From the roadway to the workplace, head injuries can happen anywhere. If you were in an accident and suffered a blow to the head, you may have a traumatic brain injury (TBI). During your recovery, you will quickly learn that treatment for TBI is expensive. This treatment could last months, potentially even years, and cost you thousands of dollars along the way. How can you cope with a traumatic brain injury, and how can you get the help you need to pay for related medical expenses?
Understanding the Severity of TBI
Depending on the severity of the TBI, initial treatment could be limited due to the limitations placed on a victim’s ability to participate. Nearly two million people acquire TBIs annually. This is a breathtaking number of victims, yet the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate the number to be much higher—at nearly three million annually.
While many victims suffer TBIs from sports injuries or car accidents, one of the most common causes of TBI is falls. Falls account for nearly one-half of all TBIs. Most commonly, these falls occur in children and older adults. This can complicate the costs associated with TBI because if a child suffers a serious TBI, they may need lifelong care which could cost millions of dollars. Older adults may already be facing preexisting conditions or difficulties living with the impact of aging. These can complicate their treatment, resulting in higher costs, new limitations, and loss of independence.
Two Types of Brain Injury and Severity Levels
The two types of brain injury are primary and secondary. Primary injuries are those which are evident in the immediate aftermath of trauma such as a car accident, fall, or a gunshot or stab wound. Secondary injuries are those which are caused by the primary injury and may not show up for days, weeks, or even months following the trauma.
Primary injuries may include:
- Intracranial hematomas – These brain bleeds are caused by the trauma of a TBI. Victims may feel disoriented and cannot properly identify their symptoms, endangering them further.
- Skull Fractures – A skull fracture is any crack to the cranium which results in a displacement of the skull bone.
- Concussions – It is often easy to dismiss the possibility of a concussion because people feel concussions are a minor issue. However, concussions are the most prevalent brain injuries and should be taken very seriously. Whether a victim has suffered a blow to the head because of a sporting injury, a falling object, or tumbling from a motorcycle, the possible resulting concussion can lead to serious issues later.
- Contusions – Contusions may lead to blood clots. As such, TBI victims should be monitored carefully.
- Diffuse axonal injury (DAI) – When a victim suffers shearing nerve damage from the brain being tossed around in the skull, they could end up in a coma.
Secondary brain injuries may include:
- Swelling of the brain – This condition is classified as very serious because building pressure in the cranium can cause a lack of oxygen to the brain. Victims could suffer long-term brain damage because of this edema.
- Hypo/hypertension – High and low blood pressure often occurs following a TBI. Victims may require hospitalization to help maintain proper blood pressure, as blood pressure falling too low or climbing too high poses cardio-vascular risks.
- Meningitis – Inflammation and infection are possible following a TBI. Victims may also suffer life-threatening abscesses of the brain.
- Epilepsy – Unfortunately, suffering a TBI often leads to chronic seizure disorders like epilepsy. Victims often require medication to keep seizures under control.
These are not the only types of primary or secondary injuries that a victim may suffer, but they do give you an idea of the challenges a TBI can present. Prompt medical treatment is always advised for any head injury. Better safe than sorry!
The High Cost of Recovery Following a TBI
The dollar amount of recovery is difficult to pinpoint because much of the costs associated with TBI treatment depends on how serious the damage is to the victim. Coping with a TBI takes a toll on the emotional wellbeing of the victim and their loved ones, as well.
Some of the potential states a victim may be in include:
- Coma – A victim in a coma will be hospitalized with round-the-clock nursing care. Monitoring equipment is used to identify changes in the victim’s condition. The victim cannot communicate with nursing staff or visitors.
- Vegetative state – Victims in this state may experience periods where they appear to be awake but are still largely unresponsive. Although they may open their eyes or appear to be startled by noises, in this state the victims’ movements and sounds are largely involuntary.
- Minimally conscious state – At this stage of recovery, victims might react to sounds, respond to questions, and have some ability to show emotion. In this state, a victim may appear to be very confused and their responses to the same questions may differ each time they are asked.
Average hospital stays for TBI vary. However, the average intensive care unit patient with TBI stays just over seven days, while others may stay as little as three days if their injuries are not as serious.
Hospitalization is only one aspect of recovery for victims of TBI. Once discharged, additional medical costs may include:
- Follow-up care – Typically a TBI victim will make at least three follow-up visits following hospital discharge.
- Therapeutic visits – One in three patients who suffer from TBIs will need a speech therapist, physical therapist, and/or an occupational therapist as they reacclimate.
- Specialized test visits – Patients may require CT scans, MRIs, and/or other radiology-based tests following discharge.
Keep in mind, these parts of follow-up care do not include all the other costs that a family may have to bear following a TBI. Victims may need prescription medication for pain management, for help sleeping, for treatment of depression, and for treatment of potential infections.
