"It's raining, it's pouring, the old man is snoring..." You know this childhood rhyme. You've probably sung it hundreds of times, especially on a rainy day. "He went to bed and bumped his head, and couldn't get up in the morning." Nursery rhymes aside, a bumped head can be more than it seems, particularly
if that bump results in injury to the brain. Brain injuries are among the most difficult to assess and bounce back from, largely because of their hidden nature and the numerous variables that affect recovery. In fact, 5.3 million Americans live with disabilities as a result of a traumatic brain injury, or TBI.
Unfortunately, recovery from a traumatic brain injury doesn't follow a specific time table, though the greatest improvements tend to happen within the first six months after the injury occurred. Recovery can continue for years afterward - or not at all. The human brain is a complex organ, and regaining function is an individual process for each person suffering a TBI.
Why is a brain injury traumatic?
Injury to the brain, whether an open wound or a closed injury, results in damage to the neurons that transmit information among the parts of the brain. These neurons do not regenerate, so the damage done can result in significant challenges to the person with the brain injury. In some cases the neurons may only be bruised or swollen and begin to recover as the tissues begin to heal. In other cases the damage is catastrophic, permanent, and requires the brain to adapt new neurological pathways in order to regain lost functions.
The timeline for recovery
Calculating the timeline for recovery from a brain injury is an inexact process at best. Broken bones are known to heal within a certain time frame, and tissue damage has a rate of recovery that can be documented. But assigning a set recovery period for a brain injury can be a mystery, and many physicians are cautious when stating a definitive time frame or offering a prognosis for the level of recovery.
Factors that affect recovery
- Pre-injury cognitive abilities, i.e., any pre-existing neurological conditions
- Pre-injury health
- Type of injury
- Location of injury
- Complications associated with injury, such as loss of oxygen to the brain
- Depth and duration of coma
When recovery doesn't happen as expected
When you take into account the many factors involved, recovery from a traumatic brain injury can take longer than anticipated, and a full recovery may not occur. For an individual whose life has been interrupted by such an event, this can be devastating on many levels. Loss of employment, mounting medical bills, and hardships for the entire family are common, and it often takes an experienced attorney to help the individual maintain his or her legal rights.
Depending on the severity and prognosis for recovery, a person who has suffered a brain injury may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). The Social Security Administration has specific requirements for granting SSDI, and an attorney with experience in these matters can help an individual to navigate these requirements.
If you or a loved one has suffered a brain injury that has eluded your doctor's expectations for recovery, you need to take steps to protect yourself and your family. If your brain injury is a result of a defective product, a traffic accident, or another person's negligence, there are certain legal rights which you must preserve, and an experienced attorney can help you to do just that. And if the injury has left you or your loved one unable to work, you may be interested in pursuing SSDI; if the injury meets the Social Security Administration's guidelines, your attorney can help you to gain approval to receive benefits.
Regardless of the prognosis or the eventual outcome from a TBI, preserving your legal rights should be among the top items on your priority list. An attorney experienced in handling brain injury cases can focus on your legal rights while you and your family focus on recovery.