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Traumatic brain injury (TBI)

Traumatic brain injury

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A traumatic brain injury (TBI) can have a shattering, life-changing impact on an individual and their family. How severe that impact is can depend on multiple factors, such as which part of the brain is damaged. A TBI can also lead to long-term problems that aren’t immediately clear – sometimes taking weeks or months to come to light.

The brain is one of most intricate and critical organs in the body and this type of injury can disrupt or impair how the body functions; from mood and behaviour to memory and movements.

Making a compensation claim for a traumatic brain injury can’t undo the physical or emotional damage. But it can help you cope with what happens next, particularly for anything you aren’t prepared for financially. So, finding a specialist traumatic brain injury lawyer who understands what you and your family are going through can ensure you get the support you deserve.

What is a traumatic brain injury?

Traumatic brain injury includes an injury that is caused by head trauma, like a sudden jolt or blow. Traumatic brain injury is initially caused by an external force, which can cause long-term complications.

As brain injury association Headway explains, traumatic brain injury is defined in the 1998 Medical Disability Society Working Party Report. It’s described as a ‘brain injury caused by trauma to the head (including the effects upon the brain of other possible complications of injury, notably hypoxemia and hypotension and intracerebral haematoma).’

In the UK, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) states that ‘head injury is the commonest cause of death and disability in people aged 1–40 years’. Every year, around 1.4 million people visit A&E in England and Wales suffering from a head injury. But, in 2016-17, only 156,000 people were admitted to hospital with a head injury (Headway).

It means, in a lot of cases, there are no serious, lasting effects and a full recovery will be made. For others, however, the impact can be far-reaching – depending on the severity of their injury:

What are the types of traumatic brain injury?

Primary injury

The complex nature of the brain means a TBI can actually feature more than one stage to it. In the first instance, however, there’s the first injury – the initial trauma to the head - which could be from a blow, jolt or wound. In fact, there are three types of TBIs, depending on the cause.

Closed head is the most common traumatic brain injury. With this type of brain injury, there’s no open wound. Instead, the brain is injured after a blow to the head or a violent motion causes it to bang against the inside of the skull.

A closed head TBI can require medical attention. In many cases, it might only cause concussion, but it can cause bruising, bleeding and swelling too. A closed head TBI can also lead to diffuse axonal injury, where the nerve fibres in the brain are damaged or torn.

With an open or penetrating injury, the brain is left exposed by an opening in the skull from a high-speed projectile (like a bullet) or low-speed object (such as a knife). It might not penetrate the brain itself but can still have serious consequences if not treated quickly.

Crushing is the third type of TBI. It’s the least common but can be the most damaging variety of traumatic brain injury because the head is crushed between two hard objects.

Secondary injuries

After the first injury takes place, symptoms can emerge in the hours or weeks that follow. These can include unconsciousness, infections or seizures, as well as difficulties walking or speaking.

The initial head trauma can initiate the body’s inflammatory response to injury. Damaged cells release chemicals that lead to swelling around the affected area. Normally, this is a good thing – helping the body to recover. But in a confined space like the skull, this can increase pressure on the brain and cause issues such as insufficient blood flow or oxygen.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in the US reveals that ‘much of the damage related to severe TBI develops from secondary injuries’. Much of the treatment of a traumatic brain injury is about preventing this, whether that’s by using medication or surgery.

What causes traumatic brain injury?

A TBI can be caused in several ways, often as the result of an accident but sometimes due to a deliberate act. If you’re involved in an accident or incident that results in a serious injury and someone else is at full or partial fault, you could claim for traumatic brain injury compensation. Our team of skilled solicitors have years of experience in supporting people involved in:

What are the signs of traumatic brain injury?

Not every head injury is serious and will need hospital attention. But there are some tell-tale symptoms and signs of a traumatic brain injury to look out for. While they can show up straight away, other symptoms may not appear until days or weeks after the injury.

For mild TBIs, you might experience:

A moderate or severe TBI might present the same signs as a mild TBI, as well as more serious symptoms in the hours and days after a head injury. These can include:

The NHS provides a complete guide to the symptoms of a serious head injury to watch out for.

