Unfortunately, injuries to the human brain are a common result of car accidents. As modern science allows us to understand more about the brain, doctors are able to identify injuries to the brain, and conditions resulting from such injuries, that were unknown just ten years ago.
In our experience, brain injuries from motor vehicle crashes normally fall into one of two categories – (1) those where the brain has suffered obvious damage as revealed on X-ray films MRI or other advanced studies, and (2) those where the damage to the brain is existing, but more subtle. In either category of injury, these cases are often very difficult to handle as the symptoms of these injuries are often very different from injured person to injured person, and the capability of individuals to cope with brain injuries varies wildly.
When an injury victim has a fractured skull or a subdural or epidural hematoma or a brain bleed there is generally little room for a defendant to argue that no brain injury has occurred. Many times injuries this severe will result in prolonged loss of consciousness, marked and obvious confusion, or even coma. Some injury victims never recover from these serious injuries, and are left living under a lifetime of medical care and perhaps in a rehabilitation facility or nursing home. Others are fortunate enough to recover enough function that they can return to a “normal” life, but find that their lives are markedly different from the lives they led before their car crash. Depression, irritability, personality changes, and inability to regulate impulses and behaviors are very common outcomes following a “successful” recovery from a serious brain injury.
More subtle brain injuries present a greater challenge because when an injury victim does not have a fractured skull or a brain bleed to clearly shows on an X-ray, many defendants will contest the very existence of any traumatic brain injury at all. Although the development of PET scans other state-of-the-art diagnostic tests is increasing our ability to see microscopic and metabolic evidence of brain injury, these tests are not readily available to every injured person. Fortunately, the rapid development of the field of neuropsychology is making it possible to diagnose brain injuries in individuals where those injuries would likely have been ignored in the past.
Neuropsychology is a branch of the science of psychology. Neuropsychologists are licensed psychologists with additional doctorate-level training in the diagnosis and treatment of traumatic brain injuries and other conditions or maladies of the brain. Neuropsychologists employ a battery of ever-improving tests that test various functions of the brain. Many of the tests have overlapping areas of concern so that if a testing subject shows deficiencies on several tests designed to test a certain part of the brain, the doctor can surmise that that particular area of the brain has been injured or is otherwise dysfunctional. Once the neuropsychologist has an accurate idea of which portions of the brain have been injured, he or she can then set up a treatment program to treat or teach the injured person how to function with whatever injury they have.