to be "brain dead."
  • Infections - Infection caused by viruses and bacteria—such as meningitis—may lead to brain damage. Some dangerous drugs can also cause these types of life-threatening infections.
  • Stroke – A stroke occurs when blood flow is restricted to an area of the brain or other part of the body. Sometimes, an artery or vein can tear, causing hemorrhaging and mild to severe brain damage. Some stroke patients recover with rehabilitation, while others remain in a vegetative state. Many dangerous drugs, as well as trauma from an accident, are known to cause strokes.
  • Tumors – Dangerous drugs can cause tumors to grow on the brain. The tumors push on the brain, causing brain damage.

Mild and Severe Brain Injuries

Traumatic brain injuries are diagnosed as either mild or severe:

  • Mild TBIs – With mild TBIs, there is confusion/disorientation and loss of consciousness for fewer than 30 minutes. Symptoms include headache, problems thinking and remembering, mood swings, attention deficits, and frustration—even though CT scans and MRIs may come back normal. Concussions are considered mild TBIs. Mild TBIs are often missed at the time of the injury, and 15 percent of people are affected for at least one year following the event.
  • Severe TBIs – With severe TBIs, there is a loss of consciousness for more than 30 minutes. Memory loss also lasts longer than 24 hours, and effects can range from major cognitive problems to coma. People who survive severe TBIs may suffer permanent damage, including limited function of the arms and legs, emotional problems, and cognitive impairment.

Tests to Diagnose a Brain Injury

A neurologist or physician will conduct a neurological examination to determine the severity and type of the traumatic brain injury. They will consider a person's physical state and the amount of time he or she lost consciousness, as well.

There are two main tests doctors use to diagnose a TBI: the Glascow Coma Scale and the Rancho Los Amigos Scale.

Glascow Coma Scale

The Glascow Coma Scale is based on a 15-point scale. It estimates the severity of a brain injury by measuring motor response, verbal response, and eye opening.

Rancho Los Amigos Scale

The Rancho Los Amigos Scale measures the levels of awareness, behavior, and interaction with the environment, as well as cognitive response. It categorizes the patient in one of eight levels—with Level VIII (eight) being the least serious, and Level I (one) being the most serious.

Other tests that help doctors diagnose TBIs include:

  • Galveston Orientation and Amnesia Test (GOAT)
  • Oxford Test
  • Neuroimaging
  • Other Neuropsychological Testing
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Concussion

Concussions are extremely dangerous if not treated properly. To most people, you may look normal, but there's damage to the brain—affecting your ability to work and think clearly.

Concussion injuries can be unpredictable. You may be under a doctor's care for months or need to see a specialist regularly, resulting in piles of medical bills. If you, or someone you love, suffered a concussion from as accident, contact our law firm. You may have a case, and our concussion lawyers can help get you the compensation you need to get your life back on track – so you can focus on your health.

Concussion Symptoms

Concussion symptoms vary for each person, but they can include:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness and difficulty balancing
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Blurred vision
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Irritability or emotional disturbances
  • Confusion and problems concentrating
  • Memory loss
  • A foggy feeling
  • Slurred speech
  • Dilated pupils or uneven pupils

These symptoms can last for just a few days, but some patients who suffer mild-to-severe concussions experience them for months, as well as other long-term complications. They include:

  • Problems with memory
  • Difficulty with balance and coordination
  • Problems with concentration and judgment
  • Irritability and personality changes
  • Tinnitus (or ringing in the ear)
  • Problems sleeping
  • Headaches when concentrating or working for an extended period of time
  • Depression
  • Epilepsy

Second-Impact Syndrome

Second Impact Syndrome is another common concussion complication and happens when someone suffers a second concussion before the first has healed. When someone is healing from a concussion, the chemicals in their brain are uneven. A second concussion can result in brain swelling and can even be life-threatening.

