An injury to the brain is the most uniquely debilitating accidental injury a person can suffer. Individuals who survive traumatic brain injury (TBI) often must endure a long, anguished, and expensive recovery, and will rarely ever be the same.
The Chicago brain injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC understand how these types of injuries impact all areas of victims’ lives and can place a severe strain on their families and loved ones. Recently, our office obtained a seven-figure settlement for a woman who sustained a brain injury after she was struck by a vehicle while crossing the street. We have helped many other individuals and their families recover the compensation they are entitled to after TBIs resulting from car accidents, medical malpractice, workplace accidents, and other acts of negligence.
In addition to the cost of medical procedures, therapy, and related expenses, victims are likely to lose substantial amounts of income and suffer diminished quality of life forever. What’s more, unlike other injuries, brain injuries do not always manifest themselves right away, causing precious time to be lost while the injury goes undiagnosed and untreated. If brain injury is left untreated, there can be serious long-term consequences for the victim including educational difficulties, problems concentrating or performing on a job, effects on personal relationships, and ongoing mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
If you or someone you care about has suffered a traumatic brain injury, it is critical that you contact an Illinois brain injury attorney to learn about your rights and legal options so you can receive the compensation you deserve. Contact us now to learn how an award-winning Chicago traumatic brain injury attorney can help ensure your claim has the greatest chance of success.
Common Causes of Accidental Brain Injury
Brain injuries can arise from a wide variety of accidents and other causes. These are some of the most common causes of brain injury:
- Auto and truck accidents — A car wreck can have devastating consequences, often changing the victim's life forever in the blink of an eye. This is especially true if the victim is involved in an accident with a truck or a driver who is distracted or under the influence. The Centers for Disease Control has concluded that auto accidents account for more TBIs in people from 15 to 44 years of age than any other type of accident.
- Birth injuries — These injuries are often sustained by a newborn infant as a result of medical negligence during the childbirth process. Tragically, most birth injuries that lead to long-term brain damage are preventable. They often stem from other minor injuries or conditions that are undiagnosed or not treated in a prompt manner.
- Medical malpractice — The negligent practice of medicine has been responsible for numerous traumatic brain injuries, and often involves errors in the administration of anesthesia or medications. Victims who expected to be treated for a different condition or injury awake from their medical procedures forever impacted by cognitive impairment or brain damage.
- Workplace accidents — Even if a worker is at fault for an accident, they are entitled to receive benefits through mandated workers’ compensation coverage. If an entity aside from the injured person’s direct employer can be proven responsible for the injuries, the victim may be able to recover compensation in addition to that offered under workers' comp benefits.
- Bicycle accidents — Bike accidents are on the increase and are a major source of traumatic brain injury, particularly in children and bicyclists not wearing helmets.
If you or a loved one is suffering pain and injury as a result of a TBI caused by the negligent actions of others, you are likely eligible to receive financial compensation. Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers specializes in traumatic brain injury cases and we can explain your legal options. Contact us to speak with an experienced traumatic brain injury attorney today.
Types of Brain Injury
The severity of all types of TBI is usually determined by the amount of force making impact with the head or the amount of time the brain is deprived of oxygen. Every brain injury will cause damage to a single functional area inside the brain, numerous areas, or the entire brain.
Concussion is the most common TBI. Although it is generally considered less serious than other types of brain injury, the long-term effects are not fully understood, and if left untreated concussion can have severe consequences. Even a mild concussion can develop into a serious medical condition causing significant lifelong impairments or problems. For instance, it doubles a person’s risk of developing epilepsy over the next five years, and may lead to a stroke if a blood clot forms in the brain.
Concussion usually happens when an impact to the skull causes blood vessels in the brain to expand while damaging cranial nerves. In many cases, the victim does not lose consciousness but is instead dazed by the impact. Both open-head and closed-head injuries can produce a concussion.
Concussions can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
- A direct blow to the head sustained in a fall or other accident, or playing sports
- Violent head shaking
- Whiplash trauma such as that experienced in auto accidents
While most minor concussions heal with rest and over-the-counter medications without producing long-term effects, patients still must be medically monitored for signs of complications such as slurred speech or worsening headache.
Concussions are often misdiagnosed because the condition does not always show up on a CT scan or other diagnostic imaging test. There may not be swelling, brain bleeding, or skull fracture present at the site of impact. However, blood clots can easily form in the brain, causing a stroke or fatal outcome. In many circumstances, it may take months to years for a concussion to heal completely.
A contusion is another common type of TBI, and often results from an impact directly to the head. Contusions frequently lead to bleeding and bruising on the brain. Some victims of large contusions require surgery to have them removed from the brain.
