Representing clients who have suffered traumatic brain injury (TBI) presents unique challenges. Many personal injury law firms do not have the knowhow or the resources to handle these cases. To effectively represent this special group of clients, a lawyer representing brain injury victims must understand the physiology of the brain, the psychological effects of these injuries and have the financial resources to put together a team of consultants and experts who can assist the client in a rehabilitative process.
Traumatic brain injury can occur when something outside the body strikes the head with enough force to cause changes within the brain. Traumatic brain injury can be mild, moderate or severe. TBI is common in car accidents but it often goes undiagnosed. Even mild traumatic brain injury can significantly effect a person’s ability to function physically or emotionally. Symptoms of traumatic brain injury include loss of consciousness, headaches, memory loss, blurred eyesight, change or loss of sense of taste or smell, change in speech patterns, loss of hearing, difficulty in concentrating, forgetfulness, frustration, anger, depression and even suicidal ideation. Moderate or severe traumatic brain injury can be totally debilitating, causing a person to be unable to work or have normal relationships with other people. For people who have sustained TBI, prompt diagnoses, treatment and rehabilitation are critical.
Lawyers are not medical providers and good lawyers do not attempt to give medical advice. But lawyers with experience handling TBI cases will have relationships with consultants and experts that can assist clients in getting the help they need in beginning to recover from these debilitating injuries. In this regard the lawyer’s role is not just to present the client’s case to a court or jury; it is to assist in the physical or psychological recovery of the client.
The likelihood of TBI in car wrecks is sometimes measured by the Head Injury Criterion (HIC). The HIC is used by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety to assess safety related to automotive vehicles. In crash testing of vehicles the HIC is measured from the acceleration/time history of instruments mounted in the center of gravity of a dummy’s head. NHTSA regulations state that a HIC value of 700 is the maximum allowed. To effectively represent clients suffering from TBI, it is not enough for a lawyer to understand and present what happened in a crash. The lawyer must also be able to evaluate if the vehicle involved in the crash complied with NHTSA regulations. In other words, was the vehicle crashworthy?
Traumatic brain injury in children is even more complex and potentially life altering. This is because children’s brains are so rapidly changing. In these cases it is of critical importance to assist the client in obtaining treatment from a qualified pediatric medical professional. TBI in children often goes undiagnosed because the symptoms can be hidden behind normal changes of a child’s brain. Mothers and fathers, however, may be the most important diagnostic tool and they should be listened to.
The personal injury attorneys at Jinks, Crow and Dickson have years of experience handling traumatic brain injury cases in Alabama. We view our responsibilities and obligations to our clients as more than just representing them in Court. We believe that it is our obligation to help our clients locate medical and rehabilitative professionals who not only can testify in Court about the severity of the client’s injuries but who can also assist them in getting treatment and rehabilitation services.