Of all potential bodily injuries, among the worst are injuries that involve the brain. The brain is responsible for controlling all of the body’s functions and involuntary responses through signals sent by the spinal cord to its various organs, structures, and systems.
Unfortunately, as important as the brain is to survive and function, it only has a limited ability to heal after an injury. This often means that an individual who has suffered a traumatic brain injury will likely acquire permanent deficits because of the injury. It also means that the injured individual is at high risk of suffering complications, including seizures, from the damage.
If you incurred a brain injury due to the careless or reckless actions of someone else, and you’re now suffering from seizures or other symptoms, you can pursue compensation for your medical expenses and the impact your injury and subsequent complications had on your life. An experienced brain injury lawyer can help you understand this legal process.
Understanding Traumatic Brain Injury
A traumatic brain injury is an injury to the brain that is generally caused by a sudden blow or jolt to the head or body. The injury can involve an object penetrating the thick protection of the skull, known as a penetrating injury, or the damage may take place within a closed head, caused by the brain violently bumping against the skull.
Brain injuries can result in widely varying deficits, depending on which portion of the brain sustains the initial damage or any subsequent damage that results from one of the many complications that often occurs after this type of injury. Each portion of the brain—known as a lobe—controls different functions of the body.
The lobes, and the functions they’re responsible for, are as follows:
- Temporal lobe: The temporal lobe controls numerous functions, such as memory, the ability to understand spoken language, hearing, sequencing, and organization. The temporal lobes are located on the sides of the brain,
- Frontal lobe: As the name suggests, the frontal lobe is in the frontal portion of the brain. It controls attention, concentration, speech, motor planning and initiation, impulse control, emotions, and behavior.
- Parietal lobe: The parietal lobe controls the body’s five primary senses, including the sense of touch, taste, smell, hearing, and sight. It is found at the top of the brain.
- Cerebellum: The cerebellum is responsible for certain functions, such as balance and coordination, skilled motor activity, and visual perception. It is located in the bottom of the brain, near the brainstem.
- Occipital lobe: The occipital lobe controls an individual’s ability to see and perceive the size and shape of objects. It is located in the back of the brain.
- Brain stem: The brain stem controls the body’s involuntary responses, such as heart rate, temperature, consciousness, and the sleep/wake cycle. It is located at the base of the skull.
What Is a Seizure?
A seizure is a burst of uncontrolled electrical activity that occurs between brain cells. This electrical burst causes temporary abnormalities to the body’s muscle tone and movements, including stiffness, twitching, or limpness. Seizures also cause temporary changes to awareness, behaviors, or sensations. No two seizures are alike, and when it comes to seizures suffered after a brain injury, they are often either a singular event or may become recurring.
Some of the common symptoms of a seizure include:
- Staring or unresponsiveness;
- Stiffening or shaking or the arms, legs, or head;
- A strange sound, taste, feeling, or smell; and
- The inability to speak or to understand spoken language.
There are two types of seizures: focal and generalized. Most seizures that occur within the first 24 hours after a traumatic brain injury are generalized as tonic-clonic seizures, which are often referred to as Grand Mal seizures. Seizures that occur after 24 hours are called focal—or partial—seizures, meaning they originate in a single area of the brain.
Why Do Seizures Often Occur After a Traumatic Brain Injury?
Seizures are a common complication for individuals who have suffered a brain injury. In fact, seizures occur in up to 50 percent of individuals who have suffered a traumatic brain injury, with seizures being more commonly associated with injuries to specific lobes of the brain, including the frontal and temporal lobes.
Patients may receive medication after a TBI to prevent seizures, which carry a risk and of further damaging an already injured brain.
Seizures most generally occur as the result of scarred tissue in the damaged area of the brain, and the risk of experiencing a seizure increases if any of the following issues are present with the injury:
- A penetrating injury, in which an object breaches the protective covering of the skull and damages the brain. For example, 65 percent of individuals whose brain injuries are caused by bullets suffer seizures after the injury. The penetrating injury may produce a scar either in the outer layer of the brain or in the protective tissue that surrounds it.
- A subdural hematoma, which is bleeding between the brain and the skull.
- The individual has already suffered a seizure early after the injury occurred.
- The individual experienced a coma, which is unconsciousness lasting more than 24 hours.
While anyone can suffer a seizure after a brain injury, those most at risk for developing the complication include young children and elderly individuals.
While experiencing seizures during the first week after a traumatic brain injury is a common complication, for some individuals, seizure activity may continue for months or even years after the injury occurred. These later seizures, occurring more than a week after the injury, are likely to become recurrent. Recurring seizures, regardless of cause, are considered epilepsy. Epilepsy occurring after a traumatic brain injury is known as post-traumatic epilepsy. Traumatic brain injuries are the most common cause of symptomatic epilepsy in young people between the ages of 15 and 24.
How Is Post-Traumatic Epilepsy Treated?
