A person suffering from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) can walk away from an auto accident with no symptoms, only to have their condition worsen hours, days or even weeks later. In fact, TBI’s can even occur without the victim losing consciousness. If damage occurs directly under the site of impact, it is called a coup injury. Brain injuries that occur opposite the impact are referred to as contrecoup injuries.
Both focal and diffuse brain injuries can cause cerebral contusions (brain bruising) or, more rarely, the formation of an epidural hematoma in the most severe cases. Injuries can range from a momentary loss of consciousness to extended periods of amnesia. The victim’s head doesn’t even need to be impacted for these injuries to occur. Whiplash can cause rapid acceleration and deceleration that slams the brain back and forth inside of the skull.
What to watch for: Common TBI symptoms
Often, a person with a TBI will look perfectly normal. If someone you know was recently in an auto accident where head trauma is a possibility, observe them vigilantly. Look for any changes in mood and behavior, even if they seem minor. Look out for any of the common symptoms listed below.
- Chronic headaches
- Changes in mood or sleep patterns
- Any changes in sensory function: blurred vision, loss of smell or taste, ringing in the ears
- Difficulty concentrating, getting confused easily
- Depression and anxiety
- Slowed reactions, both physical and mental
- Memory problems
Diagnosis & Treatment
As with all head injuries, the most important step is to seek treatment as soon as possible. If you go the hospital after your auto accident, make sure your doctor isn’t just focusing on your physical injuries. Usually, a doctor will order imaging tests like X-rays (to rule out any skull or neck fractures), MRIs or CT scans to look for signs of internal bleeding, bruising or increased pressure within the skull. It’s important to remember that mild TBI’s usually present such minor physical signs that they’re hard to pick up on conventional imaging tests. As a result, some patients might be sent home under the false pretense that nothing is wrong. While many mild TBI’s will resolve themselves, it’s still in an accident victim’s best interest keep an eye on any behavioral changes and discuss ALL symptoms, no matter how mild, with one’s doctor.
If you or a family member has been involved in an auto accident, don’t assume that a lack of physical symptoms automatically means that nothing is wrong. Get treatment immediately and be proactive about your health by monitoring any changes in your condition. And as always, contact an experienced attorney if you are planning to seek monetary compensation for any damages or injuries sustained in an auto accident.
Although all Florida employers are required to carry worker’s compensation insurance, gaining full access to the benefits that you are entitled to can still be an arduous process. Part of that process is the Independent Medical Exam, more commonly known as an IME. After filing a claim, you will be asked to submit to a physical examination by a doctor who has been approved by your employer’s insurance company. An IME doctor will not treat you for your injuries. His only role is to verify whether your injury is work-related, determine its severity and recommend a treatment plan.
More often than not, the IME’s opinion will, perhaps unsurprisingly, favor the insurance company. And if you disagree with that doctor’s findings, you only have one opportunity to seek a second opinion. The opportunities to make sure your condition is accurately diagnosed are limited. Here are some tips to make sure you get an accurate, favorable result from your IME.
- Prepare beforehand. Write down the entire history of your injury. If your condition has developed over time, when did you first start experiencing symptoms? What aggravates your injuries? What treatment have you already received? Afterwards, your attorney can compare your statement to the IME’s diagnosis.
- Provide the doctor with a thorough history of symptoms and medical treatments that you have already received for your condition
- Don’t go into your appointment with a poor attitude. Be polite and on time. Remember that you are going to be under constant observation by the Independent Medical Examiner, so behave accordingly.
- Bring an advocate who can thoroughly document your exam. Since this evident might be used in court, it’s especially important to document the IME’s findings so that your attorney can be prepared should a disagreement arise. Your attorney will want to know exactly what the IME said in order to best prepare your case.
- The following advice is applicable in almost any legal situation: Do not sign anything without your attorney’s permission! Also, do not discuss any aspects of your case.
- Describe the severity of your injuries as accurately as possible. Most IME’s can easily spot a patient who is exaggerating his/her injuries. Any indications of dishonesty could be damaging to your case. At the same time, be vocal if you are experiencing any pain during the examination.
- If you did not have an advocate to take notes during your appointment, spend some time at home writing down exactly what the IME said. This will also be helpful to your attorney.
The Independent Medical Exam isn’t necessarily something to be afraid of, but you should walk in knowing what to expect and how to best represent yourself. And as always, contact an experienced attorney if you have any further questions.