Do's and Don'ts After a Concussion

It's important to seek medical treatment immediately following an accident, because recovering from a traumatic brain injury can be a long, slow process. Here are a few do's and don'ts to consider after a concussion:

  • Do rest your brain as much as possible.
  • Do avoid fast movements.
  • Do listen to your doctor's orders. You may have to miss work or work half-days until your doctor says it's safe for you to resume your daily activities.
  • Do avoid sudden or excessive exposure to light or sound.
  • Don't play video games or watch television with fast-moving images.
  • Don't play contact sports or exercise.
  • Don't do too much physical labor.
  • Don't stop taking your medication until a doctor says so – even if you're feeling better.
  • Don't drive unless your doctor says it's okay.
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Pennsylvania Concussion Safety Laws for Youth Sports

Research has shown that concussions can cause permanent brain damage and long-term medical complications.

Because they can be especially dangerous in children, the Safety in Youth Sports Act was enacted July 1, 2012. Pennsylvania is the 31st state to pass a strong youth sports concussion safety law.

About the Youth Sports Concussion Safety Law

Who This Law Protects

This law applies to and covers:

  • Students participating in sports teams at public schools
  • Non-interscholastic athletic competitions sponsored by or associated with a public school
  • Team and interschool practices
  • Scrimmage games

Concussions and Removal From Play

Athletes showing signs of a concussion or traumatic brain injury must be removed from play immediately by the coach. A game official, coach, certified athletic trainer, physician, physical therapist, or other designated official can alert the coach if they notice a player showing concussion symptoms.

Once an athlete is removed from play for signs of concussion, they can't return to play until they've been cleared medically by:

  • A licensed physician trained to evaluate and manage concussions OR
  • A licensed healthcare professional with training to evaluate and manage concussions OR
  • A licensed neuropsychologist trained to evaluate and manage concussions, and who has postdoctoral training in neuropsychology and specific training on concussions

Please note that athletic trainers can remove an athlete from play, but they can't give medical clearance for the athlete to return to play.

Punishment for Coaches Not Following the Act

Coaches who do not follow the safety standards set forth in the act are subject to the following punishment:

  • First Violation: Suspension from coaching any athletic activity for the remainder of the season
  • Second Violation: Suspension from coaching for the remainder of the season, as well as the next season
  • Third Violation: Permanent ban for life from any coaching activity

Education and Training

Under the state's Safety in Youth Sports Act, the Pennsylvania departments of public health and education must develop and make available materials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to inform and educate students, parents, and coaches about concussions, the risks of concussions and traumatic brain injuries, and the dangers of continuing to play or practice while suffering a concussion or traumatic brain injury.

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Dementia

Dementia is one of the many common problems TBI victims may experience after an accident. Research shows that people who suffer a traumatic brain injury are more likely to be diagnosed with dementia. One study found that having a TBI more than doubles a patient's risk of developing dementia.

Symptoms of Dementia in TBI Patients

Dementia is generally known as a prolonged or permanent decline in cognition, or the ability to think. Patients diagnosed with dementia have problems thinking, understanding, reasoning, remembering, and communicating. They may have changes in their emotions and behavior, which can complicate a patient's treatment and recovery from a brain injury—not to mention their social health.

Symptoms of dementia may appear at different times, but they usually start to occur within a month of the brain injury. A patient recovering from a traumatic brain injury—even a mild TBI—may experience one or many of the following:

  • Difficulty thinking and concentrating
  • Memory loss
  • Slowed thought process
  • Mood swings
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Irritability and aggression
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Restlessness
  • Apathy

Some patients also experience seizures following a brain injury. While seizures are not a symptom associated with dementia, they can complicate the diagnosis and treatment of dementia.

If your loved one is showing signs of dementia, you should seek medical attention for them immediately. It's important to diagnose TBI complications early.

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Types of Brain Injury Treatments

Initial Treatment

Initial treatment begins right after a person suffers a traumatic brain injury. When a patient is brought to the hospital, a team of doctors and nurses work together to diagnose a TBI and stabilize them, if necessary.

