While the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced the amount of traffic on the roads, vehicle accident rates remain high. Fortunately, so far in 2020, that has translated into lower numbers of deaths and serious injuries than ‘normal’ times.
In 2019, an estimated 38,800 people lost their lives to car crashes and about 4.4 million people were injured seriously enough to require medical attention in crashes, according to the National Safety Council. Though 2020 is seeing less car crash fatalities, distracted driving and cell phone deaths are on the rise, so despite COVID-19 clearing the roads, it’s imperative to stay vigilant and be present when driving.
Accident victims experience cuts, wounds and bruises, but many also suffered traumatic injuries to the neck, brain, spinal cord and limbs — sometimes resulting in long-term or permanent problems. Mental problems can also occur following a car accident. People report feelings of anxiety or even fear about getting back in a car. They may have difficulty sleeping or focusing, or turning to drink or drugs to cope with their feelings.
Dysarthria – an emerging speech complication
All of these problems are recognizable and can be treated. However, one condition has recently emerged as a surprisingly common side effect of car accidents and it’s one that accident victims and their lawyers may not be aware of — Dysarthria, a type of speech problem.
When we reached out for a quote, speech therapy professional Michelle Lachman at Better Speech told us, “Dysarthria often causes slurred or slow speech that can be difficult to understand. The condition occurs when the muscles you use for speech are weak or you have difficulty controlling them. Dysarthria occurs as a complication of traumatic brain injuries where the areas of the brain responsible for speech production and recognition are damaged.”
Many different events can result in traumatic brain injuries, however car accidents account for around 20 percent. Reportedly, 75 percent of traumatic brain injuries are mild cases, but even those cases can prove emotionally draining and require long periods of recovery — Dysarthria falls into that category.
Dysarthria can manifest itself in different ways, so it’s important to be aware of the different symptoms. For example, speaking more slowly or finding it difficult to speak clearly or pronounce certain words are possible indicators. You may occasionally ‘ramble’ or misuse common phrases or words. If other people regularly ask you to repeat what you have just said or seem unsure of your meaning, that can also be associated with Dysarthria.
You may also have problems comprehending certain types of speech, particularly rapid speech or failing to recognize certain phrases. This aspect of Dysarthria may be associated with the ‘hearing’ part of the brain, which means that you cannot hear your own speech clearly, which is essential for speaking fluently.
Dealing with Dysarthria
Dysarthria can prove to be a very frustrating problem, although it does not have the more serious consequences of other complications of brain injury. Like many other long-term conditions, it can impact quality of life for you and your family. That’s why it’s important to seek medical advice to confirm the condition so that you can begin remedial treatment. And, you should also make your lawyer aware of the condition as soon as possible so that they can incorporate the condition in their claim process.
Although timing is critical in any medical review or claim following an accident, Dysarthria may not manifest itself immediately or in an obvious way. It may be days or weeks after the accident before you or others recognize the condition. In that case, you may have assessment and treatment for other injuries related to the accident before Dysarthria is confirmed, and that can complicate the timing and scope of the claim.
If you are assessed for traumatic brain injury and the symptoms of Dysarthria are showing up, tell the medical team about them and ask them to check for Dysarthria. They may refer you to a specialist in speech problems if they are not familiar with the condition. If Dysarthria is confirmed, immediately following the accident or at a later date, you should find out about treatment options and their cost so that your lawyer can take account of them in the claim. The options include physical therapy and speech therapy, which helps to strengthen the muscles associated with speech. Similarly, whiplash injury and neck and shoulder pain is extremely common after a car accident, so you will need a properly constructed head rest and supported sleep environment, and possibly treatment from a chiropractor too.
A speech pathologist can provide training and improve personal development to help you form and say words or phrases that you have found difficult. If Dysarthria manifests itself in hearing or comprehension difficulties, you may be referred to an audiologist for more specific treatment.
Contact your lawyer
Regardless of the timing of Dysarthria diagnosis, your lawyer must include the costs of medical assessment and treatment in your claim. Although a speech problem may not appear to have the same impact as other traumatic injuries, it can affect the quality of both your personal life and your work.
Remember, speed is of the essence in injury treatment and compensation claims. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult to obtain routine medical treatment, you must contact both medical professionals, lawyers and, if the injury was severe, a car crash expert witness as soon as possible, either in person or remotely via videoconference or phone.