How do traumatic brain injuries affect the brain?

Even after what you might think is a relatively minor head injury, the way the brain works can be temporarily affected. Any short-term brain injury caused by a head trauma is referred to as concussion. But while symptoms may disappear soon enough, it’s also possible someone might still suffer the effects for months or years after.

Ultimately, every brain injury is unique. Some people may show severe signs of traumatic brain injury. And others don’t. A danger with any injury to the brain, however, is that not every problem is going to be a physical one. The behavioural or psychological symptoms can’t always be detected right away. And these can often be the hardest for families to deal with.

If someone has a brain injury, it may be said they are suffering from ‘executive dysfunction’ − cognitive, behavioural or emotional problems after a traumatic brain injury. For members of that person’s family, it can be vital to find support from professionals who can offer help and advice with coping strategies and the practicalities of living with someone with a brain injury.

No matter how good the treatment, rehabilitation and support, that individual and their families can face an uncertain and challenging life ahead.

How are traumatic brain injuries diagnosed?

If you’re involved in an accident and start to show symptoms of a TBI, you should go to A&E or call an ambulance straight away. Once at hospital, healthcare professionals will make sure your condition is stable before asking you some questions to help diagnose and treat your injury.

A friend or family member may be asked to describe what happened if you can’t remember.

A CT scan is then used to determine the extent of the brain injury, as well as how much at risk you are of developing secondary injuries. This scan is a detailed image of inside your skull and can show if there’s any bleeding or swelling in or around the brain.

As the first few hours after a head injury can be the most important for any delayed symptoms to start appearing, it’s likely you’ll be kept in hospital for a short time for observation – with the Glasgow Coma Scale used to help assess your condition.

The Glasgow Coma Scale gives you a score based on your physical movements, whether you’re able to make any noise and how easy you find it to open your eyes. These three scores are added up to give a total – 3 being the lowest, and 15 being the highest. The lower the score, the more significant the brain injury.

How to treat a traumatic brain injury

Treatment options depend on how severe the TBI is. For a mild TBI, the only treatment needed may simply be rest and perhaps over-the-counter pain relief for a headache. Even if the person only has a mild TBI, they’ll still need to be monitored after going home to ensure there are no persistent, worsening or new symptoms.

For more serious TBIs, a patient may need to undergo neurosurgery. This could be due to:

There are a number of different types of surgical interventions that can help treat serious TBIs, as well as other methods – such as using medication to induce a coma – if it’s decided they will give the brain the best chance of rest and recovery.

Headway has more information about treatment for more serious traumatic brain injuries.

How to recover from a traumatic brain injury

Each brain injury is different, which means the recovery process is different too. For a mild TBI, the effects may be short-lived, and the person can return to normality in weeks or months. But the impact of a moderate or serious traumatic brain injury can be permanent.

After you leave hospital, you might have to visit your GP, a neurologist or other specialist in the weeks that follow to check on your progress. But the rehabilitation process can start before you leave hospital – depending on the severity of your injury.

Physical recovery

For the physical effects such as a loss of movement or poor coordination, physiotherapy is one way to help. A physiotherapist can even be involved at the recovery stage before an individual is conscious to prevent any unnecessary complications.

Occupational therapy

If a brain injury means that you now find everyday activities a struggle, occupational therapy is designed to help you adapt. An occupational therapist can look at the activities you find difficult at home or in the workplace and help find solutions.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

A brain injury can affect your mental wellbeing, but psychological therapy such as CBT can help you. CBT aims to help a patient deal with what can sometimes be the overwhelming impact of a severe head injury – from traumatic brain injury anxiety disorder to other cognitive problems.

Who can make a traumatic brain injury claim?

You can make a traumatic brain injury claim if it can be proved that someone else – another person – is at least partly responsible for your suffering. 

In addition to pursuing a claim for yourself, you can also act on behalf of a child or loved one who is too seriously injured that they do not have the mental capacity to do it themselves. As the ‘litigation friend’, you’ll be responsible for dealing with the solicitor and making any decisions.

