Brain Stem Injuries Can Cost Victims Millions

A Brain Injury Lawyer Can Recover Compensation to Pay for Treatment

Together, the brain and the spinal cord control your body’s movement, senses, and automatic functions. The brain stem (or brainstem) connects them at the base of your skull, and regulates some of the body’s most basic and vital functions, like breathing, swallowing, blood pressure, heart rate, and reflexes.

An injury to the brain stem can result in severe disability and, in some cases, brain death. Rehabilitation from a brain stem injury is possible, but it often requires extensive, costly, long-term care.

In this article, we review the causes and challenges of a brain stem injury, and how an experienced brain injury attorney can assist in securing financial compensation injury victims need to pay for care and treatment.

What is the brain stem and what effect does an injury to it have?

The brain stem connects the brain to the spinal cord. It plays a crucial role in controlling and regulating basic life functions such as breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, and swallowing.

The brain stem also contains cranial nerves that control facial movements, sensations, and taste, and a bundle of neurons (known as the reticular activating system) that regulates sleep cycles and wakefulness.

An injury to the brain stem can affect any of these functions. Because of the central role the brain stem plays in regulating life-sustaining bodily systems, such an injury can cause major disruptions and may even result in death. A severe injury to the brain stem can result in a total disruption of messages between the brain and the body, resulting in what is known as “brain death”.

The often-catastrophic nature of an injury to the brain stem means that victims of such injuries commonly suffer severe disabilities that require around-the-clock care or long-term rehabilitation. Brain stem injury victims frequently lose the ability to work, go to school, or live independently. As a result, brain stem injuries frequently threaten to put victims and their families under severe financial and emotional strain.

The potential long-term effects of a brain stem injury include:

#1. Locked-in Syndrome

A brain stem injury can cause profound paralysis of nearly every part of the human body. Doctor’s refer to a condition in which an individual’s injury prevents control of the entire body, except for eye movement, as locked-in syndrome. A person afflicted with this condition remains alert and aware but loses the ability to move or communicate without significant medical and technological support.

Early treatment can assist in decreasing the impairments associated with locked-in syndrome. But patients need to have access to that treatment and the ability to pay for it—which is why it is important for the patient and/or their loved ones to seek the help of an experienced brain injury lawyer immediately after diagnosis of the injury.

#2. Impaired Swallowing

A brain stem injury can also interfere with the ability to swallow, a condition known as dysphagia. The people who suffer brain stem injuries resulting in dysphagia frequently struggle to eat and drink and face the risk of dangerous pneumonia or choking on their saliva.

Rehabilitation can improve the symptoms of dysphagia and related swallowing difficulties. An experienced brain injury lawyer can help individuals struggling with that condition to secure the financial resources they need to pay for the therapies they need.

#3. Impaired Breathing

The medulla oblongata senses the amount of carbon dioxide in the blood and adjusts a person’s breathing accordingly. Damage to that part of the brain stem can interfere with a person’s respiratory rate, resulting in hyperventilation (fast breathing) or hypoventilation (slow breathing).

In fact, numerous brain injuries disrupt breathing and sleep—for instance, between 30 percent and 70 percent of individuals living with a brain injury experience a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea.

People struggling with brain stem injury-related breathing disorders may need mechanical support (such as ventilators) to breathe at a normal rate. Brain injury lawyers assist in securing the funding to pay for that support.

Common Causes of Brain Stem Injuries

Traumatic and non-traumatic events can cause brain stem injuries. Any of the following causes of a brain stem injury can happen because of the careless, reckless, or intentional actions of someone other than the injury victim.

#1. Motor Vehicle Accidents

According to research published in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention, an average of 872 brain stem-related injuries occur every year in the United States due to motor vehicle accidents. A crash subjects vehicle occupants to sudden, violent movement and trauma that can injure brain tissue and structures (including the brain stem), which disrupts brain function. Any injury to the brain caused in this manner is known as a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Motor vehicle accidents frequently happen because of the wrongful actions of someone other than the injured victim. Drunk driving, texting-and-driving, speeding, and other dangerous behaviors lead to tens of thousands of accidents on American roads every year.

#2. Pedestrian and Bicycle Accidents

Violent impacts resulting in traumatic brain injury also frequently occur when motor vehicles strike pedestrians or bicyclists, or when those individuals take accidental falls onto hard road surfaces and roadside structures like traffic curbs. Cyclists can protect themselves from brain stem injuries by wearing helmets, but even the best helmet cannot prevent a TBI in every case. Pedestrians, of course, are even more vulnerable than cyclists.

