Sleep Better at Night With Answers to Your Top Questions on Virginia Brain Injury Claims
Experiencing something as traumatic as an accident in Chesterfield County can leave your head spinning with questions and uncertainty. Get the answers you need fast in this FAQ series from Richmond brain injury attorney Kevin Mottley.
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Can a traumatic brain injury be cured?
When a head injury causes brain tissue to be damaged, there is no way to reverse the damage. So in that way, traumatic brain injuries cannot be cured. However, the limitations and disabilities imposed on the victim by the damaged brain can be overcome through intensive therapy and rehabilitation. These options can be very expensive and may not be covered by health insurance. If you or a family member sustained a traumatic brain injury in a motor vehicle crash or slip and fall, you might be able to hold the negligent party responsible for paying for your long-term medical needs.
What Are Treatment Options for Traumatic Brain Injury?
Depending on the severity of the TBI and the abilities it has affected, the appropriate treatment may include physical, occupational, and speech therapy. The goal of rehabilitation is to help the patient regain as much of the function he or she has lost, including the following:
- Gross motor skills, including walking, balancing, throwing a ball, and exercising
- Fine motor skills, such as picking up objects, holding utensils, writing, and crafting
- Speech and communication skills, which may include speech therapy or learning alternative forms of communication.
- Occupational skills, including relearning work tasks or learning new skills in order to get a job
- Counseling to cope with the emotional and psychological effects of the accident and injury
These therapies may be needed for months or even years in order to make up for the deficits caused by the injury and are very expensive. If the accident that left you injured was not your fault, you shouldn’t have to pay for the consequences.
Should Someone Else Be Paying for Your Rehab?
If another driver, property owner, or another negligent party was responsible for causing the accident that left you injured, you might have a claim for compensation from their insurance company. At the Mottley Law Firm, we are experienced with traumatic brain injury claims and understand what kinds of long-term therapies and treatments may be required. If you or a loved one has suffered a TBI in an accident, reach out to our firm today to find out if we can help. We only accept a few personal injury cases at a time because we want to provide each of our clients with the highest level of service. If we can do your case justice, we will tell you how!
Do I need to see a doctor after a car accident even if I feel ok?
No one is ever prepared for a car accident. These are shocking and unexpected events, and it is hard to know what you should do afterward. You may feel perfectly fine and, even though you know the crash was not your fault, you may not be worried about holding the other driver responsible. However, one of the best pieces of advice we can offer is to always get yourself checked out by a doctor.
Car Accident Injuries Are Not Always Immediately Obvious
If you can get out of your car and walk around after a crash, you might assume you’re ok. You might have a minor ache or pain, but you don’t want to make a big deal about it at the scene. Despite this, it is important that you make an appointment with a doctor as soon as you can after the accident to see if you have injuries that are not obvious right away. Common delayed-symptom car accident injuries include the following:
- Whiplash. The symptoms of whiplash can take several days to become noticeable. That does not make the injury any less serious. Whiplash can cause debilitating headaches, back pain, and neck pain. In some cases, it can also cause traumatic brain injury. It is important to be evaluated for whiplash by a doctor within a few days of the crash.
- Concussion. In a car crash, your head could hit the steering wheel or dashboard, causing a concussion. Even if you don’t hit your head, the force of the crash could be enough to cause brain damage by shaking up your brain inside your skull. You may not experience headaches, sleeplessness, dizziness, memory loss, and other symptoms for several days after the crash.
- Psychological trauma. Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder after a car crash will not develop right away. You may begin experiencing flashbacks, nightmares, a fear of driving, anxiety, and depression several days, or even several weeks, after an accident. An early exam by a therapist can diagnose the problem and help you cope.
Other injuries, such as soft tissue damage and back problems, may also manifest days or weeks after a crash.
Seeing a Doctor Is Key to Building a Strong Claim for Compensation
In the days and weeks after your crash, the reality of what has happened will sink in. You will talk to your insurance company, and bills will start to come in. If the crash wasn’t your fault, you will begin to realize that you need to take legal action. Seeing a doctor early in the process will provide documentation of your injuries and make a causal connection between the crash and your medical costs. Talking to a personal injury attorney will also put you on the right path to getting the compensation you deserve. Call the Mottley Law Firm to find out more about what you can do to protect your legal claim. We are here for you.
What is the difference between a mild, moderate, and severe brain injury?
Suffering a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in an accident—or helping a loved one who has been injured—is a frightening and confusing experience. At the time of the injury, doctors often aren’t able to tell you much about the prognosis for recovery. However, you should be given information about the severity of the injury, which will give you an idea of what the road ahead will look like.
Three Levels of Traumatic Brain Injury
Whether you or your loved one has sustained a concussion, contusion, penetrating injury, or diffuse axonal injury, your injury could be considered mild, moderate, or severe. Based on the symptoms and expected recovery, brain injuries are generally rated as follows:
- Mild. When there is no—or a very brief—loss of consciousness and symptoms such as confusion, headaches, and dizziness are brief and minor, the brain injury is considered mild. Mild TBIs are often diagnosed based on the fact that there was an impact to the head rather than on scans showing brain damage or permanent impairments.
