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Head Traumas in Car Accidents Can Have Lasting Effects

By Larry Bodine, Publisher of The National Trial Lawyers

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a major cause of death and disability in California, contributing to about 30% of all injury deaths. Every day, 138 people in the United States die from injuries that include TBI, and those who survive a TBI can face effects that may last the rest of their lives.

Motor vehicle crashes were the third overall leading cause of TBI Among all age groups, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. When looking at just TBI-related deaths, motor vehicle crashes were the second leading cause of TBI-related deaths for 2006-2010.

Effects of TBI can include impaired thinking or memory, movement, vision and hearing, or damaged emotional functioning, personality changes and depression. Victims are often left unable to work and financially devastated, as the injury can have lasting effects on families and communities.

Nationwide, courts have been receptive to making victims of traumatic brain injury whole:

· A court of appeals added $2.4 million in additional damages to a permanently disabled victim of an automobile accident involving underage drinking. Ryan Wiltz was 16 when he was a passenger in a car full of drunk teenagers that went out of control and struck a tree. Wiltz was left partially paralyzed and suffered irreversible brain damage. His parents sued the food store that sold alcohol to the teens, and a jury awarded the boy $18.5 million. The amount included only $600,000 for his pain and suffering, but the three-judge appeals court in Louisiana decided that amount was not enough, and increased it to $3 million.

· A jury awarded $17.8 million in damages to Vaylma Dorado, age 36, who was driving a Volkswagen that was rear-ended by a cement truck, leaving her unable to live independently. The truck driver of the truck was distracted, reading paperwork while going 50 miles per hour. She suffered a significant traumatic brain injury and as a result, she is no longer able to work or live independently. After eight days of trial, a jury in Michigan compensated her for lost wages, pain and suffering.

Victims of a head trauma often mistake the absence of concussion symptoms, such as double vision, vomiting or dizzy spells to mean they do not have a serious injury. Traumatic brain injury does not necessarily have to cause any immediate symptoms to have serious and long-lasting effects. Often TBI presents subtle to mild symptoms for a period of time, before rapidly progressing to something more deadly. The lack of information about "mild brain injury" prevents many deserving patients from getting the help they need.

What is a mild brain injury?

The term "mild brain injury" is misleading. It means the impact that caused the injury seemed to be mild at the time of the accident. If you lost consciousness or were taken away in an ambulance after an accident or injury, the doctor will probably tell you to be aware of certain symptoms and to come back to the emergency room or see your own doctor promptly if they appear. But if you are involved in a collision and then "felt fine" immediately after the incident, you may not link the incident to TBI symptoms that can manifest days or even weeks after the impact, creating a greater risk of more severe injury.

Minor accidents can cause lasting problems

Different people respond to the same hit in different ways. Some people have been involved in a serious car accident with no apparent ill effects, while others have drastic consequences from an incident that they barely remember because it seemed to be minor. Recent research shows that there may be a genetic link to susceptibility to brain injury.

Doctors have developed a better understanding of TBI in recent years, and many of them are aware that seemingly minor accidents can cause lasting problems. Not all doctors, however, are familiar with the latest research. If a doctor tries to persuade a patient that their symptoms could not have been caused by a specific "minor" incident, the patient should ask for a second opinion from a doctor who understands the impact that heredity and other factors can have on the severity of a head injury.

Full recovery requires therapy and time

If you think that you have suffered an injury but friends, family, employers and doctors question whether you are really hurt, it is important to consult with an attorney who is experienced in mild brain injury cases. James W. Vititoe and his partners recovered a $10 million settlement for more than 20 individuals, many suffering brain injuries as a result of a 2009 bus accident. Vititoe was able to reach this settlement without the need for litigation allowing clients to retain the maximum amount of the funds. Besides the initial $10M settlement, Vititoe and his partners filed a product liability case for this same accident. A few years later Vititoe and his team were able to successfully resolve the product liability aspect of the case for an additional multiple eight figures amount. The total amount settled is part of a confidential settlement.

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