For adults, court proceedings must start within three years of the head injury being sustained. But this does not apply if the injured person is under 18-years-old. In these cases, the limit is extended until the individual’s 21st birthday.

The 3 year time limit won’t apply to anyone who lacks capacity in accordance with the terms of the Mental Capacity Act 2005. So, if you’ve suffered a brain injury, you may be eligible to make a claim more than three years later.

Who do I claim against?

A claim should be made against the person or people who are at fault for your traumatic brain injury, or the defendant. In many cases, a claim is dealt with by the defendant’s insurers.

Why should I make a traumatic brain injury claim?

No amount of money can undo the pain and suffering of a traumatic brain injury, but it can help provide financial compensation for your losses. Any successful award would include your future costs: rehabilitation, disability aids, specialist equipment, transport, modifications to your home and any costs relating to your past and future care.

We understand the emotional and financial toll a brain injury can have on you and your family, and we also appreciate that the prospect of getting involved in a legal proceedings can seem daunting. We’re here to help you work out if taking such action could bring at least some benefit or respite to you and your family in the months and years ahead.

How does the claim process work?

Once you decide that you’d like to make a traumatic brain injury claim, we will provide all the support you need. After you’ve supplied us with the full details of your accident and subsequent injury, we’ll submit your claim and secure all the necessary medical, financial and practical assistance on your behalf to give you the best chance of success.

How much will it cost to make a claim?

If the potential cost of making a claim is worrying you, we’re here to put your mind at rest by talking you through your funding options at the start.

Do you have legal expenses insurance? This could help cover any costs you have to bear from your claim.

We also take traumatic brain injury compensation cases on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis – this means we ask for no upfront payment. If you win, the other party will likely pay most of your legal costs. Any costs that aren’t covered will come out of your compensation settlement.

How much compensation could I receive?

The government’s Judicial College Guidelines sets out a range of how much you could be awarded for your pain and suffering if your claim is a success. It starts at around £1,760 for minor brain or head injuries, increasing up to £322,060 for the most serious brain injuries.

The more severe the brain injury and the impact that brain injury has on your life the higher amount you will receive in compensation for your pain and suffering. In addition to being awarded compensation for your injuries, you will also be able to make a claim for costs you have or will have to incur or income you have lost as a consequence for your injuries. These losses could for example include a claim for loss of earnings, loss of pension, cost of care and medical treatment you have already incurred and will incur in the future.

Why choose Shoosmiths?

At Shoosmiths we’re dedicated to making access to the law easy for people like you – with our friendly legal experts making the complex simple.

For anyone who has suffered a traumatic brain injury, our team of legal specialists knows what you’re going through. We have the skills and experience to help you get the compensation you deserve, along with the best care and support from healthcare providers and therapists.

Our team has an in-depth knowledge of the law and the full, life-changing impact of any injury to the brain. Our solicitors work out of 13 locations across the UK, many with established links to charities such as Headway and Child Brain Injury Trust, who support brain injury sufferers and their families.

Here’s why you can trust Shoosmiths if you’d like to make a claim:

Started a claim with another solicitor already? Worried that your case isn’t going the way you’d hoped? Talk to Shoosmiths – we can talk through your concerns free of charge and give you our opinion. If you do decide to switch your solicitor, we’ll explain the implications to you too.

We’ve helped many people who have suffered a traumatic brain injury – and we can help you too. But don’t just take our word for it. Our client testimonials are proof of our hard work and all come from people just like you, showing the real difference that we’re here to make.

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Rose Donoghue

Rose Donoghue

Consultant - Personal injury

Brain injury

When it comes to serious brain injury law, Rose's skill is unmatched. She has over 26 years' experience as a lawyer and she is a great listener so tell Rose your story.

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Denise Stephens

Partner - Medical negligence

Cerebral palsy

Denise is a passionate, highly skilled medical negligence lawyer with a heart of gold. She cares genuinely about getting you justice so tell Denise your story.

Chris  McKinney

Chris McKinney

Partner - Personal injury

Brain injury

Chris will come to your home or hospital. He specialises in brain injury and has won several multi-million pound claims for clients. Call Chris today.

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