Every patient will face their own unique challenges on their path to recovery, so it’s difficult to estimate total costs. Other costs not mentioned above may include in-home nursing care, specialized in-home equipment such as wheelchairs, walkers, etc. If they are unable to climb stairs, some families may have to outfit a first-floor bedroom in the home when the victim is released from the hospital. In other cases, the home may require other specialized renovation to accommodate the victim’s needs.
The cost of medical care alone was once estimated to range anywhere from $85,000 to $3 million for every patient. One can only imagine that today, those costs are much higher.
Other Economic Costs Associated With TBI
The average length of recovery from TBI is two years. During this time, victims cannot always return to work. In some cases, the victim may work part-time, but there is no guarantee.
During the time of decreased employment, or no employment at all, the family must contend with the following:
- Reductions in take-home pay – Whether your company offers a short-term or long-term disability plan, it will likely not compensate you for the full amount of your normal wages. In most cases, disability payments will be 80% of your usual salary excluding bonuses, and overtime pay. Production bonuses and overtime bonuses will also be lost during this time.
- Reductions in benefits – You may be losing additional benefits if you cannot work. In many cases, employers offer matching funds for 401(k) plans. They may also offer a pension plan. TBI victims who cannot resume a normal work schedule could lose out on these benefits.
- Loss of time off – Victims of TBI who cannot actively participate in work-related activities may be forced to use sick days, vacation days, and personal days before they can collect disability payments to simply stay afloat. This means their accumulated time off will be negatively impacted while they recover.
- Fringe benefits lost – Victims often lose access to some fringe benefits including a reduction in cell phone costs, company vehicle use, and other possible perks associated with employment. These benefits alone could be costing victims thousands of dollars each quarter they are forced to remain out of work.
Insurance Companies and TBI Victim Compensation
Keep in mind, even when a victim has access to the best possible liability coverage, it may not come close to meeting the financial needs of a TBI victim. This is why it is important to work closely with the patient’s medical team to evaluate the long-term prognosis and potential follow-up care the victim requires.
Insurance companies already have a vested interest in minimizing the settlements they pay to victims. For TBI victims, this can be devastating. This is why it is critical to work with an experienced traumatic brain injury lawyer every step of the way. An attorney who has the time to help, the experience to succeed, and the in-depth knowledge of what a TBI victim is facing can ensure your family does not suffer. Don’t endure the economic pain of dealing with a TBI if it was caused by someone’s negligence. Hold them accountable, and get what you rightfully deserve.
Whether the TBI occurred in a car accident, a slip and fall accident, or an accident on the job, your family should not have to suffer the financial devastation which can result from being treated for TBI.
Even in the best case scenario, an insurance adjuster is going to attempt to partially blame a victim for an injury they suffer in an accident. When you suffer a broken bone and damage to your car, you will have far more flexibility in accepting a settlement versus if you are facing months—possibly a lifetime—of recovery from a TBI. You need someone who will work tirelessly to ensure you and your family are not ruined financially just because you suffered an injury. You need someone to serve as your advocate.
Hiring the Right Legal Team Matters
Victims of an accident often believe they are in the best position to negotiate on their behalf. However, when you or a loved one has suffered a TBI, the insurance company is aware the sooner they settle with you, the better the outcome is for them.
As you can see from our prior descriptions, recovery from a TBI may involve long-term care, and the costs can be significant. We want to make sure a family does not have to wipe out their savings and liquidate assets to ensure a TBI victim is getting the care they need, and the help they deserve. An attorney who has years of experience fighting—and winning—for their accident injury clients can make all the difference.
Every case is unique. No one can predict, nor guarantee, any settlement amount for a victim. Past case results can give you a strong but imperfect picture of how a lawyer might perform for you. Never assume an attorney will have the same level of success in your case as in someone else’s. Still, you want to choose a lawyer who has a history of success.
Every accident is different, every victim has unique needs, and no two TBIs are identical. For these reasons and more, you need to speak with a lawyer who understands your case. Together, you’ll discuss the circumstances which led up to your injury, who was responsible for the incident that resulted in your injury, and the course your medical team has laid out for your recovery. During this time, your medical team will provide your lawyer with invaluable information including how much time you will be recovering, what your outlook is regarding returning to work, and how much care you will need back at home. Only then can your attorney negotiate in good faith on your behalf.
As a TBI victim or a family member of a TBI victim, you should not have to bear the significant financial costs associated with recovery from TBI. This is why you should immediately place a call to an experienced traumatic brain attorney and discuss your case. Put your mind at ease and count on a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced lawyer.
Should you decide to move forward, you can feel confident in the knowledge you will not have to pay any out-of-pocket legal costs in most cases until a settlement is secured on your behalf. Do not wait until your financial losses have spiraled out of control and you’re on the verge of financial ruin—hire an attorney today.
Since starting his firm in 1999, Stewart J. Guss has had the honor of representing clients from all over the world, helping them recover from even the most catastrophic injuries.
Today, thanks to a strong belief in those values of compassion, respect, and approachability, the firm has grown to employ over 120 legal professionals in numerous offices across 4 states, with nationwide reach.