How Do Accidents Involving Brain Injury Differ From Other Personal Injury Cases?
Brain injuries can be extremely serious injuries. A brain injury can result from several different occurrences, including careless treatment by a doctor or a car accident. No matter the cause, when brain injuries result diagnosing and accurately predicting how a plaintiff’s life will change becomes extremely difficult. The very nature of these injuries make them likely to be permanent and completely life-changing. Below is a discussion of common legal claims that can address brain damage.
Head Trauma Claims
Head trauma is by far the most common cause of brain injuries. These injuries are generally one of three types. First, the injury may be an “open-head” type injury. In these injuries, there is an opening in the skull either resulting in blood reaching the brain or a projectile—such as a fragment of skull or a bullet—damaging the brain. It may be surprising, but these injuries are generally less dangerous because the area of the brain affected is much smaller. Thus, effects may be limited to paralysis of a single limb or sleeping disorders. In contrast, “closed-head” type injuries generally result in much more of the brain being harmed. This is because a closed head injury results in the brain colliding with the skull. Slip and falls and objects striking the head account for most closed head injuries. Because larger amounts of the brain are likely to come in contact with the skull, the effects of these injuries are usually much more varied. Individuals can suffer from seizures, memory loss, and paralysis, all from this single injury. The final type of brain injury is closely related to closed-head type injuries: diffuse axonal injuries. These injuries occur when the brain not only collides with the skull upon impact, but also experiences additional “spring-back” collisions. These injuries almost exclusively occur in car accidents at moderate to high speeds. Thinking of the whiplash motion of a driver’s head in such a collision demonstrates how the brain is thrown forward inside the skull and then thrown backwards, causing two collisions on two different areas. These injuries can be extremely severe, as most or all of the brain can be damaged in the violent back-and-forth contact. Complete brain death can result from severe instances of diffuse axonal injuries, as all parts of the brain can be damaged from contact on each side.
Negligence claims are the most common legal remedies for brain trauma injuries. These claims redress carelessness by another that results in injury, such as car accidents or spills on floors. The beginning of every negligence claim is actually the last legal element: the injury. From there, there must be a legal duty owed by the defendant. This can be the obligation to drive safely on the highways or provide a safe store for customers to shop it. The defendant must fail to live up to this obligation in some way by acting carelessly. There is no need for the defendant to act deliberately, though. Absent-mindedly speeding or failing to clear ice from a sidewalk are enough to breach the duty. Finally, the carelessness of defendant must be the cause of the injury.
When the injury resulting from a negligence claim is a brain injury, two important concepts should be considered. The first is the “thin skull” or “eggshell plaintiff” doctrine. This rule states that if harm is sufficiently foreseeable to the defendant when he or she acts carelessly, the fact that the injuries that result are much more severe than anticipated doesn’t prevent full recovery for all injuries. As the court noted in Noel v. Pizza Management, if any harm was foreseeable then all harm can be compensated. The second doctrine is comparative fault, as provided for by Section 60-258a. Comparative fault requires that any carelessness by a plaintiff will reduce his or her recovery. If a plaintiff is more at fault than the defendant, there can be no recovery at all. An example of this can occur when a motorcyclist fails to wear a helmet. If the jury finds that the failure to wear a helmet is what accounted for a majority of the plaintiff’s injuries, the plaintiff will not be allowed to recover even though the defendant is careless.
Lack Of Oxygen Injuries And Claims
Another source of brain injuries are oxygen deprivation injuries. These result when the brain is forced to go without oxygen for long periods of time. Common causes include near drownings, carbon monoxide leaks, and errors during surgery. Medical errors are actionable when the doctor fails to exercise the skill, care, and knowledge that those in the profession must exercise. When a breach of care occurs and results in injury, the plaintiff can recover. In the context of lack of oxygen, a surgeon must ensure that a patient that is under anesthesia continues to adequately breathe. If a patient stops receiving oxygen to the brain, the doctor must act quickly and reasonably to restore breathing. Failure to notice a patient has stopped breathing or otherwise redress oxygen deprivation will likely result in a claim for medical malpractice.
Chemical Injury Claims
A final type of brain injury results from chemical poisoning. When certain chemicals enter into the body, they can attach to and affect neurons in the brain. These neurons generally freely communicate with muscles and organs, but when dangerous chemicals disrupt the neurons it can result in seizures, speech disorders, and other conditions. Chemicals can enter the body through dangerous products such as foods and medicines. Manufacturers of products must ensure that they are free from dangerous defects. When a product is incorrectly manufactured, designed, or fails to contain adequate warnings, the manufacturer is responsible for any injuries caused by the product. This includes brain injuries caused by toxins inside drugs.
When a brain injury occurs, the law offers remedies for the injured individual. This is true for several types of brain injuries. Contacting an experienced trial attorney is essential when dealing with complex injuries such as those that can occur to the brain. Only with experience and knowledge can an attorney successfully navigate these complex cases and injuries.
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