Fort Myers Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyer
Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) can range from mild concussions to severe brain damage, resulting in complications and limitations for life which require continuous care and treatment. Those who suffer a traumatic brain injury might face decades of therapy with specialists who help them regain brain function and with psychologists who help them cope with the emotional aftermath of a severe TBI.
Suffering a catastrophic brain injury brings immense amounts of mental anguish to victims and their families, who also have to learn how to cope with the challenges of their family member’s injury. The aftermath of a severe injury can also lead to financial difficulties. TBI victims who used to financially support their families sometimes cannot return to work, losing wages while accumulating increasing amounts of medical expenses often associated with brain injuries. In extreme cases, families face foreclosures, vehicle repossession, and not having enough money for day-to-day needs.
If you or a loved one has suffered a brain injury as a result of another party’s actions or negligence, Florida law often permits you to seek compensation for damages in civil court. Money will not change the past, but it can help alleviate any financial hardship, allowing victims to focus on rehabilitation and families to cope with their loved one’s injury.
You need an experienced personal injury attorney who understands the complexities involved with brain injury cases. If you live in the Fort Myers area, contact the knowledgeable traumatic brain injury lawyers at Viles & Beckman at (239) 208-5223 for a free consultation to learn how we can assist you after a traumatic brain injury.
Advocating for Traumatic Brain Injury Victims Since 1995
The skilled and award-winning traumatic brain injury lawyers at Viles & Beckman have more than 40 years of experience in the negotiation, settlement, and litigation of personal injury claims, including those involving traumatic brain injuries. The firm’s relentless dedication to advocating for injured victims has resulted in the recovery of millions of dollars in damages from settlements and verdicts in favor of clients.
We cannot guarantee results for any particular traumatic brain injury claim; each case has distinct characteristics which contribute to potential settlement or verdict amounts. We can, however, promise that we will diligently pursue the best outcome for your case and aggressively litigate your case in court when necessary. We are committed to obtaining the best results possible for your circumstances.
What Is a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?
It’s obvious a TBI is an injury to the brain, but the complete medical definition of a traumatic brain injury, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is “a disruption in the normal function of the brain that can be caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, or penetrating head injury.” You most likely have heard the word concussion used before; a concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury which often heals on its own within a few weeks. Unfortunately, TBIs can be much worse and they can even be fatal in the most severe cases.
The CDC estimates more than 2.5 million people visit emergency rooms across the country each year for traumatic brain injuries. Almost 300,000 visits result in hospitalization and more than 55,000 lead to death. These numbers also include almost 25,000 children hospitalized for TBI and more than 2,500 child fatalities.
Causes of Traumatic Brain Injuries
Many different types of accidents and situations might result in a traumatic brain injury. Specific causes vary greatly among age groups. Generally, older adults over age 75 face the most risk for TBIs, which often occur when these adults slip and fall. The most common causes of traumatic brain injuries include:
- Motor vehicle accidents including: car accidents, truck accidents, and motorcycle accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Scooter accidents
- Unintentional falls
- Defective products
- Full-contact sports
- Abuse and assault
Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injuries
When someone has an accident or incident which results in a traumatic brain injury, they might not experience symptoms for hours, days, or weeks. Children, whose brain is still developing, are especially vulnerable to delayed symptoms of a brain injury. This makes diagnosing head traumas challenging for doctors. Immediately after head trauma and for the weeks and months following, victims and family members need to pay special attention for symptoms which might indicate a brain injury.
Concussions might present the following symptoms:
- Feeling nauseous
- Frequent headaches, especially those which increase in severity
- Excessive fatigue
- Neck pain
- Frequent or continuous ringing in the ears
Severe traumatic brain injuries, which account for about 25 percent of TBIs each year, can result in one or more of the following:
- A constant headache or migraine, or one which increases in severity
- Speech impediments, especially slurring
- Loss of feeling or numbness in the limbs
- Unevenly dilated pupils
- Cannot wake up from sleep
These symptoms potentially indicated a severe and life-threatening TBI. If you or one you love experiences any of these symptoms you need to call 911 or head to the nearest emergency room for treatment. Your life may depend on it.