A coup-contrecoup describes a serious contusion that forms at the impact site in addition to the opposite side of the brain. This is often the result of the brain’s movement during impact, causing it to slam against the inside of the skull on the opposite side of the head.
Diffuse Axonal Injuries
Diffuse axonal injuries are usually the result of a strong rotation or shaking of the head, a common occurrence when rotational forces happen in a vehicle accident. Diffuse axonal problems occur when the unmoving brain lags behind the forward and backward-thrusted skull, which causes the tearing of brain structures. Shaken baby syndrome is also referred to as a diffuse axonal injury.
A diffuse axonal injury can cause extensive tearing of the brain's nerve tissue, releasing chemicals that disrupt regular brain function and communication. This severe disturbance often produces permanent or temporary widespread damage to the brain, coma, and at times death. Victims often present numerous functional impairments based on where the tears (shearing) occurred.
Subdural hematoma, also called a subdural hemorrhage or bleeding-on-the-brain, occurs when blood vessels burst between the brain and the brain’s outer protective membrane, or dura mater, usually as a result of a blow to the head. The build-up of blood can put pressure on the brain and cause serious injury or death, which is why it’s critical that subdural hematomas are diagnosed as early as possible. Unfortunately, symptoms sometimes do not appear until days or weeks after a head injury, as more blood collects, delaying diagnosis.
The window to treat subdural hematomas depends on the type. An acute subdural hematoma forms in minutes to hours after a serious impact to the head and requires prompt treatment because of how quickly the bleeding begins putting pressure on the brain. If not timely treated, an acute subdural hematoma can cause severe brain injury, coma, or even death.
Symptoms of acute subdural hematoma include:
- Temporary loss of consciousness
- Severe headache
- Changes in vision or speech
A chronic subdural hematoma develops over the course of many days to even weeks after a relatively minor head trauma, and is more common in older people. Symptoms include:
- Mild headache
- Nausea or vomiting
- Change in personality
- Memory loss
- Loss of balance or difficulty walking
- Double vision
- Weakness, numbness or tingling in arms or legs
Elderly persons are at increased risk of subdural hematoma because they are commonly taking anticoagulant medication (blood thinners) and are also susceptible to falls. In the elderly, even a mild head injury could cause a subdural hematoma, because veins have usually already stretched as a result of aging, which makes them more prone to injury.
Penetration Brain Injury
A penetration brain injury is usually the result of an object such as a bullet or knife penetrating the skull and forcing skin, hair, and bone along with it into the victim’s brain. Rapidly traveling objects can cause extensive damage to specific areas of the brain. Slower moving objects can easily ricochet off the head, also causing damage.
Some victims of this type of TBI suffer “through and through” injuries when an object enters and exits the skull after passing through the brain. Firearms, falls, auto accidents, and being struck with an object can create devastating penetration TBIs, causing the victim permanent damage and disability.
Anoxic Brain Injury
Anoxic brain injuries can occur any time there is a lack of oxygen delivered to the brain. Without a continuous flow of oxygen in the bloodstream, death of brain cells can happen in as little as four minutes.
Brain injuries classified as anoxic differ from an hypoxic injury in that inadequate supplies of oxygen usually cause hypoxia, while anoxia is the result of a complete loss of oxygen. While the two conditions are similar, a complete lack of oxygen supply to the brain can cause significantly more widespread damage.
While many medical scenarios can cause anoxic brain injuries, the two leading causes are believed to be cardiac arrest — which causes the heart to cease pumping blood to other bodily organs—and asphyxia. Asphyxia—the inability to breathe—can occur as a result of near-drowning, suffocation, choking, or attempted suicide.
The negligent use of anesthesia accounts for a significant number of anoxic brain injuries. Patients who are victims of medical malpractice can also experience anoxia from intubation and extubation errors, excessive bleeding, and complications during childbirth or other medical procedures.
Anoxia can also result from an overdose of drugs such as opioids, severe bronchial asthma, electrocution, or chest trauma caused by excessive bleeding from an accidental injury. Individuals exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide and/or smoke inhalation often suffer from anoxia due to a disruption of oxygen delivery.
Parasites, fungi, viruses, and other organisms invading the body can cause infection of the brain. Brain infection can also be caused by brain abscesses, surgical errors, and other medical malpractice. An infection can be categorized as encephalitis, when the brain tissue itself is involved, or meningitis, which affects membranes covering the brain.
