Expert Witnesses in Traumatic Brain Injury Cases

TBIs
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Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) tend to be sensitive and often involve complex issues. TBIs can cause problems for the victim and when negligence is involved, gaining appropriate compensation for these damages can be difficult. Symptoms of TBIs include dizziness, disorientation, nausea, memory loss, headaches, seizures and more. These issues can cause significant detriment to victims’ lives.

TBI damages are awarded in four areas:

  1. Pain and suffering.
  2. Disability and impairment.
  3. Loss of enjoyment of life.
  4. Economic losses.

While fault may be obvious, the court will often require substantial evidence to demonstrate the existence and severity of the injury. In addition, the court is required to examine the conditions involved in the accident in order to identify any and all potential litigants.

Most recently, TBIs have garnered public attention in regards to sport-related concussions, which have resulted in medical complications and even unanticipated fatalities for many young, top-tier athletes. In some incidents, a blunt force blow can cause immediate medical symptoms, which are treated in an urgent manner and require a major operation.

However, most TBI cases can be very unpredictable because of the difficulty involved in proving damages. While some cases are direct, other times the symptoms are not instantaneous. It is not rare to hear of cases where the symptoms are so subtle that they are not immediately noticed. Examples of these types of symptoms include confusion, slight dizziness or headaches. These seemingly simple or even harmless symptoms can persist and develop into significant disorientation and memory loss, extreme dizziness and seizures, or debilitating migraines.

Specific evidence of the brain injury may be slow to develop. At first, the brain injury may cause slight numbing of the extremities, but this may eventually turn into paralysis. These symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to a lifetime. The longer the symptoms take to develop, the harder it is to link the cause of these issues to the initial accident.

Since expert witnesses are called to testify in court cases where specialized or technical knowledge is required in understanding the case, they are extremely helpful in building a TBI case in four main ways: (1) medical experts can attest to the existence of the brain injury; (2) reconstruction experts or engineers can testify whether the accident was sufficiently serious to cause the amount of injury claimed by the plaintiff; (3) medical experts can help identify how many negligent parties are involved and who they are; and (4) experts may help determine the severity of the injury.

A variety of expert witnesses can be involved in a brain injury case. These include:

Experts who determine whether an injury occurred. The first category of medical experts, such as neurologists, neuropsychologists and psychiatrists, can help determine whether an injury actually took place. TBIs are classified as mild, moderate or severe, each causing a different set and severity of complications. For example, an accident reconstruction expert is sometimes called in to cases dealing with blunt force trauma caused by major equipment or vehicle accidents. Pharmacologists and toxicologists can also be called to testify in cases related to negligence in prescribing medication or in assessing chemical accidents.

Experts who determine the extent of resulting complications. Medical experts are also used to determine the extent of the complications caused by the accident, such as providing a professional opinion on whether the victim is unable to work or whether they will have long-term symptoms. They may also provide estimates on how long the complications will last, whether the injury is likely to be permanent, or how severely it might affect their quality of life. For example, while the defense may argue that the victim is able to work when experiencing the headaches caused by the brain injury, a medical expert may conclude that headaches associated with this type of injury are usually debilitating and inhibit their ability to perform the work expected of them. Vocational experts and life care planners are often brought in to provide information on the magnitude of the damages and their potential long-term effects.

Experts who estimate future expenses. An expert medical witness can also estimate future medical expenses caused by the condition as a result of the injury. They can provide a prediction as to whether rehabilitation or continuing medication will be needed.

Overall, expert witnesses are crucial to TBI cases because they provide professional expertise on whether the brain injury exists, what it was caused by and the extent of the resulting complications. They are instrumental in substantiating what kinds of damages were accrued by testifying to the significance of the problems caused and the potential future issues that may arise. Additionally, it is helpful to not only have medical experts, but to also call in professionals from other areas to explain and substantiate every facet of the case. Dr. Rosabel Young

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