Potential Effects of a Traumatic Brain Injury
Immediate medical treatment can possibly prevent the long-term effects of a TBI. Yet, in many cases, those who suffer a moderate to severe TBI will face lifelong challenges as a result of their injury. This is especially true of children, and of babies who suffer a TBI during childbirth. Sometimes parents don’t know their child has suffered a TBI until they miss one or more major developmental milestones. The CDC describes broad potential short-term and long-term effects of traumatic brain injuries which include:
- Challenges with thinking, which can include memory issues such as amnesia, and struggles with logical reasoning
- Challenges with sensation, which include problems with sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste
- Challenges with balance, including vertigo and other internal equilibrium issues
- Challenges with communication, such as difficulty putting together sounds and sentences to speak
- Challenges with expression and comprehension
- Challenges with emotions, including personality changes, aggression, anxiety, depression, and social inappropriateness
- Potential permanent vegetative state (PVS) or coma
Seeking Compensation for a TBI in Florida
Depending on the situation which led to your traumatic brain injury, the process for recovering damages related to your injury might include filing a claim under your mandatory Florida personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. Florida is a no-fault insurance state, which means when a motor vehicle accident occurs, drivers file a claim with their own carrier regardless of fault. Florida PIP insurance only covers 60 percent of lost wages and 80 percent of necessary medical treatment and applies to car accidents, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, and pedestrian accidents.
Treating traumatic brain injuries can be expensive because of long hospital stays, one or more surgeries, and the likelihood of long-term treatment in severe cases. It’s not uncommon for TBI victims to quickly meet or exceed their PIP policy limits. Once this occurs, a skilled traumatic brain injury lawyer can advise victims whether the law allows them to seek further compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier by filing a personal injury lawsuit in Florida court. If the lawyer reaches a settlement agreement or a court rules in the victim’s favor, the award may include compensation for the following damages :
- Medical expenses such as ambulance ride, emergency room visit, hospital stay, surgery, diagnostic imaging, and medication
- Future medical costs when a severe or catastrophic traumatic brain injury leads to permanent disability, PVS, a coma, or any other condition which requires extensive recover or lifelong care and/or treatment
- Rehabilitative service costs for specialists who help TBI victims recover and repair brain function e.g. physical therapist, speech therapist, occupational therapist
- Assistive device costs for items such as wheelchairs, canes, walkers, and technology to help victims function and communicate
- Lost wages for time away from work due to the traumatic brain injury, treatment, hospitalization, and recovery
- Future lost wages when a traumatic brain injury causes a permanent disability which prevents a victim from returning to their job
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium with spouse and other non-economic costs related to family relationships
- Loss of quality of life
- Mental anguish
If a child, spouse, or other loved one lost their life as a result of traumatic brain injury, you might be eligible for compensation depending on your relationship to the deceased. Contact one of our compassionate traumatic brain injury lawyers at Viles & Beckman to discuss the possibility of filing a wrongful death claim. You might recover some of the damages mentioned above as well as funeral expenses, burial costs, and non-economic costs specific to surviving family members.
Comparative Negligence in Florida Traumatic Brain Injury Cases
Florida courts apply a pure comparative negligence rule to personal injury cases to assess the extent to which a plaintiff might be responsible for his or her own injuries. If the court finds the defendant is negligent, it assigns a percentage portion of fault to each party in a lawsuit.
Many parties named in a personal injury lawsuit will go the extra mile to avoid financial liability. Florida’s pure comparative negligence rule provides an avenue for the defense to do just that. One common defense tactic is to argue the plaintiff was negligent as a way to devalue the claim. In motor vehicle accidents the defense might claim you were breaking traffic laws; in slip and fall accidents leading to a TBI, the defense might argue you ignored warnings of a hazard; and, in defective product claims, the defense might argue you ignored product instructions which caused a traumatic brain injury.
To maximize your chances of the best outcome for your case, you need a Fort Myers traumatic brain injury attorney who understands how Florida’s comparative negligence rule applies to your case, anticipates defense strategies to devalue your claim, and can protect you against defense tactics intended to undermine your claim.
Brain Injury FAQ
When you suffer a traumatic brain injury (“TBI”) in a motor vehicle accident, you may quickly discover that it changes every aspect of your life. A TBI often leaves you with more questions than answers. Fortunately, you can find some of those answers here.
1. How long do the effects of a TBI last?
Many people who suffer a traumatic brain injury want to know one thing: how long it will take them to start thinking and acting normally again. Unfortunately, the recovery timeline for victims with a TBI can vary. Some victims with a mild TBI may still have symptoms more than a year after the accident. Victims with a severe TBI, on the other hand, may have symptoms that last the rest of their lives.
TBIs tend to take quite some time to heal. Even with a mild TBI, it may take a long time for the victim to feel normal again. Victims with more severe injuries may find it takes them years to recover even a fraction of their former capacity.
