Frequently Asked Questions About Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Q: What is a traumatic brain injury?

A: Any forceful contact to the head that disrupts the brain’s natural functions is a traumatic brain injury (“TBI”). The brain can be injured by strokes or infections, but those are called “acquired” brain injuries (“ABIs”). Neurologists classify traumatic cerebrum injuries as severe, moderate, or mild. Most TBIs are mild, so most people who sustain a TBI improve over time. However, the effects of a severe traumatic brain injury can last for life.

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Q: How many people are currently suffering with TBI?

Almost 1.7 million Americans sustain a traumatic brain injury each year. Most cerebrum injury victims who are treated at an ER are released, but more than a quarter-million each year are admitted to a hospital. Additionally, each year more than 50,000 die as the result of a traumatic cerebrum injury, and about 125,000 are permanently disabled. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that at least 3.2 million Americans are permanently disabled as the result of a traumatic cerebrum injury.

Q: Who is at the highest risk for TBI?

The age groups most at risk for TBI are children age 4 and under, teens ages 15 to 19, and adults age 65 and above. Males sustain about one-and-a-half times more traumatic cerebrum injuries than females. Serving in the military increases the risk of TBI, and African-Americans suffer the highest death rate from traumatic brain injuries.

Q: What are the leading causes of traumatic brain injuries?

A: Falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries, responsible for about 35.2 percent. Traffic collisions cause about 17.3 percent of traumatic brain injuries, and assaults are responsible for about 11 percent. Blasts and explosions are the predominant reasons for traumatic brain injuries suffered by active duty military personnel in war zones.

Q: What are the costs of TBI?

A: The direct and indirect cost of TBI in the U.S., including lost productivity, is estimated at more than $75 billion a year. Obviously, the more serious a cerebrum  injury is, the costlier it is to treat. These figures from the Brain Injury Association of America spell out the average, typical costs to individual patients:

  • $600 to $1,000 a day for outpatient therapy (four hours a day)
  • from $850 to $2,500 a day for post-hospitalization residential rehabilitation
  • about $8,000 a day for hospital-based cerebrum injury rehabilitation

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Q: How does a TBI impact the brain and the body?

A: When a traumatic cerebrum damage occurs, anything connected to the cerebrum can be affected. A number of symptoms may be related to a TBI, including dizziness, nausea, balance and perception problems, and eating and sleeping disorders. A TBI victim’s emotions and thought patterns, and the abilities to concentrate and communicate can also be affected. Serious brain injuries sometimes cause epilepsy, and TBI also raises the risk for Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

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Q: What kinds of issues do TBI victims face in day-to-day living?

A: The Institute of Medicine has published a study which says, “…many people with TBI experience persistent, lifelong disabilities. For these individuals and their caregivers, finding needed services is, far too often, an overwhelming logistical, financial, and psychological challenge. Individuals with TBI-related disabilities, their family members, and caregivers report substantial problems in getting basic services, including housing, vocational services, neurobehavioral services, transportation, and respite for caregivers.”

Q: What are the long-term effects of TBI?

A: The human brain is a complex organ, so it’s almost impossible to predict with certainty the long-term effects of a traumatic brain injury. Mild brain injuries, properly treated, usually heal over a period of months with few problems. More serious brain injuries can have a number of effects in the months and years subsequent to the injury. Many TBI victims have difficulty with basic cognitive skills, paying attention, concentrating, and learning new material.

TBI victims may think and process information more slowly, and some are sometimes easily confused. They may become impulsive or reticent; they may withdraw into solitude or talk to others incessantly. A traumatic brain injury might cause mood swings, depression, irritability, or aggression. Vision problems and ringing in the ears are also common. Anticonvulsive drugs or surgical intervention may help to prevent or slow epileptic seizures. In the most severe cases, paralysis or spasticity may impair a TBI victim’s ability to move, swallow, or breathe.

Q: Why are the effects of TBI so difficult to predict?

A: Even though our knowledge of TBI has advanced, we have much more to learn about the brain’s ability to heal after an injury. Rather than make predictions, brain injury rehab professionals usually create treatment plans to help patients reach achievable goals. Rehabilitation providers must consider both the severity of an injury and the available resources. Neuropsychological evaluations help to determine the severity of injuries and help therapists create treatment plans.

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Q: How is a traumatic brain injury treated?

A: As soon as a brain injury occurs, a victim should receive medical care immediately. If the injury is a mild TBI, a patient is tested and usually discharged. A follow-up should be scheduled, and patients should report any new or worsening symptoms. Moderate and severe traumatic brain injuries may require surgery, intensive care, and/or acute care. Rehabilitation may take weeks, months, or years. A variety of options are available, so every TBI patient should be able to obtain the appropriate treatment and care.

Q: Can TBI patients find financial assistance?

A: It takes a great deal of money, time, and effort to deal appropriately with a traumatic brain injury, so TBI victims and their families often feel genuine financial pressures. If a brain injury is the result of another person’s negligence, a personal injury lawyer may be able to help. In Colorado, the victims of negligence are entitled by law to full compensation for all of their current and future medical treatment and all other injury-related expenses.

An experienced Denver personal injury attorney can provide sound legal advice to Colorado brain injury victims and their families. However, if a victim’s own negligence caused a brain injury, or if negligence was not involved, public financial assistance will depend on the kind of brain injury and the type and amount of insurance available. In Colorado, a Denver personal injury attorney can provide TBI patients and their families with more details regarding their legal rights and possible legal options.

By: Dallas Norton

Dallas Norton, the founding partner of Norton & Bowers, has practiced law with a focus on personal injury since 1992. Mr. Norton has extensive Colorado roots including grade school in Arvada and high school in Denver. He earned his J.D. from Brigham Young University Law School in 1991. When working on behalf of clients, Mr. Norton draws upon his extensive background in psychology and human resources.