Expertise in Understanding Brain Injuries

PUBLISHED 03 Sep 2015

We at Gerard Malouf & Partners pride ourselves on our continued appetite to upskill ourselves with regards to victims of traumatic brain injury.

As Accredited Specialist Lawyers specialising in personal injury claims we very often come across people who have sustained injuries whether it be in motor vehicle accidents or in other places where they have had a significant head injury resulting in a period of unconsciousness.

The brain has often been described “as a three pound universe”. It is our brain that controls, directs and develops our ongoing understanding, our relationships and our reason for being. It is necessary to ensure that the Solicitors you instruct have an understanding of the significant and the ramifications of brain damage even minor brain damage.

Permanent impairments from brain damage or minor brain damage are significant and they impact and interfere with every day activities.

Brain damage can occur for a number of reasons. Significant head injury in a motor vehicle accident, surgery, strokes, electric shocks or near drowning where there is significant loss of oxygen. We often see the impacts of brain damage on individuals with regards to how it has compromised the quality of their life.

At Gerard Malouf & Partners we constantly examine medical reports, ambulance records and hospital records to carefully look through to see if there is any degree of unconsciousness which is a strong indicator of brain damage.

It is often understood that brain damage interferes with our ability to store new memories, our motor skills and impacts significantly on other cognitive skills.

The brain does have a protective barrier which is the skull and the cerebrospinal fluid. That is the fluid that surrounds the brain and cushions it in normal circumstances from contact with the hard shell that is the skull. It is in circumstances where the head is subjected to violent forces where the damage occurs.

Trauma that leads to an injury to the skull, the scalp or brain can vary from a minor bump to your head hitting the windscreen. All these can result in serious brain injury.

When our Solicitors go through the medical reports they are specifically concerned with the classification of the head injury that is, is it a closed or open head injury. Open head injuries is where there has been a penetration of the skull and the brain.

Severe head injuries result from significant crushing blows or penetrating wounds to the head and these are the most serious and life threatening. Brain damage that results from that is traumatic in its impact on the total effect it has on an individual’s life – their speech, their memory, their thought process, their ability to put thoughts together and manage their day to day lives. In some instances the brain damage is to the extent where it clearly has impacted on motor skills and an individual’s ability to function on a day to day basis.

Moderate and minor head injuries usually are those injuries which are non penetrating that is, a blow to the head or even a shaking of the head. This can often be the case in a motor vehicle accident or when someone has slipped at a supermarket and cracked their skull so to speak on the floor. These individuals may suffer from a short period of unconsciousness but the impact of the injury can also be significantly disabling. Often head injuries are followed by a concussion which is an altered state of consciousness. The person is knocked out, loses consciousness or may remain conscious but is in a state of daze. How often do we see sportsman sustaining a significant head injury or body shaking when they are knocked to the ground in a state of paralysis. The sporting arena now has taken notice of the possible life threatening effects of brain damage resulting from concussion and has implemented significant strict measures when sports people go on a sports field eg. footballers having to rest and not be allowed to back to the field for two weeks as is the case in NRL and AFL when a significant concussion injury has resulted.

As a firm when we see there are signs of brain image or concussion following trauma we examine the ambulance records and hospital notes to see how long an individual may have been unconsciousness and what their specific rating is. This is usually followed by an immediate neurological assessment after an individual has regained consciousness.

CT scans and MRI scans are used to determine whether there is any objective evidence of head injury. In mild or minor cases where there may not be any evidence on the scans there still may exist significant impairment as a result of the head injury.

There are numerous symptoms that can follow a brain injury and apart from the physical injuries there are also cognitive impacts and just as importantly the psychological impact. Individuals often understand the fact that they have been involved in a serious accident and that their intellectual capacity has been impacted on as too has their capacity to deal with day to day problems. This leads to a heightened sense of anxiety and stress and depression.

Specialised training as has been obtained by Solicitors with a significant degree of experience in dealing with personal injury claims and who are usually Accredited Specialists greatly assists in the Solicitor being able to assist a client who has sustained traumatic brain injury in what to look for, how to deal with the problem and the medical expertise that is required.

Our Accredited Specialists and experienced Solicitors at Gerard Malouf & Partners have had experience in brain injury cases and are trained to recognise the signs of a traumatic brain injury. Neurological impairment which impacts the motor sensory functioning eg. ability to walk, balance, hand and eye co-ordination, speech, sensory loss which includes taste, touch, hearing or vision, decreased sense of smell, sleep disturbance, headaches, sexual function are all clear signs of brain damage.

The other type of impairment is cognitive impairment which impacts on memory, the ability to learn new concepts, ability to concentrate, reduced speed in processing information and problem solving information. In some instances, language and speech is significantly affected and judgment and safety awareness can also be impacted. The psychological effect of traumatic brain injury impact on the personality of the individual, their ability to cope socially, a reduction in their self esteem, increased levels of anxiety and depression.

Individuals who have experienced brain injury will have experienced some of the symptoms referred to above in various degrees. What may be classified as a minor injury can still have significant impact on the individual’s life and their day to day activities. Brain injuries take a significant period of time to stabilise before the full impact can be evaluated. A period of between 18 months to 2 years is the usual guideline so as to measure what improvement may have occurred from the initial injury. A neuropsychological assessment is a mandatory examination that must take place to assist in confirming the presence of cognitive impairments.

Recovery rates from brain injury can vary however, recovery is usually rapid in the first instance with significant swelling and bruising of the brain subsiding. Significant neurological recovery is usually occurring within the first 12 months however, it is necessary to ensure that the victim has received the right advice in terms of their overall treatment. To ensure effective recovery the appropriate rehabilitation support is required with the assistance of medical experts and the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Specialists. Improvements will usually occur between 12-18 months however, where the improvement is slow, the chances are greater that the disability will be permanent.

Under the various statutory schemes such as the Workers Compensation Act and the Motor Accident Compensation Act in New South Wales, both schemes place an obligation on the relevant insurance company to ensure that the appropriate rehabilitation is provided to those who have been injured whether at work or in a motor vehicle accident. The insurer is charged with an important obligation to ensure that all reasonable and necessary medical treatment is provided including all rehabilitation treatment. In the most of severe of instances the overall rehabilitation and ongoing medical treatment may be overseen by the Lifetime Care Authority.

The experienced Solicitors and in particular, the Accredited Specialist Solicitors at Gerard Malouf & Partners all have had experience in severe personal injury claims whether they are in a motor vehicle accident, at work in a public place which have led to brain damage and in particular, traumatic brain injury.

Our Solicitors have developed a specific expertise in dealing with the client, managing the client and especially ensuring that the insurance company is proactive with regards to the rehabilitation requirements of our injured clients.

Whilst traumatic brain injury impacts the individual it also impacts on their family and may result in family members also suffering from “nervous shock”. These family members may also have entitlements to claim compensation as a result of the primary injury to their spouse or child or siblings.

We at Gerard Malouf & Partners deal with all aspects of the claim and pride ourselves at our ability to ensure that compensation is sought for the actual injured victim and equally and importantly for the family members where applicable.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.