2. What are the symptoms of a TBI, and how do they impact the victim’s life?
The impacts of a TBI can reach far beyond a person’s head. A mild TBI may cause a brief loss of consciousness at the scene of the accident, leading to confusion and disorientation. Victims may suffer minor sleep disturbances, anxiety, and depression as well as comprehension, processing, and attention difficulties in the immediate aftermath of the accident. Victims with a severe TBI, on the other hand, may have long-term, lingering symptoms, including:
- Trouble with written or spoken language. Some TBI victims may struggle to comprehend spoken language or need to relearn how to read. Others may slur their speech or struggle to write. In some cases, TBI victims may need to learn new ways to communicate with friends and family members. Difficulty with language processing can make it incredibly difficult for TBI victims to connect with other people or create difficulties in a work environment.
- Problems with emotional regulation. TBI victims may experience anxiety and depression, mood swings, or overall moodiness. Although logically they may recognize the lack of sense in their extreme emotional reactions, they may need to relearn how to control their emotional swings. In some cases, victims never relearn how to regulate their extreme emotions. Lack of emotional regulation can make it difficult for victims to find employment or develop or maintain relationships with others.
- Ongoing memory issues. Many TBI victims do not remember the accident itself or the events immediately surrounding it. Following the accident, victims may also lose some long-term memories. In some cases, those memories may come back with time; in others, victims may never fully recover their memories. Victims may also have ongoing short-term memory issues, from difficulty remembering where they placed common items throughout the house to difficulty keeping up with names. These memory difficulties may make it hard for TBI victims to complete normal work tasks or to take care of themselves independently.
- Sleep disturbances. Some TBI victims sleep more. Others may struggle with insomnia long after the accident. Often, problems with cognitive processing can worsen with sleep disturbances.
- Attention difficulties. Some TBI victims struggle to pay attention to anything for more than a few seconds. This can be extremely frustrating for many victims, especially when they struggle to pay attention to things they used to enjoy.
- Changes in sensory perception. Some TBI victims notice difficulties with processing visual or auditory input; blurred vision, ringing in the ears, or changed hearing, for example. Others note that their perception of heat, cold, or touch changes substantially. These sensory changes can create a great deal of confusion for a victim already suffering from other cognitive challenges.
- Processing difficulties. For people used to thinking on the fly or who rely on their creative gifts on a regular basis, loss of their former cognitive processing abilities can change their entire lives. Processing difficulties can make it impossible for TBI victims to return to their former employment after the accident.
3. Who bears responsibility for paying my medical bills if I suffered a TBI in a car accident?
If you have suffered a TBI in a car accident, ultimately, you bear responsibility for paying for your own medical bills. By filing a personal injury claim, however, you can seek compensation for the bills you face after a traumatic brain injury. Typically, you will file a personal injury claim against the party responsible for the accident. This might include:
- The responsible driver. Whether the driver of a passenger vehicle or a commercial vehicle caused your accident, you can pursue compensation from that driver.
- The manufacturer of a failed part that caused an accident. When a mechanical failure causes an accident, even the best driver might not be able to prevent it. If manufacturers put out flawed parts that cause an auto accident, leading to your TBI, you can file for compensation from the manufacturer of the faulty part.
- The bar or restaurant that over-served an inebriated driver. If the driver who caused your accident overindulged in alcohol, the bar or restaurant that continued to serve them with knowledge that they planned to drive could share liability for the accident.
- The company that employs a driver on the clock at the time of the accident. Was the other driver on the clock when they caused the accident? If their company required them to work in unsafe conditions, including driving in bad weather or spending too much time on the road, the company may share responsibility for the accident. The company that loaded a big truck with unstable cargo may also share liability for an accident caused by that instability.
4. How much compensation can I receive for a TBI?
A TBI can leave you with substantial expenses. The compensation you can receive for those expenses, however, varies. In Florida, drivers must carry a minimum of only $10,000 of coverage for bodily injury in a car accident. While many drivers, including commercial drivers, typically carry more coverage than the minimum, if the driver who caused your accident carries only minimal coverage, that coverage may limit the compensation you can receive.
Because Florida is a no-fault state, you will first use your own personal injury protection insurance to provide coverage for your injuries. The cost of traumatic brain injury, however, may quickly exceed your own policy’s limits. Most policies start with a minimum of $10,000 of coverage, but a TBI can cost between $85,000 and $3 million during your lifetime. As a result, you may need to turn to a personal injury claim to seek the compensation you need for your injuries. Most people include the following categories of expenses in their personal injury claim:
- The cost of medical bills;
- The cost of lost wages at work;
- Pain and suffering; and
- Lost earning potential, when injuries prevent you from returning to work in your former capacity.