Brain infection symptoms vary greatly and often depend on the type of bacteria involved, the individual’s age, the infection location, its type and acuteness. Individuals older than 24 months suffering from acute infections of the brain often develop a variety of symptoms that include:
- Severe headaches
- High fever
- Stiff neck
- Intense pain when moving the neck or head
- Light sensitivity (photophobia)
- Nausea or vomiting
Recovery from brain infection is highly dependent on early diagnosis and proper treatment in order to prevent lifelong neurological disability and even possible death. Healthcare providers can detect brain infections through examinations and diagnostic tests. Treatment usually involves intravenous antibiotics and sometimes steroids to reduce brain swelling.
Brain Injury in Infants and Children
Brain injury or trauma is the leading cause of death and disability in children, according to the Brain Injury Association of America. Although TBI is serious in any person, children are more fragile and susceptible to these kinds of injuries. Nearly one million children every year suffer TBIs, with approximately 20 percent of those requiring hospitalization. The largest percentage of childhood traumatic brain injury patients are four years and younger, or 16 years and older.
Many cases of pediatric brain damage occur during childbirth, resulting in cerebral palsy or other serious permanent disability. Oxygen deprivation is the leading cause of infant brain damage, occurring in 4 out of 1,000 full-term births. Even a brief interruption in a baby’s oxygen supply can have drastic consequences.
Brain damage to a newborn infant often results from physician errors that include:
- Failure to perform a Cesarean section when necessary
- Overuse of drugs administered to the mother to assist labor
- A miscalculation of the baby’s size during childbirth
- Misuse of vacuums and forceps during delivery
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers has represented victims of pediatric brain injuries as a result of medical malpractice or accident. Our firm has successfully litigated birth injury cases, including labor and delivery negligence cases, across Illinois and the Midwest. In one case, our law firm recovered $6.14 million for a child who developed cerebral palsy after the OB-GYN failed to perform a Cesarean section when signs of fetal distress were present. No family should suffer financially if their child’s birth injury was preventable.
Identifying and Treating Brain Injuries
Some brain injuries may be indicated by the various symptoms described above, as well as others including:
- Blurred or double vision
- Difficulty breathing
- Slow respiratory rate and increased blood pressure
- Difficulty concentrating
- Depression/mood changes
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
These and other symptoms may be indicative of an injury that merits closer evaluation or testing such as MRIs or CT scans. When a brain injury is suspected or confirmed, a doctor may order medication or surgery.
How are Brain Injuries Typically Treated?
With any kind of injury to the head, it is important to seek care in an emergency room as soon as possible so doctors can take x-rays and monitor your blood pressure, oxygen, and other vital signs. If they decide your head wound is minor or mild, you should be fine recovering at home. However, if your injury is deemed more serious, then physicians might put you on a course of treatment that includes surgery, medication, and rehabilitation.
You might be prescribed medications to reduce the risk of pressure buildup in your brain, comas, or seizures. Doctors might perform surgery to remove blood clots and repair skull fractures, among other things. Ongoing rehabilitation might be necessary to address long-term health implications of your injury.
If brain injury is left untreated, there can be serious long-term ramifications for the victim, including educational difficulties in the case of a child; problems concentrating or performing on a job; effects on personal relationships; and ongoing mental health issues such as depression, stress, and anxiety.
When can I Bring a Claim for Brain Injury in Illinois?
If someone else acted negligently and caused an accident that injured your brain, you could have a case against them. There are several different kinds of claims you could bring in Illinois including negligence, medical malpractice, and product liability, but the key is that you must prove that someone else acted wrongfully and that wrongful conduct caused your injuries.
If your claim is successful, you may be able to recover the costs associated with your medical treatment and time away from work, both past and future anticipated costs, as well as, in certain cases, compensation for your “noneconomic” damages such as pain and suffering and diminished quality of life.
However, if you are found to be more than half responsible for your injuries, you will not be allowed to recover under Illinois comparative fault rules. A brain injury lawyer at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers will be able to evaluate your case and tell you what you can expect in the way of potential monetary damages.
How Long do I Have to File an Illinois Brain Injury Lawsuit?
You have only two years in Illinois to bring a lawsuit for any bodily harm, including brain injury, beginning from the date of the injury-causing event (735 ILCS 5/13-202). However, this clock does not start running until you discover the injury. If your suit is a medical malpractice action, then you cannot file it once four years have passed from the date of the injury regardless of when you discovered you had a possible cause of action.
The point at which the clock starts running on your brain injury case is known as accrual. As noted above, you typically have two years once it begins to accrue. But how will you know when it starts? Broadly speaking, it starts whenever you realize you were injured. But because the law recognizes that not all injuries or their causes manifest themselves right away, it created a backstop, which is the point when you should have discovered your injuries. Illinois law also gives children and fraud victims more time to pursue their personal injury lawsuits. If your injuries were latent and presented after a long period of time, you might get relief from the standard two-year window. Consult a brain injury attorney today to make sure you file your claims in a timely manner for your circumstances.