#3. Falls

Falls constitute one of the most common causes of all forms of TBI, including brain stem injuries. Property owners throughout the United States have a duty to keep their premises safe from fall hazards, but they do not always live up to that obligation.

A dangerous fall can happen anywhere, at any time, with devastating consequences. Falls on stairs, from ladders, on wet tile floors, or when walking outdoors, can all result in a blow to the head and damage to the brain stem. Older Americans, children, and individuals who work in high-risk jobs like construction or heavy industry face heightened dangers from falls, but virtually anyone can fall and suffer a TBI.

#4. Sports

Sports also contribute to a significant number of brain stem injuries annually. Contact sports, such as football, ice hockey, lacrosse, soccer, and boxing, pose a heightened risk of brain stem TBIs for athletes. So do high-impact sports in which athletes face a risk of falls, striking their heads, or nearly drowning, including gymnastics, diving, surfing, skiing, and skateboarding.

Athletes accept some risk that comes with playing sports. But coaches, league administrators, facilities managers, and others also must maintain a safe environment for practices and competitions, and when they breach that duty, athletes can get badly hurt.

#5. Acts of Violence

Violent crimes and accidents can also cause brain stem injuries. Most commonly, brain stem damage results from gunshot wounds in which a bullet pierces the skull. Other acts of violence, however, can also result in a TBI, including injury to the brain stem. Any blow to the head from an assault, for example, may end in a brain stem injury.

Victims of violence frequently do not realize that they may have the right to sue the perpetrator and others for money damages, in addition to assisting in any criminal prosecution. For example, the victim of a violent assault at a hotel or in a parking lot may have a claim to make against the owner of that facility for failing to provide adequate security.

Obtaining Compensation for a Brain Stem Injury

Brain stem injury sufferers frequently have significant legal rights to receive financial compensation to help them pay for care, rehabilitation, and other expenses. By law, anyone whose wrongful actions cause another person to sustain a brain stem injury will usually have a legal liability to pay that compensation. Other parties may also share that liability, even if their actions did not directly cause the injury.

To obtain as much of that compensation as possible, brain stem injury victims and their loved ones need the help of an experienced brain injury attorney.

The services the attorney provides to secure compensation for a brain injury can vary widely depending on the particular facts and circumstances of the case, but they frequently include:

  • Investigating the cause of a brain stem injury to determine how it happened and whose wrongful actions contributed to it.
  • Identifying all parties who may have a legal liability to the victim of a brain stem injury, either because they caused the injury or because the law requires them to answer for it.
  • Evaluating the scope of the physical, emotional, and financial harm the brain stem injury victim has suffered, and determining the amount of financial compensation the victim should receive to meet past, present, and future needs and challenges.
  • Collecting the medical, forensic, and other evidence necessary to prove liability for compensation and the damages due.
  • Planning a strategy for securing as much money for the brain stem injury victim as possible.
  • Answering the client’s questions about the risks, rewards, and practical implications of pursuing legal actions to obtain payment of financial compensation.
  • Preparing and filing lawsuits, insurance claims, and other demands for compensation for a brain stem injury.
  • Negotiating with defense lawyers, insurance companies, and others, to secure that compensation through an agreed settlement, if possible.
  • Litigating claims in court, including by going to trial in front of a judge and jury, if necessary for obtaining the compensation a brain stem injury victim needs.
  • Collecting all sums due under a settlement, judgment, or jury award.

Brain injury attorneys cannot guarantee results. But individuals living with a brain stem injury, and their loved ones, can give themselves the best possible chance of securing maximum financial compensation by hiring a brain injury lawyer who has years of experience and a demonstrated track record of favorable case results for clients facing similar health conditions and challenges.

Do Not Wait to Seek Help After a Brain Stem Injury

The impairments you or a loved one may face after suffering a brain stem injury hold the potential to cause major disruption, difficulty, and expense in your life. In the aftermath of that injury, it’s common for people to feel confused, even hopeless. They worry about paying for care and having the financial resources to face the long-term challenges of a brain stem injury.

But help is available. An experienced brain injury attorney can handle all aspects of the process of getting you the money you need to pay your bills and commit your energy to rehabilitation. A brain injury lawyer can also act as your advisor as you confront the sometimes-complicated choices and uncertainties that come with adapting to life with a brain stem injury.

The first step in getting the help you need is to contact a skilled brain injury lawyer as soon as possible after receiving your diagnosis for a free, confidential, no-obligation case consultation. Do not wait. Your valuable legal rights to receive compensation may depend on a lawyer taking quick action on your behalf. If you miss a deadline, you could lose your rights to hold the parties at fault and their insurance companies accountable.

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