A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a brain injury caused by an external force like a direct blow to the head, a blow suffered in a traffic accident or a fall, or an explosion next to a victim’s head. How common are traumatic brain injuries? What should you do if a brain injury occurs? What are a brain injury’s symptoms and consequences? Do TBI victims have any recourse? You are about to learn all of those answers and more.

Because anyone can suffer an accidental blow to the head, everyone is at risk. Anyone who sustains a blow to the head must have immediate medical attention. An undetected, undiagnosed mild brain injury can quickly become a severe medical condition. In the Metro Atlanta area, after seeing a doctor, TBI victims should also consult an experienced Atlanta personal injury attorney.

Traumatic brain injuries are more common than you might think. About 1.5 million of us in the United States suffer some kind of traumatic brain injury every year. Doctors classify traumatic brain injuries in three categories – mild, moderate, and severe – and even though three-quarters of traumatic brain injuries are mild, that does not mean that those injuries are trivial.

WHAT SYMPTOMS WILL ALMOST EVERY TBI PATIENT EXPERIENCE?

The specific effect of a brain injury on one person may be entirely different from the impact on someone else. Some traumatic brain injury patients experience virtually no change in their lives; however, most brain injury victims will encounter at least some minimum difficulty with concentration, memory, and sleep.

A TBI victim will probably no longer be able to work full-time – or in some cases, at all. When anyone’s life changes in a profoundly negative way, feeling some depression is normal – and not an indication of weakness or failure. Depression frequently – and in most cases, temporarily – follows a personal loss like a divorce or the death of a loved one.

Any serious injury – like a traumatic brain injury – can also trigger depression. Atlanta personal injury attorney Lloyd Bell routinely represents brain injury victims. Attorney Bell says, “Brain injuries result in an ongoing roller coaster of emotions, full of twists and turns, with depression residing in the valleys.”

While some temporary feelings of depression are not uncommon after someone has suffered a traumatic brain injury, if the patient starts becoming obsessive or fixated on depression, it is imperative to seek professional help. Depression is more easily treated when it’s identified in its early stages.

HOW LONG DO TBI SYMPTOMS USUALLY LAST?

The common symptoms of a traumatic brain injury are headaches, sleep difficulties, a ringing in the ears, mood changes, difficulty concentrating, and sporadic memory loss. These symptoms usually fade after a few weeks if the brain injury is mild and is treated properly and immediately. In some cases, however, some symptoms can remain for months or even years.

For example, even TBI victims who seem otherwise to recover quickly can struggle with lingering depression, and the more severe the injury, as a rule of thumb, the deeper the depression. Depression isn’t simply feeling “down” or sad. It is a clinical condition often linked to a loss of sleep or appetite, an inability to focus or concentrate, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, and in some cases, suicidal thoughts.

A TBI victim’s depression should not be overlooked or dismissed – but it can be treated. Some patients experience depression almost immediately after being injured, but for others, depression sets in later. It is imperative for TBI patients to tell their doctors about any symptoms of depression after a brain injury – even if it has been months since the injury happened.

Those symptoms may include:

– constant feelings of sadness or hopelessness; in some cases, thoughts of suicide
– having little or no interest in hobbies, friends, and family
– eating a lot less or a lot more
– sleeping sporadically, poorly, a lot less, or a lot more
– more consumption of tobacco, alcohol, cannabis, or other drugs

WHAT IS THE TREATMENT FOR TBI-RELATED DEPRESSION?

Depression is treated with counseling or medication – and usually with both. Counseling involves a trained mental health professional discussing with a TBI patient that patient’s depression and how best to deal with it. In many cases – and particularly with TBI victims who had no depression issues or mental illness prior to the brain injury – only several months of counseling may be needed.

Several types of antidepressants may be prescribed to help TBI patients cope with their depression. Every patient is different, so medications may be needed only for a few weeks, or in some cases, for much longer. Always discuss any possible side effects of antidepressant medicines with your doctor, and make certain that all of your doctors are aware of all the medications that you are taking.

Any legal action arising from a traumatic brain injury will depend on how that injury occurred. Traffic collisions, slip-and-fall incidents, and accidents while playing sports are the leading causes of traumatic brain injuries, and those kinds of accidents are often caused by a third party’s negligence.

WHEN ARE TBI PATIENTS ENTITLED TO COMPENSATION?

When a third party is liable for a traumatic brain injury, the victim is entitled to full compensation for all TBI-related medical expenses, lost income, and additional damages. If you or someone you love sustains a traumatic brain injury because someone else acted negligently and irresponsibly, discuss the accident and injury with an experienced Atlanta personal injury attorney – as quickly as possible.

The most severe traumatic brain injuries may qualify a TBI victim for a substantial damage award – if the victim can prove his or her claim. The most severe brain injuries may require surgeries, therapy, and counseling over a period of years. The costs are far beyond what most families can afford, but a successful personal injury lawsuit can provide the resources that TBI patients and their families require.

IS THERE A TIME LIMIT FOR TBI PATIENTS TO TAKE LEGAL ACTION?

Most TBI patients quickly learn what they need to do to improve physically, but they may have difficulty talking about their emotions and depression. Financial anxieties can obsess TBI patients when they can’t work and the medical bills are piling up. If another person’s negligence was the cause of a traumatic brain injury, an experienced personal injury lawyer can help.

After a traumatic brain injury, do not delay arranging to meet with an experienced Atlanta personal injury attorney. The statute of limitations in Georgia for personal injury actions is two years, and exceptions are extremely rare. But don’t wait two years and try to file a lawsuit at the last minute – the sooner you can put an attorney on the case, the more likely it is that your injury claim will prevail.