In past posts, we’ve discussed what Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries (MTBI’s) are and how they manifest themselves in the immediate aftermath of an accident. But what do these injuries look like over the longer term?
In the weeks and months following a MTBI, the person frequently feels like they are in a “fog.” They don’t think as quickly. Ordinary activities that require concentration are unusually difficult. For example, following the plot line in a book is beyond them. Work tasks that previously were done with hardly a thought become tedious and taxing. Their sleep patterns are disrupted, which also impacts cognition. They are less able to learn new things. Depression due to these limitations is commonly seen, as people recognize that they can’t do what they used to do despite trying very hard. Coworkers will frequently ‘cover’ for them, a gesture that can eventually lead to resentment. Teachers will sometimes blame the student for ‘not paying attention’ when the student truly can’t.
Sometimes MTBI’s reflect themselves in personality or mood changes. Not only depression, but anxiety, aggression, and other new symptoms arise from the injury. This can be very hard on family and loved ones.
Many, if not most, of these symptoms will resolve in the first 6-12 months. Like any other injury, some people will have long-term, permanent sequelae and others will recover fully. Who will recover and who will have permanent injury? We can’t know. We simply have to wait and see how the brain repairs itself.
Long-term brain injuries do occur. In a personal-injury case situation, we will frequently have our clients tested to determine where their limitations lie. Those tests will frequently find clients who have average or ab0ve-average testing in most areas, with one or two areas with a significant departure downward – something that wouldn’t be expected given their work or education background. These tests help us show the effects of the MBTI on their brain’s ability to function.
Family members and coworkers frequently have examples of how the injured person has changed. Whether they describe what the injured person can or can’t do (“He won’t do the crossword anymore. It’s too hard.), or a change in mood (“She won’t spend time with the grand kids anymore, they make her too upset.”) or various tasks (“He can’t do spreadsheets anymore so we gave that task to someone else.”), the people closest to the injured person frequently give great descriptions of the results of the MTBI.
It is for these reasons that an attorney experienced in identifying, proving, and describing MTBI’s is so important in an accident case. It can be hard to show a jury what these injuries look like (after all, they are hidden from view). A skilled trial attorney will use the many tools at his/her disposal to bring the best case forward.