People who are injured in an accident can suffer many different kinds of injuries. Among the most serious, as well as the hardest to diagnose and treat, are so called traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), also known as “closed head trauma.”
The problem with treating TBIs is that many general practitioners are not adequately trained in the neuroscience of head injuries and are unable to properly diagnose the injury when they encounter one. Although most doctors are capable of recognizing serious TBIs (such as those that put a victim in a coma), the less debilitating TBIs are more difficult to diagnose because there are fewer outward signs of the internal injury.
Even a relatively minor TBI can cause the victim to suffer serious problems. TBIs send more than 400,000 people to the hospital for treatment each year, three quarters of whom are males between the ages of 15 and 34. Males victims are in more danger because of the lifestyle that many of the accident victims lead: riding motorcycles without a helmet, participating in dangerous sports, and drunk-driving accidents. Although the majority of these injuries are moderate to mild, even a minor TBI can cause serious problems.
Victims of brain injuries will receive care from a wide range of professionals. Realizing the diversity of these providers is essential to understanding the gravityand magnitude of TBIs. The range of professionals who may have to be consulted illustrates the breadth of disability that a survivor must endure.
Perhaps the most important of these professionals is the neurologist. Neurologists specialize in the medical treatment of the nervous system: the brain, spinal cord,nerves, and muscles. A neurologist makes an initial evaluation, diagnoses the injury, and consults on immediate medical care for the patient to follow.
Despite huge medical advances, many people who suffer such TBIs do not receive the appropriate treatment. The long term effects of a TBI can include many and varied symptoms, often related to brain function, such as seizures, headaches, dizziness, and problems with memory and concentration. However, TBIs can cause other symptoms not commonly associated with the brain, including loss of motor control, fatigue, depression, speech disorders, anxiety, sexual dysfunction, and a short temper, as well as an increased chance of getting lost or becoming agitated.
Given the variety of symptoms and the seemingly far-fetched connection to the TBI, treatment is often delayed or not provided at all, and the patient continues to suffer, often unaware of the cause of his problems. Even when a TBI victim has been correctly diagnosed, the variety of symptoms can make treatment expensive and difficult.
Legally, it is often difficult to prove that symptoms suffered by a TBI victim are directly related to the TBI. Because doctors can be slow to diagnose the connection, proving that a TBI has caused the symptoms that a person describes to the jury in court can be difficult.
Compounding the issue of difficult diagnosis, many of the people who serve on juries have trouble believing that a head injury can cause so many different problems, not all of which are directly related to the victim’s head. All of these factors make it more difficult for a TBI victim to win full recovery of damages for the injury.
Several lessons can be drawn from this. If you have suffered a TBI, even a minor one, and are suffering from symptoms that were not present prior to injury, consult with your healthcare providers about the possibility of a serious TBI. While not all symptoms that a person may suffer from are necessarily caused by a TBI, the range of symptoms is great and it may take some time to get a correct diagnosis.
Healthcare professionals involved with individuals who suffer brain injuries include: Neuropsychologists, Physical Therapists, Respiratory Therapists, Speech Pathologists, Occupational Therapists, Cognitive Therapists Educational Therapists, Vocational Counselors, Social Workers Therapeutic Recreational Specialists, Rehabilitation Case Managers
If you are involved in a lawsuit where you or a loved one suffered a TBI, be sure to retain qualified counsel to help you prepare and present what can be a difficult and complex case. This way you can help ensure that you arefully compensated for all of the injuries that you or yours have suffered.
DISABILITY BENEFITS FAQs
Disabled workers are entitled to disability benefits but have questions about the process of making a claim and collecting those benefits.
Q: Who can apply for disability benefits?
A: Benefits are available to disabled workers, disabled surviving spouses of workers, and disabled adult children of workers.
Q: What benefits are available? A: If you qualify, the benefits come as a monthly check. If you receive disability benefits for at least two years, you are also eligible for Medicare.
Q: What does it mean to be “disabled”? A: A worker is disabled when some illness or injury leaves him or her unable to do the work he or she did before, or to adjust and do any other work. The disability must be expected to last for at least one year or result in death. People who are partially disabled or who have short-term disabilities are not considered disabled by the Social Security Administration (SSA).
Q: How do I apply for benefits?
A: You can file an application on the SSA website (www.ssa.gov), by calling the SSA at 800-772 1213, or by visiting a local SSA field office. The application forms will ask for information about your disability, the names of your doctors, and about your work.
Q: What happens after I file my application?
A: It is sent to the state Disability Determination Services office, which will investigate the claim.
Q: How long does it take for my application to be processed?
A: It depends. Usually it takes three to five months but can take longer depending the nature of your disability, the speed with which your doctors respond to information requests, and whether a special medical examination is required.
Q: Can I lose my benefits?
A: Yes, if you are no longer eligible. Cases are reviewed periodically to see if the person receiving benefits still qualifies. The amount of time that passes between reviews depends on the severity of the disability and ranges from six months to seven years.
Q: What if I disagree with a benefits determination?
A: Whether it is a denial of a claim or a decision to stop your benefits, you can appeal the decision. In most cases, you have 60 days to appeal. If you are still dissatisfied after appealing, you may appeal further and can even go to court.
**Actual resolution of legal issues depends upon many factors, including variations of facts and state laws. This newsletter is not intended to provide legal advice on specific subjects, but rather to provide insight into legal developments and issues. The reader should always consult with legal counsel before taking action on matters covered by this newsletter.