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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  • How do you contest a will in Virginia?

    There are two ways under Virginia law to contest a will.  First, within 6 months after the clerk of the court enters the order that probates the will, any interested person may appeal that order to the circuit court.  The issue in these cases is whether the document admitted to probate actually is the decedent’s will.

    The second way to contest a will in Virginia is to file a complaint in circuit court seeking to impeach (challenge) the will as being the will of the decedent.  In such a case, the court is required by statute to empanel a jury to hear the case.  The sole issue for the jury to decide is whether the will that has been offered is, in fact, the will of the decedent.  The jury may also decide that some other paper produced at the trial is the actual will of the decedent.

  • What is “anoxia” and “hypoxia”?

    When blood flow to the brain is depleted of oxygen, then irreversible brain injury can occur from anoxia or hypoxia.  Anoxia is when the brain receives no oxygen.  Hypoxia is when the brain receives reduced oxygen.  This can occur within a short period of time, like minutes.  It can be caused by medical emergencies like heart attacks or respiratory failure.  If this type of brain injury happens, the consequences can be severe.

  • What is a “deceleration injury” (diffuse axonal injury)?

    This sort of injury to the brain occurs when sudden movement of the skull through space (i.e., acceleration) occurs.  When the skull stops moving, for whatever reason (say, for instance, it hits something or is suddenly forced to move in a different direction), then the gelatinous brain inside the hard skull continues to move inside the skull.  When this happens, an injury to the brain occurs.  This is often referred to as “diffuse axonal shearing” because, when the brain is slammed back and forth in the skull, it is compressed and stretched.  The fragile “axons”, which are part of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, are also compressed and stretched.  When this happens, they are injured.  This is called “axonal shearing” and, when this happens, the brain cell dies.

  • What is the Ranchos Los Amigos Scale?

    Like the Glasgow Coma Scale, the Ranchos Los Amigos Scale is a system used by medical professionals to evaluate victims of traumatic brain injuries, and is based on cognitive and behavioral presentations as victims emerge from a coma.  The scale runs from 1 to 8, with 1 being a person who is non-responsive and has no responsive cognitive functioning, while a score of 8 indicates appropriate and purposeful functioning.  Victims of traumatic brain injury will progress up the scale as they recover.  Recovery for victims is different from person to person, and some victims may plateau at a certain level on the scale.

  • What is the Glasgow Coma Scale?

    One tool used by medical professionals is the Glasgow Coma Scale.  It is a 15-point scale used by all sorts of medical professionals to evaluate a patient for level of consciousness and brain function following a head injury.  A score of 13-15 in a patient with a head injury is generally considered to show a mild or minor brain injury classification.  A score of 9 to 12 is moderate.  A score below 9 indicates a severe brain injury.

  • What are the signs and symptoms of a concussion?

    Symptoms of concussion are generally organized into four groups: (1) thinking/remembering symptoms, (2) physical symptoms, (3) emotional/mood symptoms, and (4) sleep symptoms.

    A person suffering from a concussion may have difficulty thinking clearly, concentrating, or remembering new information.  They may describe a feeling of being “slowed down” in their thinking.  I have seen this in clients as they sit in my office trying to describe things to me.

    As for physical symptoms, the person may experience headaches, fuzzy or blurry vision, nausea or vomiting, dizziness, sensitivity to light or noise, balance problems, or a feeling of fatigue or lack of energy.

    Emotional and mood symptoms include irritability, sadness and depression, a tendency to be more emotional than normal, and a feeling of nervousness or anxiety.

    A person’s sleep may be affected as well.  The person may sleep more than usual or less than usual.  Also, they may have difficulty falling asleep.

    It is important to understand that some of these symptoms may not appear right away.  In fact, some of them may not be noticed for weeks or even months after an injury when the person resumes his or her daily life activities (work, school, etc.).  Because of this time delay, the victim of a concussion may not admit they’re having problems and may not understand why they’re having difficulties.  This, of course, leads to more anxiety.  Also, family, friends and coworkers may not notice the problems and symptoms, as the person appears “normal.”

  • What attorney fee do you charge?

    For serious personal injury cases, like traumatic brain injury cases, I charge what is known as a “contingency” fee.  A contingency fee is equal to an agreed-upon percentage of the recovery in the case (the settlement amount or verdict amount).  If there is no recovery in the case, my fee is zero.  The exact percentage fee I charge depends on the specifics of the case.  Once I have an opportunity to evaluate your matter and think about it, I will tell you what percent fee I will be willing to agree to in your case.

  • Why won’t the insurance company settle my mild TBI case?

    There are really two reasons why insurance companies do not settle mild traumatic brain injury cases.  First, the insurance company and its lawyers do not believe that the plaintiff has a traumatic brain injury or they believe that enough doubt exists that it is worth it to go to court and have a jury decide that question.  Second, sometimes the insurance company does not agree that the victim of a traumatic brain injury should receive all of the compensation that the law entitles the victim to receive.  For example, it is not uncommon for the victim of a mild traumatic brain injury to require very expensive rehabilitative services and counseling into the future.  These services help the victim live as productive of a life as he or she can.  The cost of this future rehabilitative work adds up, and can be very expensive.  When the insurance company is not willing to pay for that type of expense, it is often necessary for the plaintiff to go to court and ask a jury to award that money.

  • How is a mild traumatic brain injury diagnosed?

    Typically, a mild traumatic brain injury is diagnosed by a qualified medical professional as the result of a detailed neurological examination.  Such medical professionals most often include emergency room doctors, neurologists, and neuropsychologists.  It is also possible that imaging of the brain by a CAT scan, MRI, SPECT or PET will assist in the diagnosis.  But it is well-accepted that brain injuries are notoriously difficult to diagnose and that they may not present themselves for extended periods of time following an accident.  Physical, occupational and speech therapists may also play a role in evaluation of a patient’s brain function deficits.  In addition to scans of the brain, various screening tools measure a person’s speech, movement, memory and thought.  A cognitive evaluation by a neuropsychologist who has experience and training in formal neuropsychological testing is often used to diagnose a traumatic brain injury.

  • What causes a traumatic brain injury?

    According to the Centers for Disease Control, in the United States, over 35% of TBI’s are caused by falls.  Behind that, 17% are caused by motor vehicle accidents and 27% are caused by miscellaneous blows or “strikes” to the head.  Unknown causes account for 21% of TBI.  Assaults (one person striking another) account for 10% of TBI cases each year.  A traumatic brain injury can be caused by any jolt, sudden start-stop movement, or blunt force trauma to the head.  Slip and fall accidents, in which the victim falls and hits the head on a hard surface, are the most common cause.