A patient with a mild brain injury may have to stay overnight in a hospital for observation. The family will receive instructions about what to expect in the coming days and weeks, side effects to look for, and tips to help them recover.

A patient with a severe TBI will likely stay at the hospital for an extended period of time, and may even need surgery. The medical staff may include:

  • trauma surgeons
  • neurosurgeons (a physician who specializes on surgery of the brain and spinal cord)
  • orthopedic surgeons (a physician who works with broken bones and the spinal column)
  • general surgeons
  • respiratory therapists
  • psychologists and
  • nurses

First, the team works to stabilize the patient, providing supportive care such as resuscitating the patient, helping them breathe and perform other bodily functions, and monitoring brain activity.

Once the patient is stabilized, he or she will likely be moved to a trauma care unit, either at the same hospital or one better prepared to deal with traumatic injuries. The doctors and medical staff will continue to monitor the patient for any changes.

In many trauma centers, a psychologist and a trauma specialist will meet with the family to make decisions and talk about what to expect. The psychologist will provide counseling and education about the patient's medical condition, while a social worker helps the family consider changes in financial support and plan for rehabilitation. The counselor will also prepare family members for when they face their loved one for the first time after the accident, and how best to interact with them in the future.

If the patient has remained—or is expected to remain—in a vegetative state with little or no brain activity, the psychologist and trauma worker will help the family understand the decisions they will have to make, and assist them in planning them.

Surgery

Sometimes traumatic brain injuries must be treated with surgery. Surgeons may need to repair skull fractures or damaged tissue in an open head injury, or release pressure in the brain cavity following a closed head injury. A patient with a severe TBI may also need surgery to remove damaged brain tissue or to make room for the living tissue.

Acute Treatment

Acute treatment is used for patients with severe TBIs and is designed to minimize secondary injury and provide life support while the body is unable to function on its own.

Types of acute treatment may include mechanical ventilation (breathing), where surgeons may insert a device into the brain cavity to monitor the pressure in the patient's brain.

Sometimes surgeons may use medications to put a patient into a coma. While it sounds like a bad idea, it is used to minimize agitation, prevent further injury, and prevent seizures.

Rehabilitation

If a patient is expected to recover, he or she will most likely move to a rehabilitation facility once discharged from the hospital trauma care unit.

The goal of rehabilitation is to focus on the effects of the TBI, prevent complications, restore the patient's lost abilities, improve independence, and prepare to go home.

A team of medical professionals will be assigned to the patient, including:

  • A physiatrist (a doctor who specializes in physical medicine)
  • A neuropsychologist (who focuses on the patient's changes in the brain)
  • A physical therapist (assigned to help the patient overcome the physical effects of the TBI)
  • An occupational therapist (who helps the patient adapt to daily life following a traumatic brain injury, such as helping him or her to shower, budget, cook, etc
  • A rehabilitation nurse

The patient will have therapy every day, or possibly multiple times a day. He or she may need help learning how to talk, eat, and walk. Staff will help with these tasks, keep them from falling or trying to leave, and explain things if the patient becomes confused or angry. The IMPACT test is a common tool used to evaluate concussion symptoms and determine how well a patient is healing.

The amount of rehabilitation varies for each patient. A patient may stay in a rehabilitation facility for up to several months, depending on the severity of the head injury and where the traumatic brain injury occurred.

Traumatic Brain Injury Recovery

Recovery time following a TBI varies for every person. A person with a mild concussion may recover quickly, but may experience problems in the future. Some patients recover in a few months, while others never fully do.

A person's future prognosis depends on their age and overall health, as well as whether they suffered a coma or post-traumatic amnesia (memory loss), and for how long.

Many patients recover at least a portion of the brain function they lost as a result of their TBI. Some areas of the brain linked to damaged tissue may begin functioning again, or a healthy part of the brain may take over the part that no longer functions. Repeating a task in therapy helps restore lost abilities such as walking and cooking. Patients also learn new strategies to make up for things they can't relearn how to do.

