Whether you’ve been involved in a car accident or a slip-and-fall that caused you to hit your head, you could have to deal with the lasting effects of a brain injury (and the medical bills, lost wages and other expenses) for the rest of your life.
What is Brain Injury?
Most head injuries after any type of accident are minor. You may need some medical attention, but here’s the shocking truth: more than a half-million people experience a head injury that requires hospitalization each year.
Many people don’t realize that they’re suffering from a brain injury, but delaying treatment can make things even worse.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a traumatic brain injury (TBI) is more likely to cause lasting harm to children and older adults, although it can happen to anyone.
What Constitutes a TBI?
Typically, any type of injury to your brain is traumatic. While your cerebral fluid does its best to protect and cushion your brain, particularly when you hit your head (or when something hits your head), it can only do so much. Most brain injuries are a result of your brain hitting the inside of your skull, although there are other types.
Types of Brain Injuries
You don’t have to be in a major accident to suffer a brain injury. Even seemingly small trauma can cause one; sudden stops, slight falls and even light bumps to your head can cause damage.
The most common types of brain injuries include:
- Concussions. A concussion occurs when you receive a blow to the head, when you fall, or when you sustain any other injury that causes your brain to move around inside your skull. You may not have any outward signs of this type of brain injury. Many people who suffer from a concussion are able to make a full recovery within a few hours or a few weeks, but some people cannot.
- Closed head injuries. The term “closed head injury” simply refers to an injury inside your head with no noticeable damage. However, the damage within a closed head injury can be severe, resulting in bleeding and swelling of the brain. Sometimes closed head injuries lead to permanent brain damage.
- Acquired brain injuries. You don’t have to suffer through a forceful blow or be shaken to have an acquired brain injury. Doctors use this term to describe brain injuries that are caused by sources other than direct trauma, such as a deprivation of oxygen or exposure to toxic substances.
Common Causes of TBI
Naturally, the most common cause of traumatic brain injury is trauma. A person can get a TBI from a car accident, falling or being hit in the head with any object.
According to the CDC, the leading cause of TBI is falling down; falls account for about 40.5 percent of all traumatic brain injuries across the country. The rest of the reported TBIs are caused by:
- Being struck or striking something with the head: 15.5 percent
- Motor vehicle accidents: 14.3 percent
- Assaults: 10.7 percent
- Unknown and other causes: 19 percent
The numbers change within age groups, however, with more than 55 percent of them occurring among kids under the age of 14 as a result of falls. In older Americans – those who are 65 and older – falls account for 81 percent of these injuries.
Across the country, TBI is a major cause of death – it contributes to about 30 percent of all injury deaths each year.
Car accidents are the third overall cause of traumatic brain injuries in all age groups. However, car crashes are the leading cause of TBI for kids and young adults (people between the ages of 5 and 24).
Who is Most Prone to Traumatic Brain Injury in San Francisco?
Men are three times more likely to die from TBI than women are, and the rates are highest among people aged 65 and older.
However, everyone is susceptible to this type of injury, whether it’s a concussion, a closed-head injury or any other type of brain injury.
Symptoms and Treatment of TBI
Unfortunately, sometimes people suffering from brain injuries don’t exhibit any telltale symptoms. While some people lose consciousness after a fall, a car crash or other type of trauma, others don’t – and sometimes it takes several hours or even days for symptoms to become apparent.
These injuries can have serious physical and psychological effects, so it’s important that you see a medical professional as soon as possible after being hurt to rule out a potentially life-threatening injury.
TBI Symptoms: What to Watch For
The most common symptoms include:
- Being dazed, disoriented or confused
- Blurred vision
- Changes in the ability to smell
- Depression or anxiousness
- Difficulty sleeping
- Dizziness or loss of balance
- Fatigue or drowsiness
- Loss of consciousness that can last a few seconds to several minutes
- Memory problems
- Mood swings
- Nausea or vomiting
- Ringing in the ears
- Sensitivity to light or sound
- Sensory problems
- Sleeping more than usual
Signs that a TBI might be moderate or severe include:
- Agitation or combativeness, or any other unusual behavior
- Clear fluids draining from the nose or ears
- Dilation (enlargement) of one or both pupils
- Inability to wake
- Loss of consciousness for several minutes or hours
- Loss of coordination
- Persistent or worsening headache
- Profound confusion
- Repeated vomiting or nausea
- Slurred speech
- Weakness or numbness in fingers or toes
Children can experience brain injuries differently than adults do. You should watch for all the signs an adult can exhibit as well as:
- Change in ability to pay attention
- Changes in eating or nursing habits
- Change in sleep habits
- Inability to be consoled
- Loss of interest in toys and activities
- Persistent crying
- Sad or depressed mood
- Unusual or easy irritability
TBI Treatments: What to Expect
You should always see a doctor if you or someone you care about has received a blow to the head or if you’ve been involved in an accident.
Your doctor may order a CT scan, which uses a series of X-rays to create a view of your brain. He or she might also order an MRI, which uses radio waves and magnets to find out where the damage is and how extensive it is.
Some people with brain swelling, which can actually cause secondary injuries to the brain, must be monitored with an intracranial pressure monitor, which measures the amount of pressure being put on the brain tissue.
Mild TBIs don’t usually require treatment beyond rest and over-the-counter pain relief. However, more severe injuries require diuretics, anti-seizure drugs and, in the most severe cases, coma-inducing drugs. Surgery can help in some cases, as well, but that’s most often a last resort when doctors need to:
- Remove blood clots
- Repair skull fractures
- Relieve pressure inside the skull by draining fluid from the brain or make more room for swollen tissue
There is no substitute for medical care, so if you or someone you care about has suffered any type of head injury, it’s imperative that you see a doctor right away. Because these injuries can worsen with time, the sooner you seek treatment, the better outcome you’re likely to have.
Working with a San Francisco Brain Injury Lawyer
If you have suffered through a traumatic brain injury, or if it’s happened to someone you love, call an experienced brain injury lawyer in San Francisco as soon as possible. You may be entitled to damages to help pay your medical bills, cover lost wages and make up for other expenses you’ve incurred as a result of these injuries.