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Posted in Uncategorized on February 29, 2016   |  by Gary Burger

Medical Malpractice Case Involving a Brain Injury

I settled a medical malpractice case for over $1 million. Our client Kelly was diagnosed with, but not properly treated for, a brain aneurysm.  Kelly went to a Southern Illinois emergency room and was treated by a physician there who diagnosed a recent brain aneurysm but did not monitor her or refer her to neurosurgeon for immediate “coil” surgery.  Kelly had a “thunderclap” headache (or the worst headache of your life) and had problems for a few days before she was brought into the emergency room.  The doctor there did a CT scan of her brain and found an aneurysm, but did not do a spinal tap to assess whether it was still bleeding or keep her for observation or refer her immediately to a neurosurgeon.

Instead he advised her to call a neurologist the following week for follow-up visit and did not imply any urgency in that.  Two days later the aneurysm ruptured again causing brain damage.  This is completely contrary to the standard of care.  When an aneurysm happens, immediate treatment is needed to prevent further bleeding and brain damage.  Fortunately, Kelly has made a good recovery and lives at home with her father.  We were able to file suit and aggressively pursue this case and obtain the full insurance policy limits for Kelly.  In addition, we worked with the family to put the money in a trust so that Kelly can continue to get benefits to help her for medical care for the rest of her life.  This is called a Supplemental Needs Trust and puts the money in a trust for needs that are supplemental, or in addition to, the needs provided by Medicaid.

I am so proud and have a lot of gratitude for being able to help Kelly and her family – they are the kindest family and deserved good, aggressive and honest representation.  If you or a family member have this type of head pain – insist on prompt and thorough evaluation and testing, and be seen by a neurologist or specialist.

Facts about Brain Injuries 

We have represented others with brain injuries as well.  Each year, an estimated 1.7 million people sustain a traumatic brain injury (or TBI). While around 75% of TBIs are concussions or other forms of mild traumatic brain injury, the other 25% are moderate to severe injuries and can have lasting consequences on a person’s quality of life. In some cases, these injuries can even cost a person his or her life: TBIs make up almost one-third (30.5%) of injury-related deaths in the United States.

How prevalent are traumatic brain injuries in the United States?
Around 5.3 million Americans, or about 2% of the total population, currently live with disabilities that resulted from a TBI. Of the 1.7 million people who experience these injuries each year, 80% (1.365 million) are treated and released from an emergency room in a hospital, but that leaves the other one-fifth in critical condition. The number of hospital visits that are the result of a TBI increased from 2002 to 2006 from 14.4% to 19.5%. Fortunately, it is believed that 75 percent of traumatic brain injuries treated in emergency rooms are reported as mild in severity.

What are the causes of traumatic brain injuries?
The most frequent cause of TBIs are slip and fall accidents, which result in the greatest number of TBI-related emergency department visits in the United States -- at least 523,000 of them, in fact. They also cause the greatest number of hospitalizations at 62,334 annually on average. Essentially, falls are to blame for more than one-third (35%) of all TBIs.Between 2002 and 2006, there was a 62% increase in fall-related TBIs seen in ERs involving children age 14 and younger. Also between those years, adults age 65 and older experienced a 46% increase in ER visits, a 345 increase in hospitalizations, and a 27% increase in TBI-related deaths.

What are the types of Brain injuries?

Diffuse axonal injuries occur when the brain moves back and forth in the skull as a result of acceleration or deceleration. Many concussions are considered to be mild to moderate diffuse axonal injuries. The axons in the brain, responsible for sending messages between neurons, are severed when brain tissue slides over brain tissue. Unlike a blunt force injury, this injury is considered diffuse because it affects the entire brain. Many people who experience a diffuse axonal injury experience swelling in their brain. Most people survive a mild to moderate form of this injury, but very few people survive severe diffuse axonal injuries without permanent impairment. This type of injury is best diagnosed with an MRI.

Focal brain injuries occur when someone experiences a severe blow to the head. Focal brain injuries can be open or closed and can involve something, a piece of the skull or penetrating object, piercing the brain. These injuries are referred to as focal because they only affect a specific area of brain tissue. Focal brain injuries often result in contusions and hematomas. A contusion occurs when brain tissue is damaged. A hematoma occurs when there is bleeding present in the skull. The symptoms of a focal brain injury vary depending on the location of the damage to the brain. This type of injury can be easily diagnosed with a CT scan.

How can a traumatic brain injury affect a person?
While mild TBIs, like concussions, tend to heal after a short period, mild to severe TBIs can present a lifetime of consequences for an individual. Anything from hampered motor skills or mobility issues to a persistent vegetative state can occur after a traumatic brain injury. Even if a person survives a TBI, that injury can present complications further down the road. A moderate head injury, for instance, can increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 2.3 times; for severe head injuries, the likelihood of a person developing Alzheimer’s increases to 4.5 times.

What should someone do if a loved one has suffered a traumatic brain injury?
The costs of medical care for a person with a TBI can be astronomical, and it’s not uncommon for people in the United States to have to file for bankruptcy just to pay off medical bills. Long-term and permanent injuries can have devastating consequences for patients and their family members, and insurance companies sometimes don’t make this process any easier.

Brain injuries are always a concern when you are involved in a fall, collision or if an unstable piece of equipment strikes you in the head. You should always be examined for a brain injury if you are involved in a serious accident.

Many people don’t know that the symptoms of a brain injury may take time to develop. You may be involved in a car accident in which you sustain a whiplash injury and only start to notice the resulting cognitive impairment once you return to normal activities. It is important for your long term health and recovery to be examined by a medical professional as soon as your symptoms begin to surface. Your quick action is also an important factor for your personal injury claim.