Brain injuries are, unfortunately, all too common. Every day, approximately 456 Canadians suffer a traumatic brain injury—or one person every three minutes. While brain injuries can occur in a variety of situations, they often arise following personal injury, such as a car accident or slip and fall.

What is the impact of a brain injury on a personal injury claim? In this blog post, we’ll delve into what brain injuries are and their impact on personal injury claims in Ontario.

What is a Brain Injury?

Brain injury typically arises from physical damage to the brain, such as a jolt impact, or even from less obvious sources like whiplash.

Many people are familiar with the concept of a “concussion,” often referred to as a “mild traumatic brain injury” or “mTBI.” Typically, concussions will not show up on imaging tests like MRIs or CT scans, but they can cause extensive symptoms ranging from headaches to confusion and loss of coordination. Fortunately, with proper treatment, recovery from concussions is common.

More severe TBIs, however, are much more serious, and recovery can be prolonged. Some individuals with severe TBIs may never fully recover.

How Do You Determine the Severity of a Brain Injury?

The diagnosis of a brain injury—along with determining the severity of a brain injury—can be done in several ways.

Typically, doctors will perform a Glasgow Coma Scale assessment to gauge the severity of a potential brain injury. This test evaluates the victim’s ability to move and follow directions.

Suspected brain injuries might also be investigated right after an accident or later by using imaging techniques like MRI or CT scans. However, as mentioned previously, not all brain injuries are detectable through medical imaging.

Finally, doctors may diagnose a brain injury based on the circumstances and symptoms. For example, if a patient involved in a slip and fall hits their head and later experiences difficulty concentrating and frequent headaches, a brain injury diagnosis might be made based on these signs.

Brain Injuries and Personal Injury Claims

There’s no doubt that a brain injury—regardless of its severity—can impact a victim’s life. However, in the context of a personal injury claim, there are many considerations that your personal injury lawyer and the courts will consider that can differ from other types of personal injury claims.

The Impact of a Brain Injury on Daily Life

Brain injuries can have a profound impact on a victim’s day-to-day life. For example, you may be unable to participate in hobbies you enjoyed before your accident due to your ongoing symptoms or may need to abstain from prior activities due to your increased risk of sustaining a subsequent brain injury.

Unlike other more tangible injuries, such as a broken leg, we often see significant impacts across a wide range of activities, from sedentary activities like playing video games or reading (where you may struggle with sustained focus, light sensitivity, or headaches) to more physical activities like biking or skiing (which your medical professional may advise against due to the increased risk of subsequent injury).

Furthermore, brain injuries can impact everything from relationships with family members or partners (due to the discomfort of ongoing symptoms or behavioural changes) to daily chores. Victims may even require family members or caregivers to assist them with daily tasks. To that end, brain injuries can have a much more significant impact on an individual and, therefore, generally result in higher compensation for victims.

The Impact of a Brain Injury on Employment

Victims may also face significant challenges with their employment due to brain injury. For example, many brain injury victims may need to take time off following an accident or return to work on modified duties to accommodate their symptoms. In more serious cases, a brain injury may even prevent a victim from returning to work at all or preclude them from pursuing particular careers (such as those that require sustained concentration).

The Impact of a Brain Injury on Accident Benefits

Under Ontario’s Insurance Act, individuals injured in motor vehicle accidents who need medical or rehabilitative treatment are entitled to benefits while their dispute is resolved. This ensures you can access the benefits you deserve without waiting for your case to settle or go to court.

However, the amount you will be entitled to claim depends on the type of injury you sustained. For example, a traumatic brain injury that meets certain requirements is categorized as a “catastrophic injury,” which entitles a victim to up to $1,000,000 plus tax in statutory accident benefits. An injury categorized as a “minor injury” (defined as one or more of a sprain, strain, whiplash-associated disorder, contusion, abrasion, laceration, or partial dislocation) will only entitle a victim to up to $3,500 plus tax in statutory accident benefits. Injuries that are neither “minor” nor “catastrophic” entitle a victim to up to $65,000 plus tax in statutory accident benefits.

In other words, individuals who suffer brain injuries due to a motor vehicle accident will typically be entitled to significantly more benefits for medical and rehabilitative care than those who suffer less severe injuries.

Challenges Associated with Brain Injury in Personal Injury Claims

Brain injuries can have a significant impact on an individual—as such, seeking fair compensation if you are injured due to another party’s negligence is essential to ensure you receive the medical treatment and support you need to move forward with your life. At the same time, obtaining a diagnosis and navigating the legal system with a brain injury can be challenging. Below, we’ll briefly touch on some of those challenges and how to solve them.

Complexity of Brain Injury Diagnoses

As discussed above, brain injuries are not always easy to diagnose—nor will every brain injury show up on a CT or MRI scan. These issues can create challenges when navigating the legal system, as the defendant, their insurer, and the court (if your case proceeds to trial) will want to see evidence of a brain injury and be able to understand its severity to assess your claim adequately.

Therefore, it’s essential to seek medical treatment as soon as possible following a brain injury and to follow all of your doctor’s recommendations regarding treatment. These steps ensure that you receive the best treatment possible and provide a “paper trail” of your injuries and recovery that will help with your claim.

Building a Strong Support System

Brain injuries impact everyone differently, and symptoms aren’t always predictable. That’s why it’s essential to build a strong support system—whether that’s friends, family members, medical professionals, or community resources like local brain injury associations. These resources can help you navigate what is often a challenging and emotional time to help you focus on your needs and recover from your injuries.

Obtaining Experienced Legal Representation

Not every lawyer is familiar with brain injury claims—or personal injury claims, for that matter. If you believe you have suffered a brain injury due to another party’s negligence, it’s essential to look for an experienced personal injury lawyer who has handled brain injury cases. They will be in the best position to advocate for your rights (whether with the defendant or an insurance provider) and understand what evidence you will need to advance a strong claim.

Ottawa Personal Injury Lawyers Assisting Clients With Brain Injuries

At Tierney Stauffer LLP, we understand the profound emotional and financial impact a brain injury can have on individuals and their loved ones. Our dedicated team works closely with you and your family to achieve a successful outcome during this challenging time. We collaborate with top experts, including medical professionals, future care specialists, specialized accountants, and leaders in medical rehabilitation, to ensure you have access to all necessary resources. This approach helps protect your rights and secure appropriate financial compensation.

If you or a loved one has suffered a brain injury due to medical negligence or error, contact Tierney Stauffer LLP to speak with our personal injury lawyers. Call us at 1-888-799-8057 or reach out online to schedule a free consultation with a member of our experienced team.

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