Identifying a traumatic brain injury (TBI) can often be difficult, but if one exists, it is essential that it be recognised.
This is straightforward where the TBI is severe. The obvious signs are a lengthy period of unconsciousness or coma, an abnormally low Glascow Coma score [GCS] e.g. under 10/15, a lengthy period of post traumatic amnesia [PTA], a positive MRI scan of the brain revealing diffuse axonal injury and the like.
The consequences of such a TBI are of course catastrophic.
It is another matter entirely to identify what is often called ‘a mild TBI’. That’s because:
1. the changes and symptoms caused by the mild TBI can be very subtle, such as changes in personality, forgetfulness, reduced ability to concentrate, impulsivity, repetitiveness, disinhibition, mental fatigue etc.
2. The injury can easily be over-looked by the medical profession due to lack of complaint or insight by the patient, the masking of the mild TBI by serious physical injuries which grab all the initial attention and the general lack of awareness and knowledge in the community of the effects of a mild TBI.
What to look out for?
The tell-tale signs are a head injury, any loss of consciousness or PTA, a reduced GCS, and the features of behaviour to which I’ve already referred.
What steps to take to investigate the presence of a mild TBI?
If there is any chance that your client may have a mild TBI it’s vitally important that you do the following:
1. Carefully review the ambulance and hospital records for reference to a head injury, a GCS or PTA score, and any abnormal findings on brain scans.
2. Engage in an in-depth conversation with your client to test their recall, their articulateness, their ability to ‘stay on track’ etc.
3. Obtain details of their last memory before the accident and their first memory after the event.
4. Obtain details of their pre-accident level of cognitive functioning and their perception of any changes since the accident.
5. Ask whether there have been any other consequences often associated with a brain injury e.g. loss of hearing, reduced sense of smell and taste, hyper-sensitivity to bright light or loud noises.
6. Speak to people who have known your client for some time to obtain their ‘before and after’ observations of changes to the injured person’s intellect, personality etc.
Once you’re satisfied that a mild TBI may exist engage with expert medico-legal assessment and opinion e.g. a neuropsychologist.
If you or someone you know has suffered a serious brain injury in an accident, you may be entitled to compensation. To arrange a free, no-obligation assessment of your claim, please do not hesitate to call Stacks Goudkamp on 1800 25 1800, or alternatively, make an online enquiry to speak to one of our friendly solicitors.
Written by Tom Goudkamp.