Concussions, mild head injuries and accidents
It is very common for people suffering accidents particularly as cyclists or pedestrians to report symptoms of amnesia or disorientation in the immediate period following the accident. Often, I am asked by clients who are not certain whether they have actually had a head impact whether they can be suffering from concussion or even a mild head injury. The answer is that most neurologists would say yes!
Even if the accident occurs in a vehicle if the body is shaken significantly and the internal organs are moved around violently as a consequence, the symptoms of concussion and concussion syndrome can result. The brain is just another internal organ and if shaken sufficiently the symptoms we recognise as concussion can often occur. One neurologist described it to me akin to “baby shaking syndrome".
Another common question often asked is when is concussion merely concussion and when can it become a brain injury? Many neurologists will tell you the line is very hard to draw here.
Many of the symptoms of post-concussion syndrome (PCS)are similar to a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI). Symptoms of headache ,dizziness, malaise ,fatigue ,irritability ,and impaired memory personality change and other cognitive deficits are common to both conditions. It is usually the duration of the condition that determines if it is classified as a brain injury. It is generally accepted that brain conditions tend to be permanent and there is no cure, but it is accepted too that in rare cases those suffering with PCS can have a permanent condition.
It is also a misconception to equate severity with value. I settled a claim for a man in his 50s where the neurological evidence produced by the defendant’s expert classified the injury as merely post-concussion syndrome and the claim settled for £2.1 million.
I have another case where the diagnosis was PCS of a permanent nature, even if the permanent long-term affect will be mild, but where the man (in this case in his 30s) has suffered potential long term career impacting injuries justifying a claim being presented for in excess of 7 figures.
Most of us are familiar with the brain injury classifications according to Mayo classification and Glasgow Coma score but even here, what my own experience in practice dealing with such claims for 30 years, has taught me, as well as my discussions with neurologists and neuropsychologists, is that we should not get to “hung up on” the classifications for brain injury severity.
Another important point to keep in mind is that a mild bump on the head can lead to a very serious brain injury. In rare cases if the artery that runs above the skull begins to swell there is no room for it to move in the skull cavity. In such cases pressure continues and this reduces blood flow to the brain and in rare cases this can cause rapid death even if someone is very lucid and apparently cognitively normal in the immediate period after the minor bump.
What can we conclude from all of this?
The consequences and claim values could be very serious even if we are just looking at concussion and in rare cases even if the head hasn’t been impacted.
If the impact is on the face of it very minor even traumatic consequences can occur.
The impact of even mild head injury or concussion is very subjective to the individual and each case must be considered on its own facts. Most importantly if you have an accident where there are even mild head injury consulting lawyers who have a proven track record expertise and expert knowledge in this area is essential.