5. Do I need a lawyer to file for compensation after a TBI?
You have plenty of other expenses associated with your accident, and many TBI victims wonder if they really have to add the cost of a lawyer to those other expenses. You do not have to hire a lawyer to file a personal injury claim. A lawyer, however, can often increase the compensation you receive. You may also find that hiring a lawyer helps alleviate some of the stress you feel when dealing with insurance companies. An attorney can also answer many of the questions you have about filing a personal injury claim after your TBI.
6. Can doctors predict whether someone with a TBI will make a full recovery?
In some cases, doctors can predict the recovery process for an individual with a TBI; however, TBI symptoms and recovery can vary based on the individual and the part of the brain impacted by the accident. Other injuries sustained during the accident can also increase recovery time, which may make symptoms last longer than they would under other circumstances. The brain has many complex and interdependent parts, and doctors cannot predict how an individual will recover with complete accuracy. As a result, when doctors talk about your future prognosis after a severe TBI, they may give only their best guess as to the outcome. You may recover more of your former abilities than your doctor anticipated, or, in some cases, you may recover less than your doctors predict. A changed medical outcome or recovery after filing a personal injury claim does not change the compensation you will receive, and you cannot go back and ask for more compensation if you do not make as full a recovery as anticipated.
7. What treatment follows a TBI?
TBIs can require extensive rehabilitation. Immediately after the injury, patients may need to stay in a treatment facility to help with rehabilitation. Others may return home, but require frequent visits to the hospital or to an occupational therapist to receive therapy that helps them cope with the challenges and changes that come with their TBI. Some patients may need to relearn how to do activities they did with ease before the accident, while others may need help coping with changes to vision or hearing after the accident. In addition, some patients may need long-term care at home.
8. Can people with TBIs resume their former jobs?
Some people with TBIs can return to their former professions within a few weeks or months of the injury. Others may return to work, but need some assistance completing their job responsibilities while they heal. In some cases, however, a TBI may prevent a person from returning to their former profession ever again. In a creative profession, for example, TBI victims may struggle to regain the creative problem solving capacity they had before the accident. Victims who suffer cognitive and processing difficulties may struggle to return to jobs that require a great deal of math or other cognitive skills.
While some TBI victims may struggle to return to their former professions, they do have options for seeking employment. Often, TBI victims can go through job training to help them acquire a new profession or new skills. In some cases, they can also go through special training to help them regain capability in their former professions.
9. If I have a TBI, how long do I have to file a personal injury claim?
When you have a TBI, you should file a personal injury claim as soon as possible after the accident. The sooner you contact an attorney, the sooner the attorney can start collecting evidence about your accident and working with expert witnesses to help establish responsibility in your accident and how your injuries impact your life. The longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes to gather evidence related to your accident, including video evidence from security or traffic cameras and accurate witness statements. You should not wait until you remember more about the accident to file a personal injury claim, since you may never fully recover your memories of the event. While several factors can help you gain additional time, the statute of limitations on personal injury claims can run out, leaving you unable to seek compensation at all if you wait too long.
10. How long does it take to get compensation after a TBI?
The amount of time it takes for you to receive compensation for your injuries will vary. Some insurance companies will negotiate the claim quickly, helping get the funds you need in your hands faster. Others may take longer to reach an agreement. If your claim must go to court, it can take much longer to get the funds you deserve. The sooner you file your personal injury claim, the sooner you can start the process and, therefore, the sooner you will likely recover any compensation for your injuries.
Your Rights. Your Recovery. Our Responsibility.
Viles & Beckman is committed to advocating for those who have suffered harm as a result of another party’s actions. We understand the seriousness of traumatic brain injuries and how a TBI can devastate victims and their families. We want to help yo
u through the difficult time and advocate for you to receive the compensation you deserve for losses related to your traumatic brain injury.
We also are empathetic to the fact you might be dealing with economic struggles because of your injury, so we take most personal injury cases on contingency. This means you do not have to pay attorney fees out-of-pocket or up-front. Instead, we deduct fees from any compensation we secure for you in the form of a settlement or verdict in your favor.
If you or a loved one experienced a traumatic brain injury, let us handle your case while you focus on healing and rehabilitation. One of our skilled traumatic brain injury attorneys can guide you through the judicial process, investigate the circumstances which led to your injury, gather relevant documentation to support your case, and aggressively pursue the best outcome for your particular situation.
If you live in Fort Myers, Naples, Cape Coral, Sarasota or the surrounding area, contact Viles & Beckman online at (239) 208-5223 for a free consultation and learn how we can assist you in the wake of a severe traumatic brain injury. You deserve full and fair compensation for your losses and suffering.