Brain injuries

There are various forms of brain injury which can be caused in different ways, ranging from road traffic accidents through to assaults and medical negligence. Below we examine the different types and levels of brain injury and the impact they can have on the victim and their family.

Degrees of Brain Injury

75-80% of brain injury falls into the ‘minor’ category. Minor brain injuries can be caused by a bang on the head whilst getting into a car, a fall, or other minor accident. We recognise that the effects of the injury can be anything but minor to the victim.

Side effects can include nausea, memory problems, dizziness, intolerance to noise or light, etc. Commonly, no scans will be taken at the time of the accident and it is left to the victim and their family to be observant of any symptoms following the injury. Thankfully the majority of people make a full recovery. However, it is possible that the symptoms continue and sadly it is common, that despite seeking medical treatment, the patient or family may be viewed as sensationalising injuries and no investigations into the ongoing symptoms are taken. 

Medical negligence can arise following failure to recognise the need to refer the victim to hospital for further investigation if these symptoms arise, which can lead to the minor injury developing into something more serious.

Moderate brain injury is usually defined by loss of consciousness for a short period of time and residual symptoms can be as those seen in minor brain injuries.

Severe brain injury is defined by loss of consciousness for a long period of time and there are usually more serious physical and psychological effects. Coma and persistent vegetative state are both forms of severe brain injury.

Traumatic brain injury

This is a brain injury caused by an ‘outside force’. This can lead to complications following the initial injury, such as pressure and swelling in the brain. A traumatic brain injury can be a closed head injury, open wound or crushing injury. This is a ‘first’ injury.

Closed head injuries where no open wound is visible are most common.  It often happens due to a jolt, such as in a car accident, where the brain is rocked back and forth against the skull. Arteries and veins may be damaged causing bleeding within the skull, or the brain itself may bruise and swell causing disruption to signals sent to and from the brain.

An open or penetrating wound is defined by the skull opening and the brain being exposed and damaged, e.g. if you are assaulted with a weapon. If the damage is limited to a specific area, the prognosis is usually quite good as there is no pressure effect with regards to swelling; the broken skull allows release of the pressure relieving the same on the brain. However, these injuries tend to look the most horrific.

Crushing injuries are not as common and are defined as having been caused by the head being caught behind two hard objects. It is usual that the base of the skull and nerves are damaged, but the brain is protected.

The ‘second’ injury occurs minutes or hours after the first injury, e.g.  where the  brain is starved of oxygen due to blocking of an airway or blood loss caused by an injury to another part of the body.

The ‘third’ injury occurs any time after this and can lead to further complications. It can be caused by continuing bleeding, swelling or bruising to the brain as well as developments of blood clots. This increases pressure in the skull. As the skull is rigid and cannot move to ease the pressure, it means that the brain is compressed and this can lead to very serious complications.

Delay in diagnosing and treating 'second' or ' third' injuries can result in deterioration of the injury, and it is this that is the most common ground for medical negligence claims resulting in brain injury. Claims involving head injuries incurred due to an accident, fall or assault usually come from ‘first’ injuries.

Other forms of acquired brain injury

Acquired brain injury covers all situations of brain injury which have occurred since birth. The effects are very similar to traumatic brain injury. Examples include aneurysm, stroke and haemorrhage. 

Effects of a brain injury on the victim and their family

There are many symptoms resulting from brain injury. Examples include:

  • Loss of sensation
  • Speach difficulties
  • Incontinence
  • Difficulties with movement, balance and co-ordination including dyspraxia
  • Tiredness
  • Headaches
  • Epilepsy
  • Hormonal changes

There can also be less ‘physical’ disabilities. Examples include:

  • Agitation / irritability / anger
  • Changes in personality
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Disinhibition
  • Apathy
  • Anxiety / depression
  • Sexual problems

Cognitive effects of injury refer to problems with the way the victim thinks, learns or remembers and the effects can include:

  • Problems with memory
  • Difficulties with attention and concentration
  • Inability to problem-solve
  • Slow information processing

Some may say that the family is affected more by these changes than the victim. Often the victim is not aware of the changes. No-one is prepared or ready to cope with living with brain injury and it is important to recognise that when managing a compensation claim.

How can our dedicated team of Specialist Solicitors help?

In addition to managing your claim, our experienced team have strong links with experienced medico-legal experts.  We can request interim payments from Defendants, should liability be admitted, to assist with the cost of treatment which we can help you arrange. Our aim is not only to obtain compensation but to ensure that your recovery is swift and as easy as possible.  T G Baynes can offer No Win No Fee Agreements (CFAs) on qualifying cases.

If you feel that you have suffered medical negligence, please do not hesitate to contact us either by email or call us on 020 8301 7777