Medical professionals generally treat post-traumatic epilepsy with medications known as antiepileptic drugs (AEDs). These drugs, while working to prevent seizures, often have some side effects that can damage an individual’s quality of life, such as fatigue, dizziness, lightheadedness, trembling, double vision, and confusion. If the individual is experiencing seizures that last for longer than five minutes or if the prescribed AED is no longer working to prevent seizures, the individual may need to seek treatment at a specialized epilepsy treatment center.
Treatment at an epilepsy center will allow for more specialized imaging tests to determine the location of the damage that is causing seizures and determine the best treatment options for the patient. Some individuals may require surgery to remove the epileptogenic tissue from the brain. For others, vagus nerve stimulation through an implanted device may prove the most effective. Finally, newer technologies, such as deep brain stimulation, may offer relief to certain individuals.
The Impacts of Seizures on the Brain and Recovery
Brain injuries have a high risk of producing life-altering deficits, including loss of memory, lack of impulse control, the inability to speak or to understand spoken language, and the loss of coordinated movement. Seizures also carry a risk of damage to the brain, particularly if they are recurrent. It may prove difficult to tell which symptoms stem from the brain injury itself, which symptoms come from the seizure, and which symptoms may constitute side effects of the AEDs used to prevent the seizures. These comorbid conditions may affect an injured individual’s treatment options.
The comorbid conditions that commonly are associated with post-traumatic epilepsy include:
- Decreased mobility
- Poor coordination
- Recurrent headaches
- Chronic pain
- Sleep disorders
- Movement disorders
- Memory problems
- Attention problems
- Poor decision making
- Speech problems
- Learning difficulties
- Anxiety or depression
- Personality changes
- Aggressive behavior
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Suicidal ideations
Between 25 to 40 percent of people who receive treatment for post-traumatic epilepsy will have no recurrent seizures.
Let Us Help You Pursue Compensation for Your Traumatic Brain Injury
If you suffered a traumatic brain injury with post-traumatic epilepsy, we don’t need to tell you that the effort to determine the proper course of treatment for these conditions is intense, as are the life-altering effects. We do need to tell you about traumatic brain injury lawsuits—the process for obtaining compensation for the expenses and impacts to your quality of life caused by the injury. You file these legal claims in civil court.
The two primary purposes of a traumatic brain injury lawsuit are to (1) determine who was liable for the accident that caused your injuries and (2) prove the expenses and impacts the injury has caused you to endure.
Brain injuries can occur in different types of accidents, such as:
- Motor vehicle accidents, including those involving a passenger vehicle, commercial trucks or buses, motorcycles, aircraft, watercraft, bicycles, or pedestrians.
- Premises liability accidents, such as slip and fall or trip and fall, swimming pool accidents, and accidents resulting from a property owner’s failure to provide adequate security.
- Intentional acts, such as domestic violence, child abuse, assault, or combat-related blast injuries.
- Accidents resulting from recreational activities, including contact sports such as football or soccer, horseback riding accidents, and diving accidents.
Just as there are many ways that an accident resulting in a brain injury can occur, there are also many potential sources of liability. The at-fault party is liable for the expenses and impacts that you’ve incurred as a result of the incident causing your brain injury.
To prove liability, you must prove:
- The at-fault party owed you a duty of care. The duty of care will depend on the circumstances of your accident; however, in general, the duty of care is defined as the way a reasonable person would react in a similar set of circumstances.
- The at-fault party breached the duty of care. The breach refers to the actions of the at-fault party that contradicted the applicable duty of care.
- The breach of care resulted in the accident that caused you to incur a brain injury and subsequent expenses and impacts, including those resulting from post-traumatic seizures.
When talking about your case, you will likely hear the phrase recovery of damages. In the legal arena, damages are compensation for harm done. California allows plaintiffs in traumatic brain injury claims to seek both economic and non-economic damages from liable parties. Economic damages constitute payment for out-of-pocket expenses that you’ve incurred as a result of your injury.
Some common expenses that are included in an economic damages claim include:
- Medical expenses for the treatment of the injury and associated complications, including seizures. You can claim expenses you have already incurred and those you may incur in the future.
- Lost wages due to being too injured to work.
- Loss of future earning capacity, if your brain injury and associated seizures result in a permanent disability that renders you unable to work.
- Property damage resulting from the same accident that caused your injury, such as the cost to repair or replace your vehicle after a car accident.
Non-economic damages refer to a payment made for quality-of-life impacts that you have incurred from your traumatic brain injury and its complications.
Such impacts in damage claims often include:
- Physical pain and suffering;
- Emotional distress; and
- Loss of the enjoyment of life.
Call a top brain injury lawyer near you to help you understand this important process of recovering damages related to your brain injury and associated complications. Look for a brain injury lawyer with experience both in the requirements and formalities of this type of case, as well as in the often extreme, life-long challenges brain injury clients and their families may face.
Gomez Trial Attorneys
655 West Broadway, Suite 1700
San Diego, Ca 92101