What are Some Sample Illinois Brain Injury Accident Settlements and Verdicts?
$15.9 MILLION SETTLEMENT
Will County, IL
A female newborn sustained significant anoxic ischemic brain damage after an obstetrician and various hospital personnel allegedly failed to properly identify and respond to negative fetal monitoring data for over three hours. The hospital's neonatologist allegedly did not arrive until two minutes after delivery and did not attempt intubation until five minutes of life. As a result, the child, now age 7, suffers from spastic quadriplegia, cortical blindness, seizures, and global developmental delay. The settlement, paid by the anonymous hospital and several medical defendants, is believed to be the highest reported Will County medical malpractice verdict or settlement.
$19.5 MILLION SETTLEMENT
Cook County, IL
A 56-year-old factory worker suffered a permanent neuromuscular injury impairing his motor skills after he was deprived of oxygen during a botched intubation at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. He had previously undergone a tracheostomy and was on a ventilator and suffered the injury when a third-year resident employed by a community hospital who was training at Northwestern attempted to change his tracheostomy tube but failed to maintain an adequate airway. The injury left the plaintiff unable to return to work. Northwestern paid $12 million of the settlement and the resident’s employer paid $7.5 million.
$2 MILLION SETTLEMENT
Cook County, IL
A 65-year-old pedestrian was struck by a vehicle that was turning left while she was crossing a street in Lake Forest, Illinois. Among other injuries, she suffered a closed head injury that resulted in post-concussion syndrome with occasional short-term memory loss and intractable headaches. Her medical expenses totaled over $170,000.
$2.15 MILLION SETTLEMENT
DuPage County, IL
A 35-year-old motorcyclist was struck by the defendant’s vehicle while it was making a left turn onto Maple Street in Elmhurst, Illinois. He suffered a traumatic brain injury that allegedly causes difficulty concentrating and controlling emotions, in addition to broken ribs and a torn knee ligament ($205,938 medical expense). The settlement was paid by the defendant’s insurers.
$20 MILLION SETTLEMENT
Lake County, IL
The highest reported medical malpractice settlement in Lake County was paid after ER nursing staff allegedly failed to continuously monitor oxygen in a 13-year-old female patient who was being treated for meningitis and encephalitis. The patient suffered an hypoxic brain injury and now requires constant care in an assisted living facility. Half the settlement was paid by the self-insured hospital and the other half by its excess carrier, Allied World.
$50 MILLION AWARD
Cook County, IL
A male newborn infant suffered severe brain damage during delivery when an OB-GYN at Evanston Hospital allegedly failed to perform a Cesarean section even after multiple signs of fetal distress and also ordered administration of the labor-inducing drug Pitocin, which put further stress on the infant. The child suffers from cerebral palsy and impaired language and motor skills, in addition to other developmental problems, and needs assistance with daily living. The verdict included damages for past and future medical care, future lost earnings, loss of normal life, emotional distress, and pain and suffering.
$7.9 MILLION AWARD
Cook County, IL
A jury found defendant Chicago Transit Authority liable for damages after a CTA bus collided with the vehicle of the 33-year-old female plaintiff in an intersection, causing the plaintiff multiple injuries including TBI with loss of consciousness. She reportedly suffers from memory loss, mobility issues, loss of vision in one eye, and lingering psychological problems, requiring 24-hour supervision. Plaintiff claimed the CTA bus driver was attempting to beat a red light when he struck her car.
Where can a Person go for Brain Injury Treatment in Chicago?
In the Chicagoland area, we are fortunate to have a number of nationally recognized hospitals that excel in treating people with brain injuries. Among the leading facilities for brain injury rehabilitation are:
Shirley Ryan AbilityLab (Formerly RIC)
355 E. Erie St.
Chicago, IL 60611
Rush University Medical Center
1653 W. Congress Parkway
Chicago, IL 60612
Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
710 N. Lake Shore Drive, #1022
Chicago, IL 60611
Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital
1401 S. California Ave.
Chicago, IL 60608
Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital
26W171 Roosevelt Road
Wheaton, IL 60187
Get Help From Experienced Chicago Brain Injury Attorneys
If you or a loved one has been injured, Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers can help by connecting you with an experienced brain injury lawyer to help you receive the maximum compensation you’re entitled to. Our brain injury attorneys have helped individuals and their families from across Illinois recover compensation, and we would like the opportunity to assist you as well. To learn more about your legal rights and options, we invite you to arrange a free case review with an award-winning Chicago brain injury attorney today.