What You Need to Know about Traumatic Brain Injury Lawsuits

Jan 11, 2021

The phrase “personal injury” refers to a broad area of law encompassing several different types of cases, including motor vehicle crashes, medical malpractice, wrongful death, and more. Today’s post continues our “Personal Injury 101” blog series, which aims to offer straightforward information that – in our firm’s experience – will be most helpful to injury victims considering filing a lawsuit. In today’s blog, we focus on cases stemming from a traumatic brain injury (“TBI”). Namely, we first discuss the basics of TBIs and the symptoms that commonly accompany these types of injuries. The blog then summarizes the legal standards governing most TBI-related lawsuits and explains what else a plaintiff should expect from a typical brain injury case.

Background on Traumatic Brain Injuries

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) defines a TBI “as a disruption in the normal function of the brain that can be caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, or penetrating head injury.” TBIs can result from a number of different accidents, such as motor vehicle crashes, physical assaults, falls, sports injuries, and more. In terms of degree, they generally range from severe – which involve a significant period of unconsciousness or memory loss – to mild. The most widely publicized type of TBI is a concussion, which is classified as a mild TBI. Concussions result from violent blows to the head or body, and they are commonly seen in sports such as football, soccer, hockey, and cheerleading.

As expected, these injuries to the brain can result in serious, and oftentimes lifelong, effects on the victim. With respect to physical symptoms, TBI victims can experience loss of consciousness, headaches/migraines, nausea, fatigue, sensitivity to light, and seizures. On the mental and cognitive side, lingering side effects of a TBI may include trouble sleeping, confusion, slurred speech, inattentiveness, depression, or other personality changes. Assessing the side effects of a TBI is further complicated by the fact that these symptoms could appear immediately after the injury, or they may not arise until days or weeks later.

Traumatic brain injuries are a fairly common occurrence in the United States. According to the most recent data gathered by the CDC, there were approximately 2.87 million TBI-related emergency room visits in 2014. The prevalence of these types of injuries is also on the rise in the U.S. In fact, from 2006 to 2014, the CDC reports that “the number of TBI-related emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and deaths increased by 53%.”

What to Expect from a Traumatic Brain Injury Lawsuit

The legal standard governing a TBI-related lawsuit depends on the nature of the situation that led to the injury. Initially, most TBI cases are based on a theory of negligence (which is the same standard governing most personal injury cases). If the victim’s brain injury resulted from a slip and fall or from a motor vehicle crash, the subsequent lawsuit would claim that the perpetrator negligently caused the victim’s injuries. Broadly speaking, a negligence action requires a plaintiff to prove that: (1) the defendant had some duty of care towards the plaintiff; (2) the defendant breached that duty; and (3) the defendant’s breach caused the plaintiff’s injury.

A victim’s brain injury lawsuit can also be filed under two additional legal theories: product liability and medical malpractice. In the product liability space, a plaintiff would likely argue that the product leading to their TBI was either defectively designed or manufactured, or alternatively that the manufacturer failed to warn consumers about a dangerous aspect of the product (our blog on the basics of product liability cases can be found HERE). Conversely, if a victim’s TBI occurred while being treated by a medical professional, the plaintiff could pursue a medical malpractice action. The elements of a medical malpractice case largely mirror those of a negligence action, as the plaintiff must generally prove a breach of duty and a causal relationship between the plaintiff’s injuries and the defendant’s conduct.

Furthermore, there are a few additional points to note regarding TBI-related lawsuits. First of all, according to research from Northwestern University, “[t]he lifetime costs of a patient’s treatment for a traumatic brain injury are estimated to run from $85,000 to $3 million.” Therefore, a key aspect of any TBI case involves demonstrating the extent of the damages sought by the plaintiff. Comprehensive documentation of a victim’s injuries and subsequent medical treatment can greatly assist a plaintiff’s case with respect to proving damages. Moreover, if the case goes to trial, attorneys for both sides would also be likely to use expert witnesses to help assess the plaintiff’s request for damages.

Additionally, if the victim has become physically or mentally incapacitated as a result of the TBI, the court may allow the victim’s family member or close friend to file the lawsuit on their behalf. This process varies from state to state, so it is best to contact an experienced personal injury attorney before filing a lawsuit on behalf of an injured party. And finally, as with virtually all types of civil actions, victims only have a certain amount of time after the injury to file a TBI-related lawsuit. The applicable statute of limitations depends on the state and the circumstances leading to the injury, so once again, contacting an attorney early on in the case can help simplify the litigation process.

If any readers have suffered a TBI and are considering their legal rights to recovery, do not hesitate to reach out to Coffman Law. Owner and Founding Partner Brian Coffman has handled virtually every type of personal injury matter, and through his experience defending corporate insurers for years prior to founding his own firm, Brian has also come to understand the strategies typically employed by insurance companies in these types of cases. Click HERE to contact our office for a free consultation.

About Coffman Law Offices, P.C.

Coffman Law is Chicago’s leading personal injury law firm and is committed to providing superb legal representation for people who are suffering from severe personal injuries or are dealing with the loss of a loved one due to negligence or misconduct. Coffman Law is a results-driven law firm focused on ensuring that clients receive the compassion, attention, and consideration that they need to seek adequate compensation for injuries or loss. The firm is led by Owner and Founding Partner Brian Coffman, who has dedicated his career to helping accident victims navigate the legal system and obtain compensation for their injuries. If you have been injured or lost a loved one, contact Coffman Law today for a free consultation.