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What is the Difference Between Guardianship and Power of Attorney?

You may have heard the terms "power of attorney" and "guardianship." They are two legally different procedures. Both can be used to help protect the legal rights of people suffer from diminished mental capacity because of a traumatic brain injury.

What is Guardianship?

Guardianship – One person is appointed by the court to make decisions for someone who is ruled legally unable to make decisions for themself. There are different forms of guardianship, and they impact the rights of an individual differently.

  • Guardian of the Person – This individual acts as a caretaker on behalf of the injured person, and directly handles medical and personal needs.
  • Guardian of the Estate – After an injured person is ruled incompetent, a guardian of the estate is able to handle business and financial affairs on their behalf.
  • General Guardian – This individual acts as both estate guardian and personal caretaker.

When the courts grant guardianship, you must carefully manage the business and financial affairs of the injured person.

You will be required to file a report annually that includes details of any transactions, receipts, payments, or any other spending that occurs that year.

What is Power of Attorney?

Power of Attorney – Power of attorney rights must be relinquished by someone who is fully competent and aware of what they are signing. There are different forms of power of attorney that impact you ability to act on the behalf of the injured.

If the injured individual is still competent, it may be easier to seek power of attorney than guardianship. Being granted power of attorney requires no court supervision or involvement because it's handled out of court.

Seeking power of attorney is generally done before an injured or ill person loses total competency. That is because the person must be deemed competent in order to sign over their power of attorney to an "agent"—or someone who will act on their behalf.

It's important, especially in the case of traumatic brain injuries, to consider durable power of attorney. Without durable power of attorney, the agent loses the ability to assist an individual if that individual is deemed unable to make decisions on their own.

The injured person must consent to giving power of attorney after they lose competency in order for the agent to maintain the ability to act on their behalf after they lose the ability to make decisions on their own. Durable power of attorney may be granted as long as there is clear language stating that power of attorney rights are retained even after the injured individual loses competency.

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National Traumatic Brain Injury Statistics

How many traumatic brain injuries occur each year?
There were around 2.8 million TBI-related emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and deaths in 2013.
How many people are hospitalized each from TBIs each year?
More than 282,000 people diagnosed with TBIs were hospitalized in 2013.
What is the leading cause of brain injuries?
Falls were the leading cause of brain injuries (2013). They accounted for 47 percent (1.32 million injuries) of all TBI-related accidents.
Which age groups are most at risk for TBI-related accidents?
In 2013, people between the ages of 15-24 suffered the most TBIs (475,876 injuries). The majority of these injuries were sports-related.
How many children suffer brain injuries each year?
329,290 children (age 19 or younger) were diagnosed with a brain injury in 2012. Sports and recreation-related concussions were the most common type of brain injury for that age group.
How many people die from brain injuries each year?
There were around 50,000 TBI-related deaths in 2013. People older than 75 are the most likely to suffer a fatal TBI (14,806 deaths).
How many brain injuries are caused by car accidents?
In 2013, there were 383,293 TBIs from auto accidents. More than 10,700 people died from auto accident head injuries.

Other Statistics and Facts

  • TBIs contribute to about 30 percent of all injury deaths in the United States.
  • About 75 percent of head injuries that occur are concussions or mild TBIs.
  • TBI rates are higher for males than females.
  • Most concussions occur without losing consciousness.
  • Many mild TBIs are not diagnosed until the person begins to have problems down the road—usually doing something that was once an easy task or while in a social situation.
  • About 15 percent of people with a mild TBI—including concussions—have symptoms that last for at least a year.
  • Young adults and the elderly are most at risk for a brain injury.
  • The recovery time for head injuries is much longer for children and teens than it is for adults.
  • Once you suffer any type of brain injury, you're at a higher risk for another one.
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