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North Carolina Personal Injury: Brain Injuries and Post-Concussive Disorder

Mar 25, 2018 Brown Moore Personal Injury

If you have been in a collision in Charlotte or elsewhere in North Carolina that involved a brain injury, you are entitled to sue for full compensation for your injuries. Medical science has advanced rapidly in recent years, and we now know even mild to moderate brain injuries—such as a concussion—can be debilitating in 10-15 percent of the cases and can cause post-concussive disorder syndrome and other long-term medical conditions. If you have suffered a blow to the skull or a head injury, call the Charlotte personal injury lawyers at Brown Moore & Associates, PLLC.

North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyers: Mild Brain Injuries Can Have Severe Consequences

Brain injuries occur from either an open or closed trauma. The former is an injury that, in some manner, breaches the skull cavity—some object or a fragment of skull bone penetrates into the brain. The latter is an injury to the brain when there is no opening or fracture of the skull, but the brain is nonetheless bruised or injured by being forcibly thrust up against the inside of the skull or by the acceleration and deceleration forces of the impact. Open trauma to the brain tends to be the most severe; but, as noted, even a brain injury that does not rupture the skull and is only “moderate” can cause post-concussive disorder and other long-term health problems. See medical paper here.

North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyers: Post-Concussive Disorder

Medical research has shown that, in 10 to 15 percent of cases, even mild or moderate brain trauma—such as a concussion—can lead to various long-term medical conditions such as post-concussive disorder syndrome and encephalopathy and can aggravate or bring on neurodegeneration including the onset of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other motor neuron conditions. A concussion is not just a forceful blow to the face or head. Brain injuries can be caused by whiplashing of the head or neck and blast/explosive wave pressure. Aside from bruising caused by the brain being pushed against the skull bone, the acceleration/deceleration forces cause injury to the brain tissue. As the medical researchers explain:

“Rapid acceleration, deceleration, or rotational forces cause the brain to elongate and deform, stretching individual cells and blood vessels and altering membrane permeability. Although all cell compartments are affected by the injury, axons are especially vulnerable to shear injury given their relatively long length and high membrane-to-cytoplasm ratio. In addition to axonal damage, the integrity of the microvasculature is compromised, with disruption of the blood-brain barrier and focal cortical hypo-perfusion.”

Common symptoms of a post-concussive disorder are:

  • Inability to sleep or irregular sleep patterns;
  • Worry and anxiety;
  • Headaches;
  • Eye twitching;
  • Word-finding difficulties;
  • Learning and memory impairment;
  • Reduced psychomotor speed;
  • Lack of or inability to concentrate and focus;
  • Atypical head and neck pain;
  • Emotional distress; and
  • Other psychological and mood disorders.

North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyers: Types of Trauma That Cause Brain Injury

You can suffer a brain injury in many types of accidents. Anytime your head is struck, or there is some shaking or violent movement involving your head, you can sustain a brain injury. Examples include:

  • Accidental falls resulting in the head striking the floor or some other hard object—the most common cause of brain injuries;
  • Collisions, crashes, and similar—the impact might cause the head to strike something hard within the vehicle; if a person is ejected, the head often hits something hard like the pavement; the sudden deceleration and/or whiplash effects of a wreck can often cause a brain injury; and
  • Violence—any blow to the head can cause brain injury.

North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyers: How Your Skilled Lawyers Prove Your Case

As with any personal injury case, to recover, a victim of someone else’s careless or wrongful conduct must prove negligence. To prove negligence, in North Carolina, the victim must prove four elements: (1) duty; (2) breach of that duty; (3) causation; and (4) injury. In cases of post-concussive disorder, your medical records, tests, reports, and the diagnosis and testimony from your doctor and medical experts will be needed. It will be important that you have an MRI or CAT scan and neuropsychological testing. There is also another testing procedure called diffuse tensor imaging (“DTI”). DTI testing has actually been around for a couple of decades but has become more popular since brain injuries have become a greater focus in medical care. DTI testing scans the movement of water molecules within the white matter of the brain. The water molecules follow normal patterns; the DTI testing will show if the water molecules are obstructed. If they are, it is some evidence of damage to the brain tissue.

The case of Curry v. Baker, 502 S.E.2d 667 (1998) provides a good example. In that case, the plaintiff was injured in a vehicle collision. He was proceeding through an intersection—on a green light—when his vehicle was struck by a semi-tractor trailer which did not stop. The plaintiff claimed, among other injuries, that he had suffered a mild closed head traumatic brain injury. After a jury trial, he was awarded $900,000 in damages.

During the trial, the plaintiff offered testimony from a clinical neuropsychologist who testified that the brain can still suffer damage even if there is no breach of the skull and that an injury to the brain can be determined based on various criteria including:

  • Whether there was sufficient velocity during the wreck;
  • Evidence of injury to the head area;
  • Post-accident cognitive deficits; and
  • Other neuropsychological difficulties.

In that case, all of the foregoing were demonstrated. The truck was going at least 40 miles per hour demonstrating the probability of sufficient velocity and whiplashing. Further, the emergency room records showed lacerations and bleeding to the plaintiff’s skull. After the wreck, the plaintiff suffered persistent cognitive difficulties. His treating physicians diagnosed the plaintiff with mild post-traumatic head injury syndrome caused by the wreck. The jury was convinced, and the plaintiff prevailed at trial. On appeal, the jury verdict was affirmed.

As the Curry case demonstrates, if you have suffered a brain injury, it is important to keep records—as best you can—of the effects and impacts that the injury has on you and your ability to function. Brain injuries cannot be “seen” in the same way as a broken leg or arm. The injury is often only “visible” by its effects.

Charlotte NC Personal Injury Lawyers—Brown Moore & Associates, PLLC

The Curry case shows proving a brain injury can be complex and requires good medical records and testimony from doctors and experts. If you have been injured in any type of accident, the Charlotte NC personal injury attorneys at Brown Moore & Associates, PLLC know how to gather the right evidence to prove your case. We are experienced and proven personal injury lawyers with many years of obtaining excellent results for our Charlotte personal injury clients. Contact our office today. We serve North Carolina residents in Asheville, Charlotte, Concord, Gastonia, Huntersville, Kannapolis, Monroe, Mooresville, Shelby, and surrounding areas.