- Moderate. If the person was unconscious for anywhere from a few minutes to several hours, the TBI would be considered moderate. Long-term cognitive, physical, and emotional effects are possible with a moderate TBI. These impairments could last for several months, and some changes may be permanent.
- Severe. A severe TBI is often permanently debilitating or fatal. An injury that crushes or penetrates the skull and damages brain tissue is considered severe because there is no way to repair the damage. If they survive, victims of a severe TBI cannot expect to return to the life they had before the accident.
No matter what level of brain injury you or your loved one has suffered, if another person’s negligence caused the car accident, slip and fall, or workplace accident that lead to your TBI, you need an attorney to help you fight for damages. Contact the Mottley Law Firm to learn more about our traumatic brain injury legal services.
What is the goal of rehabilitation after a brain injury?
When you were diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury (TBI), your doctor said that you would need intensive rehabilitation to regain some of the motor and cognitive function you lost. If your injury happened in an accident caused by a negligent party, the costs of rehab might be recovered in a personal injury claim against the at-fault party. Learn more about what rehab for a TBI may consist of and how our Richmond personal injury team can help you get the compensation you deserve.
Rehabilitation After a Virginia TBI
Whether you sustained a traumatic brain injury in a car crash, slip and fall, or workplace accident, you have a long road ahead to recovery. A big part of your treatment will likely be working with therapists on a rehabilitation program. The goal of your program is to overcome the limitations caused by the injury and to regain as much of your former functioning as possible. Depending on how the TBI has affected you, your rehab might consist of any of the following:
- Neuromuscular brain rehabilitation. Physical therapists will work with you on the motor control and mobility issues caused by the brain injury.
- Cognitive rehabilitation. Improving mental processing, memory, mood, and emotional challenges are the goals of this type of therapy.
- Speech and language therapy. If your brain injury has affected your ability to communicate, working with a speech and language therapist can help you regain skills and learn other ways to communicate.
- Occupational rehabilitation. If your TBI prevents you from returning to the type of work you did before the accident, you may undergo occupational therapy to learn new ways to complete tasks or to learn a new trade altogether.
- Support groups and counseling. People with TBI may experience depression and have other emotional struggles. Group and individual counseling can ease some of the suffering.
Your doctor will recommend the right combination of these rehabilitation services for your specific case.
Worried About Paying for Rehab? Our Richmond Attorney May Be Able to Help!
If a careless driver, negligent property owner, or non-compliant employer contributed to the cause of the accident that left you struggling with a TBI, you might be able to sue for compensation to cover your losses. Our brain injury lawyer can fight the complex battle against an insurance company and the people who caused the injury while you focus on recovering from the injury. Contact us to learn more about the kinds of personal injury cases we take at the Mottley Law Firm.
If I told the EMT that I did not lose consciousness, do I have a case for my traumatic brain injury?
One of the standard questions a first responder (emergency medical technician, or "EMT") will ask a person who has been involved in an accident is whether they "lost consciousness." Depending on the answer, the EMT will put that information in their report. Then, when the injured person gets to the emergency room, they will again be asked whether they lost consciousness. Once again, the answer given by the patient will be put in the emergency room report.
This raises the question: "What if I told the EMT and the emergency room doctor that I did not lose consciousness? Does that mean I have no case for a traumatic brain injury from the accident?"
No, it does not.
A person who loses consciousness is not aware of having lost it. Therefore, they're not able to accurately respond to that question. Only if a third person was there observing what happened (rarely the case) can loss of consciousness be accurately determined by simply asking the question. Loss of consciousness means that the person has a gap in their ability to recall a period of time. That lost period of time may be only a few seconds. If a person responds to a question about loss of consciousness by saying that they "don't know" or "no," that fact does not medically rule out the possibility that a concussion occurred. Determining whether a concussion, or mild traumatic brain injury, occurred, requires the medical provider to dig a little deeper into investigating what happened.
Another factor that plays into this issue is that emergency personnel, including EMTs and emergency room doctors, are typically more focused on other problems with a patient than they are with investigating whether a concussion occurred. To illustrate the point, let's assume a patient was in a car accident in which they broke their leg and suffered a nasty gash on their hand, which is bleeding profusely. When they arrive at the emergency room, they are fully awake and oriented. They are as conscious as a person can be. But they're bleeding and in a lot of pain. The ER doctors are going to focus, first, on stopping the profusely bleeding hand and, second, on getting down to fixing that broken leg. They'll most certainly ask whether a loss of consciousness occurred. The answer will in most cases be "I don't know" or "no," at which point the medical personnel will check that box off in their report and move on.
This sort of dynamic is why a recent study showed that more than 50% of mild traumatic brain injuries (concussions) are not diagnosed in the emergency room.
Here at The Mottley Law Firm, most of the traumatic brain injury cases we handle involve a person who either responded "no" or "I don't know" to the question, "did you lose consciousness." That is the fact pattern we see most of the time in mild TBI cases.
