Orange County Brain Injuries Attorney
If you or a loved one has suffered a brain injury due to someone else’s negligence, call Orange County brain injury attorney John Rapillo. With over 35 years experience, Mr. Rapillo will help you maximize your compensation. We offer a free consultation for your convenience.
According to the CDC, there are about 1.7 million people across the United States who sustain a traumatic brain injury every year. Of those who suffer a brain injury, about 52,000 will die, 275,000 will be hospitalized, and about 80 percent will be treated and released from the ER. Further statistics include:
- About $60 billion was spent in 2000 on the medical costs and indirect costs of traumatic brain injuries;
- Of all the injury-related deaths in the United States, traumatic brain injury contributes to about a third;
- The age groups most likely to sustain a traumatic brain injury are adults over the age of 65, children between the ages of infant and four years, and adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19;
- More males than females will suffer a traumatic brain injury—almost twice as many;
- The primary cause of traumatic brain injuries is falls, while the primary cause of traumatic brain injury death is motor vehicle accidents;
- About 47 percent of those who suffer a traumatic brain injury were not married at the time of the injury;
- About 57 percent of those who suffer a traumatic brain injury were employed at the time of their injury, and
- The ethnicity which has the highest rate of death from traumatic brain injuries are African Americans.
California Brain Injury Statistics
In the state of California, in 2007, there were 29,354 patients hospitalized with a traumatic brain injury. Of those, seven percent died, and 25 percent were sent to another facility for further treatment. California statistics show that the “peak” ages in the state for traumatic brain injuries are infancy, the early 20’s, and among those over the age of 80. It is estimated that more than 350,000 Californians are living with a traumatic brain injury at any given time; of the 100,000 Californians who visit ER’s annually due to a head injury, at least 25 percent of these will never return to work.
Most Common Causes of Brain Injuries
Overall, according to the CDC, the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries are falls, at 40 percent, followed by:
- Motor vehicle accidents (including truck, motorcycle, pedestrian, and bicycle)—3 percent;
- Being struck by an object or being struck against an object—5 percent, and
- Violent assaults—7 percent.
The remainder of traumatic brain injuries are caused by “other” or “unknown.” Sports injuries contribute to a large number of those other and unknown traumatic brain injuries. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission determined that bicycling is the number one sports activity which can result in a traumatic brain injury, followed by:
- Baseball and softball;
- Riding off-road vehicles;
- Skateboards and powered scooters;
- Winter sports;
- Water sports;
- Riding horses;
- Weightlifting or using other exercise equipment;
- Golf, and
- Trampolines, hockey, gymnastics, ice skating, fishing, rugby, and wrestling.
Types of Brain Injuries
There are many different types and levels of brain injury. While most people think a concussion is not particularly serious, in fact, some effects of a concussion can cause impairments that last a lifetime. Concussions are typically caused by a direct blow to the head, violent shaking of the head, a whiplash-type injury, or a gunshot wound.
Closed and open head injuries can both result in a concussion, which is the most common type of traumatic brain injury. Depending on the severity of the concussion, the person may or may not lose consciousness. Some people remain conscious but feel confused. CAT scans may not always show a concussion, and brain bleeding or swelling can be present when a concussion occurs. Should a blood clot in the brain result from the concussion, it can cause death. Concussions may take weeks, months, or years to fully heal.
A direct head blow can result in a contusion, which is a bruise to the brain with bleeding. Large contusions could require surgical removal. The term “coup-contrecoup” describes an injury which includes a contusion at the impact site as well as at the opposite side of the brain. This type of brain injury occurs when the force of the impact slams the brain into the opposite side of the skull. A diffuse axonal traumatic brain injury occurs when there is a strong rotation of the head. Shaken Baby Syndrome generally results in diffuse axonal brain injuries, and causes extensive tearing of the brain’s nerve tissues, disrupting communication and chemical processes. This type of injury to the brain can cause temporary or permanent brain damage, coma or death.
A penetrating injury to the brain can occur from any sharp object which forces skin, hair and bone as well as fragments from the bullet, knife or other sharp object, into the brain. Should the sharp object enter the skull, penetrate the brain and come out the other side, it is known as a “through and through” brain injury, and has the effects of a penetrating injury as well as potentially rupturing brain tissue. Acquired brain injuries are those caused by a degenerative disease, a near-drowning, a stroke, tumor, toxin, hypoxia or anoxia—any illness or condition which is not the result of an external force. Anoxia occurs when the brain receives no oxygen, while hypoxia occurs when the brain receives some—but not enough—oxygen.
There are also levels of traumatic brain injury, from mild, to moderate, to severe. When a person experiences a mild brain injury, he or she may experience no loss of consciousness to a very brief loss of consciousness. The brain scans of the person with a mild brain injury may appear perfectly normal, however, there will be an alteration in the mental status of the person at the time of the injury. Moderate brain injuries are generally the result of a non-penetrating blow to the head or violent shaking of the head. Some people will come through a moderate brain injury with few lasting effects, while others will suffer lifelong impairments. Those who suffer a moderate brain injury will lose consciousness—from a few minutes to several hours, and may experience confusion for days or weeks. Impairments, whether physical, cognitive or behavioral, may last for a few months, or may be considered permanent.
