Brain Injury Law Center | Brain Injury Blog - Stephen Smith
The Brain Injury Law Center are the brain injury lawyers dedicated exclusively to representing brain injury victims, survivors and their families. This blog talks about experienced attorney who helps you to seek compensation to alleviate the emotional and financial burdens this unwanted injury has placed on your family.
Did you know that March is Brain Injury Awareness Month? The Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) has been promoting public awareness of this issue for over 30 years. The goals of their yearly campaign are to empower brain injury survivors and their caregivers, provide outreach within the brain injury community to destigmatize traumatic brain injuries, and promote the support types available to people living with this condition. Imagine trying to function without your body’s central processing unit. How would you get through your day without access to your memories, speech, emotions, or physical motor and basic body functions?
You might be surprised to learn how common brain injuries are. More than 168,000 Virginians are disabled as a result of traumatic brain injuries and the condition accounts for about 1/3 of all Virginia residents’ injury-related deaths. Because of their prevalence, it’s important to know the causes and signs of brain injury, as well as how to best support those dealing with the disability.
Most Common Causes of Brain Injuries
Traumatic brain injury can be caused by a blow to the body or head. Factors such as the force of impact and the nature of the injury will determine the degree of damage. Sports injuries, violence, collisions involving vehicles, falls, and combat injuries like explosive blasts can all lead to TBI.
Vehicle-related crashes, whether they involve bicycles, motorcycles, or automobiles are especially damaging for drivers and pedestrians. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, motor vehicle crashes were the third overall leading cause of traumatic brain injury-related emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and deaths among all age groups – as high as 14%. They are also the third leading cause of brain-injury deaths (19%).
Brain Injury Symptoms
Traumatic brain injury symptoms can appear within the first few hours to days after a head injury. By knowing what to look for, you could save a life. Be on the lookout for the following in adults or children. Please note that this is not a complete list of symptoms:
• Adults – loss of consciousness, nausea or vomiting, headache, drowsiness or confusion, changing sleep pattern, mood swings or depression, slurred speech, loss of coordination.
• Children – Loss of interest in play, seizures, change in eating or sleeping habits, attention span loss, persistent crying.
What to Avoid Saying to Someone with a Brain Injury
When dealing with a loved one who’s affected by traumatic brain injury, it’s natural to want to help by offering advice or sharing your thoughts, even if you may be unfamiliar with brain injury. It’s also easy to get burned out when caring for someone with a brain injury and find yourself saying something out of frustration. The following are a few things you might not say to someone with a brain injury:
“Let me do that for you.” After a brain injury, people often lose their sense of control or independence. You may find it easier and faster to do something for them, but this can diminish their confidence, self-esteem, and quality of living. Allowing them to try things for themselves can help their brain heal faster and alleviate depression.
“You’re lucky to be alive.” While you might think you’re promoting positive thinking, people with brain injuries are six times more likely to become suicidal. They may not feel “lucky” to be alive. Instead, tell them how heroic, persistent or strong they are for making it through their ordeal. Let them know that you think they’re awesome.
“You don’t try hard enough,” or “You’re lazy.” Apathy is not laziness. Instead, this lack of emotion, motivation, or interest is a common disorder caused by brain injury. Because it can get in the way of rehabilitation, treatment is important. Certain prescription drugs have shown to be effective in treating apathy.
“How many times do I have to tell you?” Repeating yourself may prove difficult at times, however, recall that brain injury often impacts memory. Find ways to work around it. You could write a reminder on a memo board, create a routine, or break the task down into easier steps. Also, remember that your loved one can read frustration in your face. You don’t have to say it for it to be hurtful.
How You Can Get Involved
Brain injury victims need your support. Be a part of the solution by getting involved and spreading awareness. Easy ways to do this are:
Sharing your experience – You can share your story on the Brain Injury Association of America website through personal testimony and inspire others who may be going through similar situations.
Connecting on social media – Find like-minded individuals on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites who are on the same journey as you. The BIAA has created a profile frame you can use to spread awareness of the cause.
Showing support – Download and share free ads, flyers, and posters from the BIAA with your local community. The Brain Injury Association of America created a digital stamp for this year’s campaign hashtag, #ChangeYourMind. Try downloading the stamp and using it on social media posts, websites, email, stickers, t-shirts, and more to let other people know you’re an advocate for the cause.
The Brain Injury Law Center fully supports the Brain Injury Awareness campaign and we fight for justice for survivors and their families. To find out what we can do for you, call us at (877) 537-4340.
Attorneys Stephen M. Smith and David B. Holt of The Brain Injury Law Center partnered with The Mottley Law Firm to settle a case for a woman who suffered a traumatic brain injury in a head-on collision. The case was especially challenging due to the woman’s complicated psychiatric medical history.
