How Do Patients Live with Brain Injury after Medical Malpractice?September 6, 2021
People who experience brain injuries face challenging physical, psychological, and neurologic consequences that can negatively impact them for the rest of their lives. When these kinds of non-traumatic and traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are caused by medical malpractice, the effects can be compounded by strong emotions and the need to file a lawsuit against the negligent parties. Doctors and other medical professionals must meet the highest standards of care, with the goal of helping their patients. If there is negligent, unprofessional, or reckless behavior that leads to a patient’s brain injury, that patient and their family should understand that this is a complex area of law, but if successful, the damages awarded can be significant.
What is the Difference Between Non-Traumatic and Traumatic Brain Injuries?
Non-traumatic brain injuries are generally caused by internal factors. This includes infections, a lack of oxygen, and tumors; other reasons include metabolic disorders, aneurysms, and cardiac arrest. Basically, these injuries are not caused by outside forces such as physical force to the person’s head. These injuries impact the brain’s cellular structure and can spread to different areas of the brain.
TBI are caused by external factors, and some of the causes are the same as in non-traumatic brain injuries. The most common causes of TBI are surgical errors, anesthesia and medication mistakes, blood and tissue infections, missed diagnoses and misdiagnoses, birth trauma, hydrocephalus, and a lack of oxygen. Other medical malpractice that can lead to brain injuries includes intubation negligence; when unmonitored patients fall; and abuse, especially in assisted living facilities and nursing homes.
What are the Main Symptoms of Brain Injuries?
The three kinds of problems that occur after brain injuries can fall into three categories: physical, cognitive, and emotional. The symptoms can range from mild to severe and can ease up or worsen with the passage of time. With the right kind of medical attention after the injury, many patients can return to an acceptable quality of life, but this is not always the case.
Most of the major symptoms of brain injuries are detectable, but many are mistaken for other illnesses and injuries. Some of the most recognizable symptoms are as follows:
- Noticeable memory loss
- Problems talking, seeing, and hearing
- Cognitive impairment, inability to focus or concentrate
- Personality changes, including problems controlling mood and emotions, anxiety, depression
- Dizziness, seizures, loss of balance, disorientation
- A loss of taste
- Lack of feeling in legs and arms
- Bumps, bruises, and lacerations on the person’s head
- Loss of bodily functions and/or paralysis
The severity of brain injury symptoms depend on which part of the brain was affected. Some victims also experience decreased coordination, clumsiness, or weakness. Persistent headaches, whether tension, migraine, or cervicogenic, are another problem that can continue for more than a year; issues with balance and dizziness can also make it difficult to carry out the normal activities of daily living. If a patient has cranial nerve damage, this can lead to double vision, swallowing problems, and a loss of facial sensation or facial paralysis.
What is It Like to Live with a Brain Injury after Medical Malpractice?
It can take years for brain injury patients to recover from medical malpractice, and the majority of these victims need ongoing therapy. Once these patients are discharged from a hospital, many are referred for home-based rehabilitation through a nursing agency; this includes physical and occupational therapy. This can also be done through outpatient services.
In more severe cases, patients are sent to residential brain injury rehabilitation programs, which are communities designed for those who need this kind of therapy in more structured settings. Other brain injury victims are discharged to nursing facilities for different lengths of time. Generally, TBI patients see the fastest improvements during the first six months following their injuries. In the best-case scenarios, there will be ongoing improvements for up to two years or so.
Depending on the type of damage, brain injury victims may be able to return to work and daily living with no impact, minor accommodations, or major accommodations. Those who are less fortunate may find that their entire lives have changed. Besides the physical and cognitive impairments, the emotional consequences can be very significant.
Some of the more common behavior changes associated with brain injuries include impaired self-awareness, frequent frustration, poor social skills, and impulsivity. As mentioned, anxiety, depression, and mood swings can also come into play and be hard to live with. People who have brain injuries and previous histories of depression or other emotional challenges will be more likely to experience these problems. This can make it quite difficult to relate to others and perform at school and/or work.
How can I Live with My Brain Injury?
As with other injuries, patients will benefit the most from a coordinated approach that is developed and implemented by health care professionals, colleagues, administrators, family, and friends. There may also be medications to help ease the symptoms as well. Rehabilitation psychologists, neuropsychologists, physicians, and physical therapists can help, as can teachers and company supervisors.
The main goals of therapy and case management will include anger management, ways to control lowered self-esteem, improving function, mental and physical ways to compensate for lowered function, impulse control, strategies for dealing with anxiety and depression, and help with motivation. Many brain injury victims feel apathetic about their conditions after a while and lose hope; it is important to keep them encouraged enough to improve their situations. Family members and caregivers may also need help in learning how to deal with the new situation.
What Kind of Damages Could I Receive for a Brain Injury from Medical Malpractice?
Although medical malpractice cases can be complex, successful plaintiffs have been awarded settlements and verdicts ranging from hundreds of thousands of dollars to over $20 million. One notable case in California involved a minor child whose feeding tube was not monitored correctly. The young victim suffered brain damage and was awarded a $20 million settlement. An older patient from Washington State was not treated properly for an infected artificial heart valve and received a $900,000 settlement.
A pregnant Kentucky woman was given Pitocin by her physician to induce labor, but the nursing staff did not follow the instructions and the baby was deprived of oxygen and suffered oxygen deprivation, spastic quadriplegia, and cerebral palsy. This family was awarded a verdict of more than $18 million. Finally, a woman from Maryland went into cardiorespiratory and respiratory arrest when her colon ruptured during a colonoscopy and endoscopy. This led to an anoxic brain injury that led to her death a few weeks later. Her family was awarded over $8 million.
With these kinds of cases, it must be shown that the medical provider had a duty of care to the patient, and that the provider failed to act according to that standard. Plaintiffs must also prove that the provider caused their injuries. Therefore, it is essential that brain injury victims seek out a diagnosis and treatment from another medical professional as soon as possible. Brain injuries can be hard to diagnose, so time is of the essence in these cases.
Besides seeking out a medical provider who is separate from the alleged provider who caused the brain injury, it is important to avoid speaking to the alleged provider, their facility administrators, and insurance company representatives. It is also a good idea to have all the medical documentation, test results, and any other pertinent information at the ready, and to contact a qualified medical malpractice lawyer.
Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Help Victims of Brain Injury after Medical Malpractice
Living with any kind of brain injury can be traumatizing and overwhelming, and you may be able to receive compensation for your injuries if your medical provider was negligent. These damages can help with your medical expenses, medication, physical therapy, and long-term care. The Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton are experienced in brain injury cases, and we are ready to help. Call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online for a free consultation.
Our offices are conveniently located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Parkville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.