Although it likely goes without saying, Californians are well known for their desire to be out and about. Whether cruising down the Pacific Coast Highway or participating in some type of sporting event or physical activity, many residents of Southern California enjoy living full and active lifestyles.
Unfortunately, however, Californians are not immune from injury as tragedy can strike down almost anyone at any given time. Indeed, even the most safety-conscious individual can suffer a severe injury if they are involved in a disastrous accident. In fact, there are many types of catastrophic injuries that a victim may sustain following a serious accident, including:
- Brain injuries, which can include traumatic brain injuries as well as concussions
- Spinal cord injuries, which can result in paralysis
- Bone fractures
- Severe burns
Sadly, by their very nature, catastrophic injures tend to be particularly significant and often require years of medical treatment. And, even though not all catastrophic injuries necessarily lead to permanent disabilities, the risk is quite high.
However, victims of catastrophic injuries in California should be aware that recourse may be available to help cover their long-term medical care and lost wages if their injuries were caused by the negligent or intentional actions of another.
The dangers of traumatic brain injuries
A traumatic brain injury - otherwise known as a TBI - is one of the most severe catastrophic injuries a victim can suffer. While TBIs are typically caused by a blow to a person's head that disrupts his or her normal brain functions, they can also be the result of an object penetrating the person's skull.
Unfortunately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 138 people die in the U.S. every day from injures that include TBIs. Tragically, even those fortunate enough to survive their TBI-related injuries may nevertheless be left in a coma or vegetative state. Additionally, according to the Mayo Clinic, victims of severe TBIs may also suffer from:
- Cognitive problems, including issues related to memory, reasoning, problem solving and judgment
- Emotional changes, such as depression, mood swings, anxiety and anger
- Sensory problems, including a ringing in the ears, double vision, blind spots and poor hand-eye coordination
- Communication problems, such as difficulty speaking or writing, as well as issues with understating the speech or writing of another
TBIs may also result in damaged blood vessels, which may increase the chances of blood clots and stroke. Furthermore, TBIs can enhance the risk of conditions that lead to the degeneration of brain cells, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
However, it is important to note that even mild TBIs can have significant consequences for accident victims. For instance, while mild TBIs, such as concussions, are typically non-life-threatening, these types of injuries can still result in memory or concentration problems, depression, fatigue, dizziness and blurred vision. Thankfully, most victims of mild TBIs recover in a matter of days, although others may need weeks, or longer, to fully recuperate.
Common causes of traumatic brain injuries
Even though there are countless ways in which a person can suffer a head injury, one of the most common causes of TBIs is motor vehicle accidents. Indeed, an individual involved in a motor vehicle collision can experience a TBI in several ways.
For example, a TBI can occur when a victim's head is jolted during a car accident - causing the brain to shake back and forth within the victim's skull. This type of head injury can occur as the victim's head hits the steering wheel, the dashboard, or even a window. However, objects within a car may also pose an increased TBI risk as they can pierce a victim's skull as they fly about the cabin during an accident, not to mention the dangerous pieces of metal and plastic that can break off the car itself and penetrate a victim's head.
Besides car accidents, TBIs are also common among athletes involved in certain high-impact sports, such as football, boxing, lacrosse, hockey and soccer. There are several reasons why these injuries may occur, including insufficient safety precautions or inadequate coaching or supervision. Sadly, catastrophic sports injuries have the potential to impact participants at every level - from a young child playing peewee football to a professional boxer fighting for the title.
There are many symptoms that may help indicate when an individual has experienced a sports-related TBI, such as:
- The individual has lost consciousness
- The individual is in a state of confusion and/or disoriented
- The individual has a loss of balance and/or is dizzy
- The individual cannot recollect events before or after the injury
- The individual reports that he or she has a headache and is nauseous and/or vomiting
However, these are merely a few symptoms to keep an eye out for when an athlete suffers a head injury. If any doubt exists, the best course of action is to seek immediate medical attention. In addition, even if the TBI is believed to be only a mild one, it is still important to pursue medical treatment, especially if the victim in question has had previous concussions or other head injuries. In fact, concerns have been growing in recent years regarding the long-term effects of repeated sports-related head injuries.
Spinal cord injuries
Given the severity of injuries possible with both car crashes and sports accidents, there are many other concerns that victims may have beyond TBIs, such as spinal cord injuries. Indeed, according to statistics reported by the CDC, car accidents and sports injuries account for 46 percent and 12 percent of all spinal cord injuries, respectively - making them two of the more common causes.
Spinal cord injuries typically occur as a result of trauma to a person's spinal column. Essentially, the spinal column contains an individual's spinal cord, which is the bundle of nerves that is responsible for transmitting signals between a person's brain and the rest of his or her body. Without these signals, a person would not be able to control muscle movement or sense heat, cold or pain.
Consequently, if a catastrophic event, such as a blow to a person's spine, were to sever the signals that travel through the spinal cord, the victim may be left paralyzed below the point of injury. For instance, an injury higher up on an individual's spinal cord may result in quadriplegia, while a lower injury may lead to paraplegia.
Potential remedies in California following a catastrophic injury
Tragically, a catastrophic injury can impact a victim's life to a great degree. Not only is significant medical care often required, but if the victim's injury is permanent in nature, medical treatment and physical therapy can last for years - possible costing millions of dollars in the process. Importantly, these expenses do not even take into account the victim's pain and suffering or the lifetime of lost wages due to the inability to work. Fortunately, depending on the situation, victims may be able to collect damages for their injuries.
For instance, a car accident victim may attempt to seek compensation from the driver that caused the collision in the first place. This potential liability is based upon the fact that California drivers must use reasonable care while operating a motor vehicle. If they breach this duty, and cause a car accident in the process, any injured individual may be able to pursue damages. Consequently, if a driver negligently uses his or her cellphone or elects to get behind the wheel while drunk, he or she may be liable for any resulting injuries in California.
Alternatively, liability following a sports accident may also be established in California, although responsibility is entirely dependent upon the circumstances. For example, in the case of student athletes, coaches and/or administrators may be liable if they fail to provide a safe environment for the activity and a player is consequently injured. However, there are a myriad of laws in California that may come into play when attempting to determine legal accountability in these situations, including some immunity statutes.
However, while it may take significant effort and time to ultimately determine liability following an personal injury accident, that should not stop a victim from collecting as much evidence as possible following his or her injury. After all, there is no telling what evidence will be vital later on in proving liability.
Expert guidance may be necessary
Unfortunately, given the complexities of California law - not to mention the countless number of ways a person can be injured - this article is barely able to scratch the surface of what a catastrophic injury victim needs to know. As such, this article should not be taken as legal advice.
Accordingly, if you have suffered a severe injury due to the negligent acts of another, it is often best to consult with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney. A skilled attorney can provide assistance by reviewing the circumstances of your accident and explaining your rights and options. Obtaining the guidance of an experienced attorney is one way in which you can help ensure you receive the compensation you may be entitled.