Smith’s client, a 54-year-old woman (who will be referred to as “Becky” to protect her identity), suffered traumatic injuries after colliding head-on with another driver. She was driving the speed limit when the on-coming driver careened into her path, hitting Becky straight on. The airbags hit the right side of her face, causing a cerebral contusion.
Becky struggled afterward to remember any details about the crash.
Client Symptoms Point to Medical Disorders
For years before the collision, Becky dealt with anxiety, depression and Asperger’s Syndrome. She had also suffered a Transient Ischemic Attack (or mini-stroke), sustained a head injury after falling from a horse and endured a concussion when her head was accidentally slammed by a car door. Becky had been living on disability due to her psychiatric problems and was unemployed.
Following the accident, Becky experienced lingering headaches, difficulty concentrating and trouble seeing properly. She was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury (TBI), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), post-traumatic vision disorder (PTVS), convergence insufficiency, cognitive communication disorder, dysexecutive disorder, orbitofrontal deficits, post-traumatic headache syndrome, a balance disorder and insomnia from the car accident.
These facts added to the challenges of the case presented in court.
Preexisting Conditions Complicate Client’s Case
Although Becky sustained serious injuries from the crash, she was also already living with significant difficulties beforehand. This was the central topic of debate during her trial. Her attorneys and doctors insisted the crash exacerbated her pre-existing conditions, and that the resulting TBI she suffered was the main source of her problems. In addition to this, her psychiatrist believed her Asperger’s Syndrome made it more difficult for her to cope and heal.
However, medical experts hired by the defendant contended that her health problems all stemmed from her pre-existing conditions. The fact that she was already on disability was an added a challenge in court.
The debate concluded when a month before the trial, the other driver admitted to causing the crash. The case settled in mediation for $630,000.
“This case was very complex, and I truly sympathize with what my client went through. We are pleased to have given her the best possible outcome, giving her hope for the future,” said Smith.
Experienced Brain Injury Attorney Stephen M. Smith
Stephen Smith is the founder and director of the Brain Injury Law Center. He has more than four decades of experience with brain injury cases and is internationally recognized for his work in traumatic brain injury litigation. More than just an attorney to his clients, Smith is an advocate who fights on behalf of those living with this life-changing illness.
In any contact sport, head injury is an inevitable risk. Rugby is no exception, and concussions are a serious concern when it comes to player welfare.
Rugby players sometimes wear protective headgear believing it protects against head injuries. However, such protective gear in rugby has serious limitations, and research has found that it might do more harm than good.
The Risk of Concussions in Rugby
A major difference between football and rugby is the amount of protective gear the sport offers. Football players wear large pads and helmets, whereas rugby players wear minimal to no padding, a mouth guard and sometimes a thin helmet.
About 1,200 people suffer head injuries while playing rugby each year. Two-thirds of these injuries are either concussions or brain injuries. In total, more than 50,000 people seek medical attention for rugby injuries each year, costing patients about $60 million in medical expenses.
Do Scrum Caps Prevent Concussions?
Although rugby players sometimes wear protective headgear with the belief that it will prevent head injuries, research has shown it offers no significant protection against concussions.
Some rugby players opt to use a type of headgear called a scrum cap. A scrum cap is ideal for protecting the ears and reducing superficial head injuries, including lacerations and abrasions.
Many believe concussions are caused by a blow to the head. However, concussions result from neural whiplash, whereby the entire head accelerates and bruises or damages the brain. Scrum caps simply can’t protect against this. For this reason, it is a misconception to believe they are effective at preventing concussions.
Several studies found no difference in concussion rates between players who did and did not wear scrum caps. Of the rugby players who regularly wore scrum caps, 63% reported concussions while 55% who did not wear headgear experienced concussions.
Scrum Caps Give Players False Sense of Security
Players who wear scrum caps said they feel more confident on the field. Because of this, they are more likely to behave recklessly on the field.
Several studies found that 67% of youth players felt more confident and able to tackle harder when wearing scrum caps, while 16% of senior players who believed scrum caps protected against concussions were four times more likely to play aggressively.
A doctor for the British boxing team and a leading member of the medical team at the London Olympics in 2012, Dr. Mike Loosemore has pushed for the removal of headguards in amateur boxing. He hopes that other contact sports like rugby avoid making the same mistake with ineffective headgear.
“Headguards give an illusion of safety. If you think you are protected by a headguard, you are more likely to put your head where it shouldn’t be.” – Dr. Mike Loosemore
According to Loosemore, “Headguards give an illusion of safety. If you think you are protected by a headguard, you are more likely to put your head where it shouldn’t be.”
Scrum Cap Claims to Protect Against Injury
One company, N-pro, built a new kind of scrum cap specifically created to prevent head injury during rugby. The creators claimed it could reduce the impact forces that cause concussions by 75 percent.
