As an experienced brain injury attorney, I would like to take time to recognize National Brain Injury Awareness Month. It remains as daunting an area of law as ever. The challenges that I face, together with my clients, seem to grow each year.
I have been handling traumatic brain injury cases for about 20 years. In recent years, new challenges have been born. First, the injury continues to be misunderstood. While the NFL lawsuit brought light to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), little attention has been paid to injuries that occur as a result of singular incidents, such as a car accident or work injury. In fact, the suggestion that repetitive impacts are necessary to cause chronic damage is simply false.
Insurance continues to be an issue. The costs of this injury can be huge, in terms of lost earnings, medical expenses and costs of future care. Meanwhile, the trucking industry continues to lobby Congress to reduce mandatory insurance limits on interstate semi-trucks. Likewise, state minimum insurance limits on automobiles continue to remain low.
Medicine continues to fail brain injury victims as well. It starts with the first responders who are not trained to recognize the often subtle signs of brain trauma at the scene of an accident. ER personnel are equally bad at timely diagnosing this injury and doing imaging that may show evidence of brain hemorrhage or swelling. Even then, current MRI and CT imaging technology are inadequate to detect microscopic injury such as axonal shearing.
I am currently working on a case involving an explosion. In the course of researching the injuries sustained by my client, it became apparent that he had been misdiagnosed with PTSD and depression, when in fact I believe he sustained organic brain damage from the blast force. Our understanding of blast-induced TBI is in its infancy, having come under scrutiny only recently as vets return home after sustaining an injury from IEDs. Though “shell shock” has long been recognized, again, the medical community has lagged behind in recognition and treatment.
Also, treatment resources remain scarce. NE Ohio lacks a dedicated brain injury rehabilitation facility, though, through my work on one case, I discovered that Joseph Rosenthal, MD at Ohio State Medical Center, is working hard to establish a world-class facility there.
Finally, the defense of these cases continues to be vigorous, posing another challenge. A cottage industry of defense experts has developed to offer bogus opinions about minimum forces required to cause injury and exploiting the vague signs and symptoms of this injury complex to argue that the victim is malingering.
So, with sadness, I recognize this month and all my clients who have faced this challenging problem.