If you or a loved one have suffered a mild traumatic brain injury or concussion due to some sort of accident or mishap, feel free to contact us about the matter. We focus a significant portion of our practice on helping people in this position with their legal needs.
What is post-concussion syndrome?
Post-concussion syndrome, or postconcussive syndrome as it is sometimes referred to ("PCS"), is a diagnostic label applied to a set of symptoms that sometimes arise following a concussion. These symptoms may last days, weeks or months, but a diagnosis of PCS is usually not made until several months following an injury. The symptoms are the same as those for a mild traumatic brain injury ("TBI"). They include headache, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and emotional and behavioral changes.
Who can bring a lawsuit for a wrongful death?
In Virginia, as elsewhere, a lawsuit may be filed against a person (including a company) whose negligence, recklessness, or intentional conduct caused someone else to die. These are called "wrongful death" suits. Under Virginia law, all wrongful death cases must "be brought by and in the name of the personal representative of such deceased person." A personal representative is a person, such as an executor, executrix, or administrator of a person's estate who is qualified by the clerk of the circuit court to represent the deceased person and his or her estate. One of the powers of a personal representative is the power to sue. Virginia has enacted statutes that explain who may qualify as a personal representative. Personal representatives may be designated in a person's will. If no will exists or if the executor named in the will fails or refuses to qualify, then the statute gives priority to others who may want to be the personal representative. Qualifying as a personal representative is fairly easy and the people working in the clerk's offices in Virginia are very helpful in answering questions on these topics.
What does "contributory negligence" mean and why is that important in a Virginia brain injury case?
In another Frequently Asked Question, I explained the meaning of "negligence" and why it is important in Virginia brain injury cases and all other personal injury cases in Virginia. "Contributory negligence" means the same thing as "negligence." The only difference is that, when lawyers speak of contributory negligence, we are referring to any negligence committed by the injured person (the plaintiff) that "contributed" to the injury. Hence, the word "contributory" is inserted in front of "negligence."
Why is this distinction important? It is important because of the common law in Virginia. Virginia is one of only two states (I believe) that still adheres to the old rule that, if an injured person's own negligence contributed to his or her own injury, then the person is completely barred from recovering compensation from the defendant. So, for example, if a defendant store was negligent in maintaining its store by leaving a tripping hazard in a walk way, a person injured by that negligence would be completely barred from recovering money from the defendant if the injured person was also negligent in failing to watch where they were walking. This is a pretty harsh rule, particularly in cases in which the injured person was only slightly negligent. That, unfortunately, does not matter. Most other states adhere to some sort of "comparative" negligence rule. In such states, the jury can take into consideration the degree of negligence attributable to each party and take that into consideration when awarding compensation to the injured person.
What does the word "negligence" mean in a Virginia brain injury or other serious injury case?
The word "negligence" is very important in any personal injury case. That is because, for the plaintiff to win a personal injury case, it is usually necessary for the plaintiff to prove that the defendant was negligent and that the defendant's negligence caused the plaintiff's injury. In Virginia, as elsewhere, "negligence" means a failure to exercise what is called "ordinary care." Ordinary care is that degree of care that a "reasonable person" would exercise under the same conditions and circumstances existing at the time and place of the incident in question. I know this sounds like a lot of legal gibberish. But what I've just written is pretty much what a jury is told about the law before the jury is sent back to the jury room to decide the case. In fact, the actual jury instruction read to juries every day in Virginia is as follows: "Negligence is the failure to use ordinary care. Ordinary care is the care a reasonable person would have used under the circumstances of this case." So there you have it. What does it mean, exactly? When thinking about the "reasonable person" in layman's terms, I tell people to imagine a slightly nerdy fellow with a pocket protector who is very careful about things as he goes about his daily activities. Is the speed limit 55 miles per hour? The so-called "reasonable person" goes 55 mph or below, but not so far below to be "unreasonable." (We've all seen people driving 35 in a 55 zone, which I would submit is unreasonable and negligent.) Is there something slippery on a floor in a grocery store? The reasonable person who works at the store looks for that sort of condition and, when he finds it, he cleans it up or puts down an effective warning sign. You get the picture.
What is fraud?
In Virginia, a person who has been defrauded may have a civil claim for damages against the person who defrauded the plaintiff. A fraud is, in essence, a lie that has been relied upon by someone and, as a result, has caused damage to the person who relied on the truthfulness of the lie. In legal jargon, an "actual fraud" is defined as a misrepresentation of a material fact, knowingly and intentionally made, with the intent to mislead another person, which that person relied upon with the result that he or she (or it, in the case of a company) was damaged by it. Frauds come in two different types: actual fraud and constructive fraud. Constructive fraud happens when someone says something that is not truthful, but the falsehood was made "innocently" and "negligently," as opposed to "knowingly and intentionally." Fraud cases are very complicated and all sorts of nuances to the above definitions exist under the law. Therefore, if you suspect you have been the victim of a fraud, you should consult with a Virginia attorney about the matter so that you can understand whether you should seek relief in court.