However, expert Dr. Mike Loosemore later labeled the scrum cap as “potentially extremely dangerous.”
“I think it’s extremely dangerous to start proposing children wear these things because what you might actually be doing and what a lot of the scientific evidence shows is that if you put kids in helmets, they get more head injuries. It’s a case of people trying to make a profit or do the right thing without testing it in real life situations,” said Loosemore.
Peter Robinson lost his 14-year-old son, Ben, after he sustained fatal injuries during a rugby game in 2011.
According to Robinson, “Ben effectively got whiplash. It wouldn’t have mattered if he was wearing headgear or not. It is wrong to give the false impression people are invincible when they run on to a field. World Rugby needs to show leadership on this subject. All this headgear does is reduce cuts, abrasions and cauliflower ears.”
Robinson has urged parents to understand that scrum caps like the N-Pro do not protect against head injury and may offer a false sense of security.
Preventing Concussion During Rugby
Continued sports education is vital for ensuring players understand headgear limitations and the dangers of reckless behavior on the field.
One solution that has proven effective at reducing injury rates is player and coach education on strategies for hitting and tackling safely. This is especially true among youth players. Two programs — the RugbySmart scheme in New Zealand and the BokSmart scheme in South Africa — share similar structures, aiming to educate teams. The Boksmart intervention helped reduce catastrophic injuries by 40% in a group of youth players.
Research has found that youth players value proper tackle training and learning techniques to help reduce injury. Coaches who teach children proper techniques from a young age contribute to safer tackling maneuvers as players advance in the sport.
How a Brain Injury Attorney Can Help
Unfortunately, brain injuries in contact sports are common. If you or a loved one suffered a concussion or brain injury that you believe was a result of another’s negligence, it is important to contact an experienced attorney to help you through this difficult time.
At the Brain Injury Law Center, our legal team is also equipped with medical training and an acute understanding of brain injury. Find out how in a free consultation today by calling (877) 537-4340.
This month, our Teach Believe Inspire award goes to Nicole Wight, a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) caregiver. She is a mother to two children, MacKenzie and Michael, who have special needs due to TBIs. Wight inspires our team with her selfless endurance and advocacy on behalf of her children.
Since a tragic car accident altered the course of her life, Nicole Wight used inner strength and courage to learn a new way of life. She had to for the sake of her children. Incredibly, Nicole Wight also paved the way for other parents and caregivers by sharing intimate details of her journey in raising her children.
Her advocacy work on behalf of not only her children but also other families with TBI children makes her our firm’s choice for this month’s award. We believe being a part of a supportive community is a crucial step towards healing after a traumatic event.
The Summer Everything Changed
In 2006, Nicole Wight’s children Mackenzie and Michael spent the summer living with their grandparents. In August, returning from a fun day at Chuck E. Cheese’s, their car was hit by a truck, causing a serious multi-vehicle accident. Sadly, the collision killed Wight’s mother and left her two children with serious injuries, including trauma to the brain.
Both children were treated at Children’s Specialized Hospital in Mountainside, N.J.
Mackenzie’s injuries were serious. She had an open skull fracture and a fractured collarbone. She went home after nearly a month in the hospital.
Michael’s injuries were even more devastating. He suffered a severe brain injury known as “sheering,” where nerves were severed causing a decrease in neurological and motor functions. He remained in the hospital for about four months, undergoing coma stimulation and intensive therapy to be able to start breathing on his own.
Nicole’s husband, Aaron Wight, a soldier on deployment in Afghanistan, was immediately flown back to the states to be with his wife and children. A single car collision changed life for the entire Wight family.
Michael Wakes Up
In the beginning, Nicole Wight remained hopeful that Michael would wake up from the coma the same boy she knew before the accident. Having the same hope, her family and friends said over and over that he would be fine when he wakes up – comforting her the only way they knew how.
As they waited for Michael to improve, a nurse broke the news to Wight: children who sustain Michael’s level of injury do not wake up the same person they were before the accident. The nurse helped Wight realize that she needed to prepare herself for the probable reality that lie ahead.
When Michael came home from the hospital, he was not the same boy. That did not change the fact that he was still Nicole’s son. With determination and love, Nicole began learning how to care for her special-needs child.
Caring for a Special Needs Child
Wight often felt alone. She would see mothers with special-needs children who were born with an ailment, but her case was different. Her children were four and six when everything changed for them in the blink of an eye.
After coming to grips with her new reality, Wight became an advocate for families with special needs children and traumatic brain injuries. Her ability to understand her new situation and to become a beacon of hope for special-needs children and affected families is why Wight deserves recognition.
Throughout the recovery process, Wight learned how to deal with the loss of a loved one, gained experience with traumatic brain injuries, and dealt with all the emotions that come with a tragedy.
