Brain injuries are a common occurrence in motorcycle accidents. If you or your loved one experienced a brain injury as the result of a motorcycle accident, one question you likely find yourself asking from time to time is: “What now?” Usually a motorcycle accident lawyer can provide that answer, but until you have time to consult one, read on for more information about what often happens and what you should do after suffering a brain injury in a motorcycle accident.
Seeking Medical Treatment
Many motorcyclists who suffer a brain injury lose consciousness at the scene, while others may have symptoms that can include:
- Changes in vision such as blurriness, the inability to tolerate bright light, or even blindness;
- Balance problems;
- Difficulty breathing;
- Difficulty moving body parts;
- Loss of balance or poor coordination;
- Difficulty speaking; and
- Loss of bladder or bowel control.
The injured person is usually transported from the accident scene to the hospital, where medical providers may conduct assessments to diagnose the injury and determine its severity. One of the tests hospitals often perform is the Glasgow Coma Scale, which evaluates the injured individual’s level of consciousness. Other tests may include neuroimaging tests.
While diagnosing a brain injury is relatively straight-forward, determining the impact of the injury and the best options for treating it generally take some time. Anti-seizure medications may be given, particularly if the injury involved penetration of the skull by an object, as those are the brain injuries most likely to cause seizures. Surgical interventions may be performed to relieve swelling around the brain. The patient will likely be placed in the hospital’s intensive care unit to receive continuous monitoring until they have stabilized.
Living With the Injury or Recovering From It
Once a patient has become stable and inflammation from the injury has subsided, the injured person’s medical team can begin to see how much brain damage they have suffered. If the individual does not regain consciousness within 24 hours, they are considered in a coma.
Unlike in movies or television shows, in reality individuals rarely just wake up from a coma. Instead, they may experience varying levels of consciousness. Some people never become alert to their surroundings again, and suffer from a condition known as a persistent vegetative state. If a person can regain consciousness, it is often a slow process that involves intense emotional responses from the patient, including agitation or confusion.
The brain consists of several different sections, known as lobes, which each control different functions of the body. The effects of a brain injury are not only determined by the severity of the injury, but also by the portion of the brain in which the injury occurred and even which side of the brain sustained the damage.
Here’s a look at the possible challenges involved with injuries to the different lobes and sides of the brain:
- Frontal lobe injuries can result in difficulties with controlling emotions, impulses, and behavior. An injury to this part of the brain can also result in difficulties with speaking or recalling events.
- Brain stem injuries are generally catastrophic, as the brain stem controls the body’s involuntary responses, such as heart rate, breathing, and the sleep/wake cycle.
- Injuries to the temporal lobe often result in difficulty with communication and memory.
- Parietal lobe injuries generally result in difficulties or changes involving the primary senses of sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing.
- An injury to the cerebellum may create problems with balance, movement, or coordination.
- An injury to the occipital lobe can result in difficulty with seeing or understanding the size and shape of objects.
- Injuries occurring to the right side of the brain can result in visual-spatial impairment, visual memory deficits, altered creativity and music perception, loss of “big picture” thinking, and difficulty controlling the left side of the body.
- Brain injuries on the left side can result in difficulty speaking and understanding spoken language, impaired logic, sequencing difficulties, emotional responses such as anxiety or depression, and loss of control over the right side of the body.
It is not unusual for brain injury victims to see improvements in the early months after the brain injury, only to reach a plateau and find that many symptoms are permanent.
That said, a 54-year-old woman who suffered a debilitating brain injury when she was in her teens has gained a new lease on life through digital art. At 19, Diana De Avila was in the Army training to become a combat MP, when she suffered a brain injury in a horrific motorcycle crash. She spent nine months in the hospital recovering from the damage the accident caused to her brain and other parts of her body. She developed blood clots and nearly lost her leg. She became confined to a wheelchair.
She tried several careers through the years before discovering a love of digital photography that started out with drawing cat cartoons on her computer. Her work is now on display at the Virginia War Memorial as well as through local venues. In addition to her art, De Avila also spends time at VA hospitals talking with paralyzed veterans.
In addition to the many potential deficits that a person can incur through a brain injury, you may experience complications from this type of injury, as well.
Some of those complications can include:
- Fevers caused by the brain’s inability to control body temperature or by infections. Individuals with brain injuries may lose the ability to communicate when they are sick, and often suffer fevers due to bladder and lung infections as a result.
- Chronic headaches.
