10 Things You Should Know about a Workplace Traumatic Brain Injury
A workplace traumatic brain injury is life-changing – even one that is considered mild.
That’s why I tell everyone I care about that a workplace traumatic brain injury (TBI) is nothing to mess around with. It needs to be taken seriously from the get-go.
WorkCare reports, “TBIs annually account for approximately 2.2 million emergency department visits, 280,000 hospitalizations, and 50,000 deaths.”
Sadly, these numbers have increased since WorkCare’s 2016 report.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “There were about 61,000 TBI-related deaths in the United States in 2019. That’s about 166 TBI-related deaths every day.”
Even if a TBI doesn’t result in death, it can be costly and still have a major effect on your quality of life.
One study found “These injuries result in sizable direct and indirect costs; recent estimates suggest that the annual cost burden of TBI in the U.S. is well over $75 billion.”
Unfortunately, the word “traumatic” seems to give people pause, and it shouldn’t.
For example, many people hit their heads and only feel a bit of pain at the moment. They think it is no big deal or not “traumatic,” when in reality, it could be a very big deal.
This is because a workplace traumatic brain injury often includes “invisible symptoms” that may not show up until days or weeks later.
That’s why I advise my clients and those I love to treat every head injury seriously, just in case.
If you or someone you love suffers a workplace traumatic brain injury, you should prepare yourself for medical and legal challenges.
Use this list to help you process and plan your next steps.
#1 There Are Different Types of Workplace Traumatic Brain Injuries
The first thing to understand is that there are different types of TBIs.
For example, many people don’t know that a concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury. Mild TBIs (or concussions) are the most common types of TBIs.
The CDC explains, “Healthcare providers may describe these injuries as mild because they are usually not life-threatening. Even so, the effects of a mild TBI or concussion can be serious.”
In addition, there are moderate TBIs and severe TBIs. These are more likely to result in death than a mild TBI. Unfortunately, those who experience a moderate or severe TBI are likely to have long-term (even lifelong) problems.
TBIs are also distinguished by the type of injury, such as an open head injury or a closed head injury.
An open head injury occurs when the skull is penetrated, resulting in obvious external and internal damage.
A closed head injury occurs when the brain is pushed against the skull, resulting in internal damage.
#2 Many Head Injuries Can Result in a TBI
Again, people hear the word “traumatic,” and they associate it with what looks like severe trauma.
But sometimes even accidents that seem minor can result in a workplace traumatic brain injury.
The CDC even uses the word “bump” as one of the potential causes of a TBI.
Basically, any bump, blow, or jolt to the head can result in a TBI.
These can happen from a fall, an object, or a car accident.
Additionally, TBIs can result from penetrating injuries, such as gunshot wounds.
#3 The Symptoms of TBI
There is a wide range of short-term physical and psychological symptoms, including:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Fatigue or drowsiness
- Problems with speech
- Dizziness or loss of balance
- Blurred vision
- Ringing in the ears
- Loss of taste and smell
- Sensitivity to light or sound
- Loss of consciousness
- Confusion or disorientation
- Memory or concentration problems
- Mood changes or mood swings
- Feeling depressed or anxious
- Difficulty sleeping
- Sleeping more than usual
#4 The Signs May Not Occur Right Away
Part of the issue with TBIs is that the symptoms may not occur right away.
For instance, you may fall and bump your head on Monday. Then, on Wednesday, you may have a headache. Since a couple of days have gone by, you may mistakenly believe the headache is the result of something else.
That’s why it is important to treat any head injury like it is serious.
According to the University of Alabama School of Medicine, “It is highly recommended that you should see a doctor if you experience any injury that causes a change in your brain function, even in cases of a concussion. People can seem ‘normal,’ but sometimes the symptoms of a concussion or moderate brain injury are hard to notice.”
At the same time, it is also important not to rush through a diagnosis of a TBI.
Let’s say you rush to settle a workers’ compensation case for your workplace traumatic brain injury. Once you settle, you cannot get any more benefits.
What happens if symptoms develop later? You miss out on compensation that you may need for future medical treatments.
#5 Loved Ones Often Recognize the Signs before the Victim
One of the most difficult things about a workplace traumatic brain injury is that it often includes invisible symptoms that cannot be physically seen, such as confusion, irritability, memory loss, and mood swings.
These symptoms are most commonly recognized by someone else rather than the victim.
For instance, if you have sudden mood swings or act aggressively, your family members will notice a behavior change.
TBIs affect entire families for this very reason.
#6 There May Be Long-Term Consequences of Workplace Traumatic Brain Injury
Unfortunately, TBIs have long-term and even fatal consequences.
The CDC reports, “Five-year outcomes of persons with (Traumatic Brain Injury) TBI: 22% died, 30% became worse, 22% stayed same, and 26% improved.”
In addition, there are some long-term complications a TBI victim can experience, such as:
- Mood swings
- Loss of balance
- Increased stroke and seizure risk
- Loss of feeling in extremities
- Memory loss
- Language impairment
- Increased risk of developing dementia later in life
Those who experience a moderate or severe traumatic brain injury may need medical care for the rest of their lives.
#7 Falls Are the Most Common Cause of Workplace Traumatic Brain Injury
According to WorkCare, “At work and in the general population, falls are the leading cause of TBI across all age groups. Work-related falls frequently involve slippery, cluttered or unstable walking/working surfaces; unprotected edges; floor holes and wall openings; unsafely positioned ladders; and misused fall protection.”
#8 Diagnosing TBI Is Complicated
Since many people don’t understand the severity of a head injury, they don’t seek treatment as they should.
As a result, they wait until symptoms arise, which can be many days or weeks after the initial injury. This complicates the diagnosis.
Plus, when doctors don’t see physical symptoms, they may miss the invisible symptoms (especially if the victim doesn’t recognize the symptoms).
Ultimately, you should always seek a doctor if you or someone you love has experienced a hit to the head or you’ve noticed behavioral changes.
A doctor will look for evidence of a traumatic brain injury and may assess you using the Glasgow Coma Scale in order to determine the severity of a head or brain injury.
TBIs can also be diagnosed using imaging tests on the brain, cognitive tests, or neuropsychological assessments.
#9 Workers’ Comp Is Designed to Help in TBI Cases
Following a workplace traumatic brain injury, you will likely be out of work for at least a little while.
Not only will you miss out on wages from loss of work, but you will also need to pay an exorbitant amount in medical fees.
Depending on the severity of the TBI, you may be permanently unable to work.
Workers’ compensation can be used for lifetime medical benefits, lifetime lost wages, specialized rehabilitation, and housing and vehicle modifications, if needed.
#10 An Experienced Workers’ Comp Attorney Will Fight Insurance on Your Behalf
A workplace traumatic brain injury can turn your life upside down. Don’t walk through this storm alone.
Working with an experienced workers’ comp attorney will make it easier to navigate the legal and medical storm you are facing.
The truth is, insurance companies fear TBIs because they are so costly. They will look for any way to deny your claim or give you less than you deserve.
A compassionate workers’ comp attorney will fight for you every step of the way.
If you’ve been injured on the job, contact us today for a free, no-strings-attached consultation.