Severe brain injuries are usually the result of a crushing blow or a penetrating wound to the head, which rips, crushes or shears the brain tissues. There may be an open head wound and a closed head wound in a severe brain injury. Those with a severe traumatic brain injury will usually require extensive hospitalization and rehabilitation, and will suffer many changes which affect their language, their emotions, their sensations and their ability to think and learn.
Effects of Brain Injuries
The effects of a brain injury will depend on the type of brain injury as well as the severity, however according to The Brain Injury Association, the effects below are the most common:
- Cognitive effects include changes in memory, particularly short-term and working memory. This means some people may not be able to remember previously learned skills, faces or names. Other cognitive effects include loss of language (difficulty finding the right word, whether speaking or writing), visual-perceptual impairments, reduced ability to stay on task, reduced concentration span, reduced ability to process information, impaired reasoning, and impaired levels of self-awareness.
- Communication impairments including aphasia (difficulty understanding language and expressing one’s thoughts, whether through speaking, reading or writing), speech disorders, and cognitive communication difficulties, poor social skills and fatigue.
- Executive dysfunction. The effects of executive dysfunction from brain injuries include the following:
- Inability to multi-task;
- Inability to plan or organize;
- Lack of flexible thinking;
- Lack of self-awareness;
- Inability to solve an unusual problem;
- Abnormal social behaviors;
- Inability to learn rules;
- Inability to self-monitor performance;
- Inability to make decisions;
- Exhibiting inappropriate behaviors;
- Inability to control emotions, and
- Inability to take in new information.
The person who suffers executive dysfunction as a result of a brain injury may have difficulty switching from one task to another, may be unable to anticipate consequences, may act too quickly or impulsively and may suffer serious emotional issues such as rapid mood changes or outbursts of anger or crying.
- Emotional effects of a brain injury can result in significant personality changes, wide mood swings, depression, sadness, anxiety, frustration, anger and post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Physical effects of a brain injury can include loss of mobility, limited range of motion, muscle spasms, weakness, paralysis, uncontrolled movements or tremors, loss of sensation, or exaggerated sensations, fatigue and epileptic seizures.
Who is Liable for Your Brain Injury?
Brain injuries can occur from a myriad of incidents, therefore identifying the responsible party may be more complex. The circumstances surrounding your accident, as well as the extent of your brain injury may help determine who is responsible.
As an example, if an anesthesiologist administered too much anesthesia which resulted in a temporary or permanent brain injury, then he or she could be the liable party. If the negligence of a driver resulted in a serious car accident and your resulting brain injuries, then the driver could be liable. If a lifeguard at a city pool failed to see a child drowning, and that child suffered a brain injury, then the entity who owns the pool and hired the lifeguard may be liable.
By their nature, brain injuries pose certain problems for attorneys, primarily because some brain injuries are not readily identifiable, even using a CAT-scan. Many times expert witnesses must be brought in, as well as relatives and friends who can testify as to the changes the brain injury has made in the victim.
What is the Statute of Limitations for Your Orange County Brain Injury?
In the state of California, the statute of limitations, or the time you have in which to file a personal injury claim following an accident caused by the negligence of another is two years from the date of the accident. There are a few exceptions to this two-year rule, such as when the victim is mentally or physically impaired following the accident, or when the victim is a minor.
In the case of a minor, he or she will have two years from the time of the 18th birthday in which to file a claim for damages. If a governmental entity is the negligent party, you must first file a claim with that entity within six months from the time the accident occurred. If your claim is denied, you have two years to file a civil claim for damages.
What Types of Damages Can You Expect in Your Brain Injury Claim?
Because a brain injury can affect a person’s life in so many ways, there a many damages the victim may need to recover. Medical expenses could be one of the primary expenses, including hospital bills, physician bills, prescription medication expenses, ER expenses, rehabilitative therapy expenses and ongoing medical monitoring. Pain and suffering could be awarded for short or long-term impairments which have altered your ability to enjoy life.
You could be entitled to lost wages for any time you were off work to recover from your brain injury, or you could be entitled to damages for impairment of earning capacity if you are never able to return to the work you did prior to the accident. You may have had to make major changes in your lifestyle, therefore may be entitled to damages for lost quality of life. If you require home care and other non-medical needs because of your head injury, you may be entitled to life-care damages.
Finally, if the person who caused your brain injury acted with malice, intended to harm you or acted with particular reckless disregard for your life and your safety, you may be entitled to punitive damages. Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant, as well as to deter similar behavior in others.
How an Orange County Attorney Can Help
If you or a loved one are the victim of an accident caused by the negligence of another, and the result is a brain injury, it is extremely important that you have an experience Orange County accident attorney by your side. You need the time following your brain injury to try to heal and to get back to your life, and your attorney will make sure your rights are protected and that you receive the settlement you are entitled to.