- Blood clots in the injured area of the brain that can result in a stroke, or clots in the deep veins of the legs that can break free and travel to the lungs, creating a potentially fatal condition known as a pulmonary embolism.
- Cardiovascular issues such as blood pressure that is too low and results in swelling of the extremities, as well as blood pressure that is too high.
- Spasticity, which is an involuntary tightening of muscles that results in pain and loss of range of motion.
- Heterotopic ossification, which is the development of an extra bone, generally in the hip or shoulder joints. This additional bone can cause inflammation and pain.
More severe brain injuries that require more intensive treatments such as a tracheostomy or feeding tubes often have resultant complications from those procedures including infections at the site of the intervention, aspiration, and other issues.
Having a brain injury can impact every aspect of a person’s life. The following are some examples of the impacts an injured individual may experience:
- At home: Brain injuries cause major changes in the lives of both the injured and their family members. Spouses and children often find that the relationship they previously shared with the injured person is gone and in its place is the responsibility of being a caregiver. Spouses can discover that the injury has changed their intimate relationship due to hormonal changes that often occur with this type of injury as well as changing perceptions that the injured person has about their body image and sexuality. Most family members of brain-injured people express feelings of isolation and loneliness, and the feeling that no one understands what they are going through. Studies reveal that more than half of the nation’s homeless population has suffered a brain injury, illustrating the steep slope of impacts that this type of injury can cause.
- At work: While as many as 60 percent of brain-injured individuals become unemployed after suffering their injury, those who can return to employment often find it difficult or impossible to return to the job-related tasks that they regularly performed before the accident. Some can work in other industries or job positions. Returning to work generally means taking breaks more frequently and reducing one’s workload.
- Socially: While friends might have crowded the hospital hallways shortly after the injury occurred, many individuals with brain injuries have trouble maintaining their friendships in the months and years after the accident. The injury’s effects, such as the inability to communicate or to control emotions, can make it difficult for the injured person to have any mutually enjoyable relationships.
- Financially: Due to the seriousness of this type of injury as well as the complications that may occur throughout the rest of the injured person’s life, the lifetime costs of a brain injury often range between $85,000 to $3 million. This, combined with the inability of many brain-injured people to return to work, can put those suffering from the effects of the injury in financial peril.
When to Hire a Motorcycle Accident Attorney (and Why)
The reasons for this include:
- Obtaining the maximum settlement or award available. Insurance companies will often try to avoid paying out the total amount that an accident victim deserves by either offering a quick settlement that is too low or by attempting to shift the blame of the accident to the person who suffered the injury. This is particularly true with motorcycle accidents, where insurance companies may seek to play upon the stereotype of a motorcyclist who was riding fast and dangerously. Having an attorney helps to ensure that your case is properly valued.
- Ensuring that you take legal action as promptly as possible, and that you meet all legal requirements. Successfully obtaining the compensation to which you are legally entitled requires knowledge of both the medical and legal fields, strong negotiation skills, and a willingness to leave no stone unturned when it comes to representing an injured client. These are valuable traits that an experienced attorney can bring to your case.
- Holding bill collectors at bay. With the extraordinary expenses associated with brain injuries, many families find themselves struggling with expenses and bill collectors. Often, if a collection agency is aware that a motorcycle accident lawsuit is in process, its representatives will wait to pursue collection actions. Your motorcycle accident attorney can help you understand how to inform your creditors about your situation.
Assessing the Damage
An important part of every motorcycle accident case is to determine the value of the case based on the damages and impacts you have incurred. Establishing a value to your case is one of the many services your motorcycle accident attorney can provide to you.
Some damages a motorcycle accident victim may pursue:
- Medical expenses related to the injury, including emergency treatment, diagnostic testing, physician’s services, surgical services, hospitalization, prescription medication, physical therapy, and rehabilitation. An estimate of future medical expenses related to the injury can also be included, based on a prognosis by a qualified medical professional.
- Lost wages for missed work and loss of future earning capacity if you cannot return to your job or make the same income as you were earning before the accident.
- Property damage for the cost of repairing or replacing your motorcycle.
- Physical pain and suffering.
- Emotional distress.
- Permanent disability.
- Loss of consortium, which is incurred by the injured person’s spouse if they can no longer enjoy physical intimacy and companionship as a result of the injury.
Suffering a brain injury in a motorcycle accident is a confusing and stressful situation. Contact an experienced attorney who help you make sense of the legal process of obtaining compensation.