She recalls what she heard from friends and family after the accident, as well as what she wishes she had heard. This is what makes Wight a valuable resource for those lucky enough to learn from her experiences as a mother.
Nicole began to relate her experiences to others and teach other families about life with special-needs children.
Nicole Wight Becomes Brain Injury Advocate
Wight spends much of her time helping other families through educational and relatable videos for Brainline.org. She gives practical tips and invaluable insight into the world of parenting a child with special needs — specifically one who has sustained a traumatic brain injury. Her short videos help parents see that they are not alone.
In one video, Nicole Wight tells the story of the fateful day in 2006 that changed her life forever. In another, she talks about Michael “waking up” for the first time since the accident and what an important moment it was.
Through the website, families can learn a great deal about the process of parenting a child who has undergone a traumatic brain injury. They can also learn up-to-date tips on ways to help their child.
In Wight’s video “Using Technology as a Learning Tool for Kids with Brain Injury,” she shares her academic goals for Michael, her expectations for his reading skills and how she nurtures them. She reviews special technology like iPads that help her son. Wight explains that thereshould be no limits imposed on children with special learning needs. They must be treated like their peers whenever possible.
Wight’s website has found a community of viewers who acknowledge just how much she is helping other families.
“This is probably the most difficult, yet most powerful advice that the caregivers of TBI survivors receive.”
Another comment under the “Using Technology” video shows someone who has been in comas agreeing with Wight about the importance of using math and word apps on a computer and how helpful they can be.
An Undefeated Spirit
Nicole Wight has not let the terrible 2006 accident crush her spirit.
The tragic car accident transformed Nicole into an advocate for children challenged by TBIs. Watching the videos she has made for Brainline, one sees a mother who will do anything for her children, a mother who is living life with a smile and who knows that hard work and perseverance are sometimes mandatory to get through life’s tests.
She has touched the lives of many parents, parents who now know what to expect and who now have someone in their corner after watching her videos and reading her story.
Currently, her children are pursuing active lives. Her daughter travels and her son plays hockey. Still, the heart for advocacy remains; Nicole and her family speak publicly to support brain injury awareness.
Falling is something most of us don’t have to think about—until it happens. Yet the injuries that accompany a fall can be serious, even life-altering; falling accounts for one-third of all traumatic brain injuries.
Although falls are often unavoidable, many injuries that come with this type of accident can be prevented. Learning how to fall correctly could help save you from debilitating injuries, lost wages, mounting medical bills and lengthy recoveries.
Read on to learn 5 tips taken from professionals for how you can potentially avoid serious injury during a fall.
How the Pros Break Their Falls
For some professionals, falling is not an option—it is part of the job. Here’s how they do it to minimize injury.
Servicemen and Paratroopers in the U.S. military are drilled on proper Parachute Landing Fall (PLF) techniques, which involves falling to the side after the feet hit the ground.
Martial Artists are trained to round their bodies, distributing energy by moving with the fall
Professional Stuntmen combine several strategies such as getting the body low, rolling, relaxing and distributing their weight on impact
Falling with Improper Technique
A natural reaction to falling is to try to stop it. However, this is not always the safest option.
Young children and toddlers, for example, usually fall and then pop back up without serious injury. As they get older, however, children tend to extend their arms and increase the chance of breaking bones.
Adults have different responses when it comes to falls. Their reaction speeds are lower and they also tend to stiffen up during a fall out of fear or embarrassment. Falling with this type of tension can lead to devastating injuries.
Life-Altering Injuries from Falls
Falling accidents are so common that almost 7.9 million individuals in the U.S. are sent to the emergency room each year after suffering falls.
One-third of all traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are linked to a falling accident. A TBI occurs when physical trauma such as an impact from a fall disrupts normal brain function. Injuries range from mild to severe and are often life-long conditions.
Long-term effects from a TBI include: cognitive defects, perceptual and sensory defects, functional complications, and even loss of life.
5 Tips to Avoid Injury During a Fall
Although most of us are not professionals, the following techniques can help you learn to fall “correctly:”
Protect your head by tucking your chin when falling back or to the side when falling forward
Bend your elbows and knees and fall on the fleshy part of your body
Shift your body weight to land on your side
Avoid rigidity and don’t panic. Instead, loosen up as you fall
Don’t fight the fall- relax and roll with it
When Your Fall Results in Serious Injury
Falls can happen anywhere. More often, they happen in familiar places; from slipping on public sidewalks to tripping on uneven surfaces at work, some falls are not your fault.
If you or a loved one fell and suffered a TBI while on public property or an unsafe work environment, you may have a right to fair compensation.
The legal team at The Brain Injury Law Center is ready to fight for you. Call our office today at (877) 537-4340for a free consultation and find out how we can help you on your path to healing.