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Three Common Brain Injury Side Effects

Richard N. Shapiro
Recognized as Virginia "Super Lawyer" in Law & Politics Magazine (since '10)

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is usually accompanied by a whole host of side effects that could potentially affect a victim’s quality of life and what tasks they can perform. But it’s important to understand that there are varying levels of brain damage that can occur after a closed head injury.

For instance, there is a “mild” traumatic brain injury, such as a concussion, which may only result in persistent headaches. In more serious cases, a person may suffer a severe traumatic brain injury where the victim could potentially fall into a coma or lose certain motor functions like speech or hand/leg movement. The level of trauma inflicted on your brain is usually determined after a doctor conducts an MRI and CT scan. In addition, you’ll probably be seen by a neuropsychologist to examine the extent of your injury and what side affects you may suffer as result of the TBI.

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The remainder of this article examines the side effects associated with the “middle ground” where a person has suffered a TBI, but are not in such a state that they are at risk of slipping into a coma. The side effects below are quite common and can be debilitating for people:

1. Sleep disturbances

Many TBI victims report having trouble falling asleep or only getting a few hours of sleep each night. This can be extremely frustrating for some TBI victims since, prior to their injury, they may have been able to sleep through a thunderstorm and now they wake up the moment a pin needle drops. To make matters worse, the lack of sleep can make other head injury side effects worse since sleep plays an important role in physical healing.

2. Difficulty thinking

Cognitive difficulties are quite common with TBI victims, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Cognition (i.e. thinking skills) include awareness of your surroundings, memory, problem solving, and executive functioning such as goal setting, self-awareness and evaluation). These are some of the most common cognitive difficulties that TBI victims have to grapple with:

  • Inability to concentrate when there are distractions. For example, you can’t complete a task because someone is carrying on a conversation near you or you can’t work on multiple tasks at once.
  • Difficulty in "taking in" and processing new information. Longer messages may have to be "chunked," or broken down into smaller pieces. Friends, family and co-workers may even be forced to slow down their rate of speech.
  • Trouble starting tasks and setting goals to complete those tasks. TBI victims can seem disorganized and need the assistance of others.

3. Irritability

This side effect is usually an off-shoot of the first two side effects. Obviously, if you slept like a baby and had a great memory before your accident and now these routine tasks are major challenges, it can make you irritable and angry. It is also frustrating to notice others around you possibly treating you differently. It is important to know that when someone suffers a TBI, it doesn’t just affect them, it effects friends, family, and their work colleagues. Again, this goes back to the subtle changes that a person may suffer from after an accident that led to their TBI. There is a realization that they may never be the same and people have to cope with that.

Learn Your Legal Options

If you or a loved one suffered a head injury in an accident that was caused by the carelessness of another person or company, you should consider speaking with a brain injury attorney. Why? Because, as mentioned above, your life could be irrevocably altered because of your injury. The cognitive difficulties may affect your work to a point that you may need to change professions, or even stop working altogether. The at-fault individual or company who caused your accident should be held accountable for their negligent actions.

Our firm understands the serious ramifications of a TBI. For example, we represented a young girl who suffered a brain injury in an accident where a big rig rear-ended the vehicle the child was riding in. Unfortunately, due to the sheer tonnage of a tractor trailer, the occupants of a compact car hit by a big rig routinely suffer serious injuries, including brain damage. Doctors examined the girl after the accident and determined that  areas of her brain injured in the wreck were developing encephalomalacia, also known as cell death.

To assess the extent of her brain injuries and help plan her recovery and treatment, we referred the girl to a neuropsychiatrist for an evaluation. Following the evaluation, the neuropsychiatrist warned that as a result of the injuries, the young girl may develop problems with disinhibition, impulse and aggression control as she matures. The frontal lobes of the brain control what is known as “executive function.” He recommended we plan to provide educational assistance, tutors, counseling and other external structure as our client ages to help her if these problems arising from brain injury develop in the future.

We recognized the severity of her injury and made sure that she was examined by a variety of specialists in order to flesh out just how extensive her TBI was. Our firm is comfortable working with radiologists (who conduct the MRI and CT scans), neuropsychologists ( they perform a battery of tests), rehabilitation doctors and therapists, and life care planners in determining the extent of the damage caused by the victim’s injury. 

After extensive negotiations with the defense, we were able to secure a $21 million structured settlement so she would have the resources necessary to receive a life-time of care.

To learn more about TBI side effects, take a moment to check out these videos and articles:

 

 

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