Traumatic Brain Injuries
Every day, an average of six Utah residents require hospital admission to cope with a traumatic brain injury. Among those six, one person dies. A TBI can occur on any day. This stark fact makes it wise to understand TBIs, their treatment and your legal options in the wake of this injury.
What Is a TBI?
When a blow to the head impairs brain function, the injury qualifies as a TBI. Medical professionals classify TBIs in three grades:
- Mild: The least severe TBIs are commonly called concussions. With a concussion, a person may lose consciousness for up to one-half hour and feel confused for 24 hours. In most cases, persons make a full recovery from concussions within a few weeks or even days. Multiple concussions within a short timeframe may lead to long-lasting or permanent impairment.
- Moderate: With a moderate TBI, a person may lose consciousness for up to one day. These TBIs may cause confusion for up to one week.
- Severe: With a severe TBI, a person remains unconscious for more than 24 hours. At this injury level, computerized tomography scans or magnetic resonance images often reveal evidence of brain damage. Recovery may require months of speech or motor skill therapy. Permanent impairment is a possibility.
What Events Cause TBIs?
Slightly more than half of all TBIs in Utah result from falls. A fall can cause a blow to the head from a variety of angles, each with different consequences for the brain. Construction workers and public safety professionals — police officers and firefighters — face a high risk of on-the-job TBIs.
With Utah’s many outdoor recreation opportunities, it is no surprise that these activities play a role in four out of every ten TBIs statewide. Motor vehicle accidents cause 13% of the state’s TBIs, with head-on collisions accounting for the most severe cases. Bicycle accidents account for another 5% of Utah TBIs.
What Should I Do if I Suspect a TBI?
Beyond the loss of consciousness, less severe TBI symptoms include:
- Impaired balance
- Unusual fatigue
- Blurred vision
- Increased sensitivity to bright light
A blow to the head that causes any of these symptoms requires a prompt trip to an emergency room. Do not endanger yourself or others by driving to the ER yourself. Understand that events that cause TBIs may also cause musculoskeletal injuries that need immediate attention.
If an automobile accident was the cause of your TBI, notify your insurance company as early as possible. Your policy requires this step, and this action will preserve your right to file a claim for injury compensation.
Once discharged from the hospital, follow any recommended treatment protocols, even if your symptoms disappear. Keep appointments for follow-up screening or therapies, and collect copies of all invoices. Preserve notes of your symptoms in a diary. Particularly with TBIs, this step can help your physician fine-tune your care plan.
What Are My Legal Options After a TBI?
If you suffer a TBI owing to the negligence of another person or entity, you may have the opportunity to pursue compensation in Utah’s court system. The circumstances of your injury will define your options.
Injuries From Falls
When an injured person files a lawsuit alleging negligence against another party, Utah’s comparative negligence rule enters the picture. When someone suffers a TBI from a fall, a portion of the fault for the incident may rest on the injured party. If a case proceeds to trial — before awarding damages — a judge or jury will decide what percentage of fault should accrue to each party in the lawsuit.
As an example, if the court finds a plaintiff was 20% at fault for an injury, the court reduces the damages award by 20%. In Utah, a plaintiff may collect some damages as long as the court finds that the defendant bears the majority of fault. Even though most personal injury lawsuits end in a settlement before trial, the comparative negligence rule still plays a role. Attorneys for all parties in the suit make educated guesses on the relative percentage of fault, and these estimates form the starting point for negotiation.
Building a strong evidence-based case can move the fault percentage in favor of a plaintiff and measurably affect the quality of a settlement. The comparative negligence rule is a compelling reason to consult with a personal injury attorney after a TBI. Most lawyers will not charge a fee for a case evaluation, making this action a risk-free move.
Motor Vehicle Collisions
If you suffer a TBI as a driver or passenger in a motor vehicle collision, Utah’s no-fault auto insurance system comes into play. Utah implemented this system to reduce court backlogs and speed compensation payments to injured persons. To obtain compensation for an injury under a no-fault system, persons must begin by filing a claim with their insurance carrier, regardless of who was at fault for the collision. Individuals may not step outside of this system unless their injuries exceed a threshold spelled out in Utah law.
When medical bills exceed $3,000 and a TBI causes permanent impairment, an injury victim can move beyond the no-fault system and seek compensation from a collision’s at-fault parties. One option is filing a third-party claim with the other party’s insurance company. With compelling documentation, the insurer may decide to avoid litigation and pay the claim.
A personal injury attorney can assist you with this process and free you to focus on rehabilitation and recovery. If an insurer balks, an attorney can initiate a lawsuit to obtain fair compensation. With a lawsuit, an individual may pursue damages from both an insurer and the at-fault parties themselves. As with slip and fall cases, the state’s comparative fault rule still applies.
Why Is Timing Critical?
Proving permanent disability from a TBI is an essential step for moving outside the no-fault insurance system. With falls and other TBI causes, proof of permanent disability is vital for obtaining fair compensation for a lower quality of life. Insurers for at-fault parties may argue that additional therapies will — over time — restore a victim to full health. These insurance companies have a battery of experts on call.
This situation highlights the value of engaging an experienced personal injury attorney. Marshalling the evidence to prevail may require calling in expert witnesses in fields such as neurology or speech pathology. Based on their work with thousands of patients, these specialists can credibly argue when a patient’s recovery has reached a permanent plateau.
With these harsh realities, timing becomes a vital element in the process of obtaining fair compensation. A personal injury attorney can advise you on when to file a third-party claim with an insurer or pursue damages in the court system.
Why Siegfried & Jensen?
For more than three decades, the attorneys of Siegfried & Jensen have helped Utah residents obtain fair compensation when injured by another party’s negligence. In our history, we have helped recover more than $1.2 billion for our clients. Case reviews are free, and you will owe us nothing unless we recover money for you. We have four offices across Utah, and we can meet with you at home or in a hospital. If you or a loved one now confronts an injury, we invite you to contact us today.
Our Attorneys Will Fight for Fairness
Our lawyers understand how to fight insurance companies and can help you protect your rights and get the settlement you deserve.
Too often, insurance companies refuse to take the effects of TBIs seriously and don’t treat the victims and their families fairly. If you’ve suffered a TBI as the result of someone else’s negligence and you’re not being treated fairly, we can help sort out your case and protect your rights.
When you work with us, you can expect the best:
- We’ll answer your questions and address your concerns throughout the entire process.
- We’ll pull together the information needed to build your case, including medical records, accident reports, insurance policies, expert testimony, etc.
- We’ll make sure that everybody plays by the rules and treats you fairly.
- We’ll help you get what you need to move forward with your life.
Contact Siegfried & Jensen today for a free, no-pressure consultation.