The challenges, struggles, and upheaval that follow a serious brain injury can overwhelm even the most resilient individuals and families. A traumatic brain injury (TBI) can deprive a person of their independence, mobility, ability to work, or even the capacity to manage basic self-care. Brain injury acquired through trauma rarely occurs in insolation. It is common for brain injury victims to endure multiple surgeries to address harm and potential injuries to other parts of the body in addition to requiring additional care and treatment for the brain. This can involve months or even years of rehabilitation, alongside seemingly endless doctor visits. An army of medical professionals, such as physical therapists, psychologists, neurologists, and chiropractors, can become part of the process. Assistance and continuous care may be needed indefinitely, and material changes often must be made to the home.
There is so much uncertainty and upheaval in the days following acquired brain injury, that attending to one’s legal needs can feel unimportant. But when a brain injury results from someone else’s negligence or reckless conduct, consulting an experienced brain injury attorney as early as possible can help brain injury victims and their families obtain the resources they need.
Most Brain Injuries Are Acquired by Trauma, often by Negligence
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 223,135 Americans were hospitalized for TBI-related injuries in 2019, and 64,362 Americans died from such injuries in 2020. But even these numbers likely undercount the scope of devastation caused by TBIs, as they only include TBIs treated in the emergency room, primary care, or urgent care facilities, and omit those who never received treatment.
Brain injuries and TBI-related deaths can occur in any number of ways, including suicide attempts, intentional acts of violence, or athletic endeavors. But many serious brain injuries and fatalities are caused by other people’s or entities’ recklessness or negligence. Car accidents, slips and falls on dangerous or poorly maintained property, defective products, medical malpractice – all of these are common causes of brain injuries usually involving acts of negligence. When someone’s negligence causes such a devastating injury and other losses, the law – and a good lawyer – allow for the victim to pursue and obtain financial resources through compensation from those whose misdeeds upended an individual’s life.
Of course, recovering from such harm is neither simple nor a given. Acquired traumatic brain injuries are particularly complex, and understanding both the extensive and multifaceted harm done and the losses that result requires special legal expertise. Consulting a brain injury attorney who can help you prove the nature and extent of these losses and hold negligent parties responsible can assist individuals through this difficult process.
We use the word “consult” because meeting with and hiring a brain injury attorney does not necessarily mean a lawsuit will ensue. It does mean you can speak with someone and decide to put him or her in your corner with the experience and knowledge to help you. The right lawyer can help you understand what happened, obtain and coordinate needed medical care and rehabilitation services, and ultimately recover compensation from any party who can be held legally responsible for your injuries and losses. Given the astronomical costs following a brain injury and sometimes intangible but very real losses, you and your family must endure every day, consulting with a lawyer is a critical early first step.
Here are four reasons why consulting a brain injury lawyer in the immediate wake of an accident is so important.
You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know
Not knowing how personal injury claims work, what your rights are, and how quickly you must act to preserve those rights can lead to losing them. That means no compensation for your injuries, no help with your medical expenses, and nothing to make up for how your brain injuries have changed your life forever.
Meeting with a brain injury attorney can prevent you from making errors that could be fatal to your claim, such as filing it after the strict deadlines established by your state’s law. These statutes of limitations are laws that set forth the time you have to file a lawsuit for your injuries and losses. If you file your suit after the applicable statute of limitations has passed, a judge will throw out your case, no matter how extensive your injuries are or how much the other party was at fault.
You also may not know what proofs are necessary to establish such a claim. The fact that a traumatic brain injury occurred does not by itself prove why it occurred. A thorough, early investigation can make all the difference. And the brain injured often do not know where to turn for medical guidance, and an experienced brain injury lawyer can thoroughly assist with the early processes.
Providing a Path Forward
The days and weeks that follow a severe accident and brain injury can be a tumultuous blur. Finding and coordinating care from multiple providers and specialists is an unfamiliar and confusing endeavor, especially when a family is simultaneously trying to process and adapt to the trauma of a loved one suddenly laid low by their injuries. Questions about how to move forward and worries about the future are coupled with anger at those responsible and a desire to hold them accountable.
A brain injury lawyer can provide a clear path forward during such times. Lawyers who work extensively on brain injury cases have usually cultivated relationships with the best neurologists and other practitioners in your area and can assist in getting the care you need. They can marshall treatment resources and work with providers to lay the foundation for establishing the extent of your injuries and damages, so you are well-positioned to maximize the amount you recover in a personal injury lawsuit.
Protecting You From Insurance Company Pressure Tactics
In most brain injury cases, the negligent party who caused the accident is represented by a lawyer hired by their insurance company. For example, an auto insurance company will defend their driver after a car accident, a slip and fall may trigger coverage under a homeowners’ policy, and a malpractice carrier will defend a physician in a case involving a medical mistake.
These insurance companies also pay any damages to the injured party in a settlement or judgment. And make no mistake: insurers are in the business of making money; they’re not in the business of being your “good neighbor,” and you’re not “in good hands” with them. Every dollar an insurance company pays out on a brain injury claim is a dollar out of their profits. They want to resolve claims cheaply and quickly and will take advantage of unrepresented claimants to do so.
Insurers know that injury victims need money quickly for mounting bills and lost wages. They are also acutely aware that brain injury victims may not fully understand their rights or what they may be entitled to under the law. They will leverage these vulnerabilities to get claimants to agree to a lowball settlement offer that may be substantially less than they deserve.
These types of pressure tactics are particularly insidious for brain injury victims. Many brain injuries can be notoriously difficult to detect. You may experience head trauma in a car crash, but recognizable symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, and confusion may not manifest until long after an accident. But insurers may try to pressure you into accepting a lowball settlement offer soon after your accident, well before you understand the full toll your brain injury will have on your life, including the extent of the costs of necessary medical treatment and rehabilitation. Without prompt medical and legal advice, you may agree to a settlement that falls far short of compensating you for the actual medical costs of your injury and other losses you sustained.
Additionally, within minutes after an accident, the negligent party’s insurance company will have its own attorneys investigating your claim, gathering evidence and records, identifying and contacting witnesses, and doing everything it can to protect its insured from blame. By promptly hiring an experienced brain injury attorney, you can deprive the other side of this valuable head start and improve your chances of a positive outcome.