I think I have a concussion from my motor vehicle accident. What do I need to know?

 

The above Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) video on the mechanics of a concussion shows concussions are now taken far more seriously than they once were. In fact, concussions are now classified as “traumatic brain injuries” or TBIs by the major medical associations. Research and experience from sports (e.g., football, soccer, ice hockey, etc.) and from military combat actions now show that TBIs and concussions can really affect how injured people feel and function, and the effects can be long-term. TBIs range from mild (e.g., concussions) to severe (e.g., extended memory loss) in degree.

Blurred vision, headaches, ringing in the ears, problems with balance, memory loss, queasiness in the stomach, changes in mood (e.g., depression, anxiety), and changes in sleep patterns are some of the symptoms of a traumatic brain injury or concussion. If you develop any of these symptoms after a motor vehicle accident or any incident involving a bump, blow, or jolt to the head that disrupts the normal function of the brain1 , it is critical that you report this to your doctor or medical care provider right away.  If you or your child develop any of the symptoms from the CDC's list of danger signs, head to the ER immediately. 

Also, ask someone who has not been injured (e.g., family member, friend, or coworker) to observe you because they may be better able to determine whether you are showing signs of a TBI.

NOTE: It is not unusual for some of our clients to rule out a concussion or TBI simply because they didn’t get diagnosed with one at the emergency room. Studies show that TBIs and concussions are misdiagnosed as much as 60% of the time at the ER. Generally, this is because care providers at the ER are typically focused on addressing immediate traumas – broken bones, bleeding, shock, etc. – and also because it is not unusual for many of the symptoms of a TBI to become apparent in the days after the crash.

One of the reasons that it is important to get this diagnosis correct is that generally healthcare providers will tell people with concussions or TBIs to greatly curtail their activity. People with such injuries need to be extremely careful as to what type of physical activity they engage in (e.g., operating motor vehicles or heavy equipment, climbing ladders, etc.). They also have to be careful about how much visual and mental activity they ask their brain to engage in. A concussion or TBI is an injury to the brain. The brain needs less stimulation and less stress on it during the period of recovery so that it can mend.

If your injury is significant, it is really important to get a specialist in TBIs and concussions to help with your diagnosis and treatment. Neurologists, neuropsychologists, neurosurgeons, and ophthalmologists are some of the type of healthcare providers who may be able to help you. They will often have you referred to vocational rehab specialists, speech or language pathologists, occupational therapists, nurse specialists, and other experts.

The CDC has an excellent section on its website with further explanation and resources relative to concussions and traumatic brain injuries. Please check these pages for more information: Recovery, Responding to a Concussion and an Action Plan for Coaches, Potential Long-term Effects, Severe TBIChronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, and Prevention Tips for Children and Teens

The good news is that most people will recover from a TBI within 3 months or so of the injury. Following the direction of competent healthcare providers is essential. Keeping track of your progress and your problems in a written diary is very important. Avoiding gaps in treatment (i.e., make sure to go to your therapy appointments) is also essential. Hopefully, the above ations will assist you in gaining a complete recovery.

On the other hand, for a significant part of the population, the recovery from a TBI will take a lot longer or may never be complete. In these instances, a great deal of work and planning needs to be done in order to make adaptations for the injured person and his or her family so that they can deal with these long-term consequences. It’s very important to have your attorney and medical team work with a qualified life care planner and get such an expert involved early in the case.

For these reasons, if you have a concussion or TBI, don’t wait to go find an attorney with experience in handling these types of cases. Ask him or her specifically as to how many of these types of cases he or she has handled, whether or not they’ve actually litigated the cases in court, what conferences or seminars they have attended recently on the subject matter of concussions and TBIs, and specifically how they would handle, prepare and present your case. If the attorney can’t answer these questions with real details, keep searching for the right lawyer. Most lawyers, including those of The Poole Law Group, will not charge you a fee for a personal injury consultation. This claim may be a very significant part of your future. You only get one chance to get it right.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/headsup/basics/concussion_whatis.html.  Accessed April 18, 2018.