Brain injury among the most catastrophic car accident injuries
Acquired brain injury refers to a brain injury sustained after birth. More than 1.5 million Canadians currently live with acquired brain injury.
Motor vehicle accidents are the most frequent cause of serious or fatal brain injury but acquired brain injury can also result from falls, sports injuries, assault, domestic violence, shaken baby syndrome and other violent events.
A person who suffers a traumatic brain injury may feel the impact immediately or the effects may increase over time. Whether or not serious symptoms are immediately felt, anyone who suffers a blow to the head that may have resulted in injury to their brain should seek prompt medical attention to prevent possible worsening of symptoms. Each person may experience a different combination of symptoms and physical, emotional and psychological challenges. Symptoms of a serious brain injury often have a substantial impact on the victim’s physical well-being, cognitive function, emotions and behaviour.
Common physical symptoms are insomnia, fatigue, headaches and chronic pain. Serious brain injury may also result in cognitive changes such as difficulty in a person’s ability to concentrate, remember, make decisions and communicate both verbally and in writing. Victims often suffer from irritability, anxiety and depression. Finally, behavioural changes such as isolation and difficulty relating to people at work and in social relationships often occur in large part because the accident victim is struggling with various emotional and physical symptoms.
It is not surprising that a serious or catastrophic brain injury can have a significant and debilitating impact on a person’s life and their ability to function on many levels. A serious brain injury may prevent the sufferer from functioning effectively at work and can cause marital problems and an inability (and lack of desire) to interact with friends and family members. Further, the brain injured person may require substantial attendant care and medical treatment.
In Canada, persons who sustain a debilitating or catastrophic brain injury in an accident caused by a negligent driver are entitled to considerable damages to pay for their financial losses as well as their loss of enjoyment in life. Here are a few examples of catastrophic brain injury cases where a jury awarded substantial compensation to the accident victim.
A 2007 case
The 20-year old accident victim was driving a car that collided with a furniture truck that was in the process of turning left at a Toronto traffic light. Although he pulled into the intersection when the light was yellow, the truck driver began turning left when the light was red, and he was found 61 percent responsible for the accident. The young car driver sustained a catastrophic brain injury that diminished his cognitive abilities, social skills, emotional responses and behaviour. And, as a result of his symptoms, the young man was no longer able to be competitively employed; could not manage his emotions, and required extensive supervision for the foreseeable future. A jury judgment awarded $16.9 million in damages.
A 2017 case
Two young men were involved in a serious single-vehicle collision while passengers in a pickup truck driven by a friend, who had been drinking prior to the crash. As a result of the accident, one of the men sustained a catastrophic brain injury and the other suffered a spinal cord injury which resulted in paraplegia. Along with other serious symptoms, the first man’s brain injury and upper spinal injury damaged his bladder and bowel control, sexual function, and his sense of taste, smell and hunger. The devastating injuries to both young men resulted in one of the largest awards to date for brain injury ($11.5 million) and the largest to date for spinal cord injury ($12.3 million). The damages included awards for loss of income (past and future), attendant care and future care costs, cost of housing, and general and special damages. The first man’s future care costs were significant and were assessed at $8,646,900.
A 2009 case
This case involved a 16-year-old girl who suffered a skull fracture and catastrophic brain injury in a car crash that occurred northwest of Toronto. She was a rear-seat passenger when the driver lost control of the vehicle after driving through a stop sign. The court awarded $18.4 million, which included significant compensation for cost of future care and loss of future income.
The two most effective tests for diagnosing traumatic brain injury are the CT scan and MRI. A CT scan (computerized tomography scan) can identify evidence of bleeding or hemorrhaging in the brain, fractures, blood clots or hematomas, bruised brain tissue, and/or swelling of brain tissue. An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) creates a detailed image of the brain using radio waves and magnets.
Although concussion is generally referred to as a ‘mild’ brain injury and medical tests may not effectively diagnose concussion, concussions can also result in life-changing symptoms such as chronic headaches, difficulty thinking and concentrating, and depression. These symptoms, particularly when they persist, can clearly have a significant impact on a person’s work and recreational endeavours, and an accident victim suffering long-term symptoms from a concussion injury may be entitled to fair compensation from the at-fault driver.