How Many Brain Injuries Occur Each Year?

Brain injuries can be life-changing, not only for the victims, but for their loved ones, as well; however, the amount of time it can take for the effects of a brain injury to appear can vary. In some cases, patients can exhibit symptoms immediately following the injury, and the injuries can worsen overtime, and in others, the patient may appear unharmed post-incident, but the effects can slowly begin to emerge slowly as and become more severe as time goes on. As such, if you or a loved one has sustained an injury to the head, seeking immediate medical attention needs to be a priority. Once the condition has been assessed, the repercussions have been diagnosed, and a course of treatment has been determined, if the injury was somebody else’s fault – whether purely accidental or negligence – you can determine if you have a legal case that is worth pursuing.

If you are going to pursue legal action, the following is an overview of key information that would be beneficial to know.

Brain Injuries and the Law

A brain injury, formally known as a “traumatic brain injury” or simply a “TBI” is an injury that impacts the normal function of the brain. These injuries can be caused by bumps, blows, or jolts to the head, or they can occur as a result of a penetrating injury, such as a gunshot wound to the head. There are three primary types of brain injuries, including:

  • Mild TBI or concussion.
  • Moderate TBI
  • Severe TBI

Mild TBIs or concussions are caused by blows, bumps, or jolts to the head. They can also occur when the body is hit in such a way that a person’s head and brain move back and forth in a rapid manner. The impact or the sudden movement can cause the brain to twist around or bounce within the individual’s skill, cause chemical alterations in the brain, or can stretch out and damage the brain cells. The majority of brain injuries that occur each year are classified as mild TBIs or concussions. Despite the term “mild”, and while they usually aren’t life-threatening, brain injuries that fall into this category are severe.

Moderate and severe TBIs occur when a person experiences a bump, jolt, or blow to the head. These TBIs can also be the result of a penetrating injury to the head, such as a gunshot wound. Thousands of Americans die as a result of severe TBIs every year. For patients who service, moderate and severe brain injuries can cause long-lasting or permanent repercussions, and the effects can impact aspects of the patient’s life, as well as the lives of his or her loved ones. The complications that are associated with moderate and severe TBIs can be likened to the impact of chronic diseases.

TBI and Its Impacts in the United States

In the year 2020, more than 64,000 deaths in the United States were attributed to brain injuries, or around 176 deaths every day in 2020. Additional pertinent TBI-related data in the US includes the following:

  • Approximately 2.8 million Americans sustain a TBI each year. Of these 2.8 million people:
    • 50,000 die as a result of their injuries
    • 282,000 require hospitalization
    • 2.5 million, or close to 90 percent, receive emergency room treatment and are released following treatment
    • Approximately 5.3 million Americans are living with a traumatic brain injuries
  • Brain injuries are a major contributing factor to an estimated 30 percent of all deaths that are attributed with injuries in the United States
  • Each day, an estimated 153 Americans die as a result of TBI-related injuries
  • The majority of brain injuries that occur annually are considered mild, and are typically classified as concussions

Traumatic brain injuries affect people of all ages, and while anyone can sustain a brain injury; however, it has been determined that some subsets of individuals are at an increased risk of dying from TBI-related complications or develop long-term health complications following a TBI. The groups that are most likely to be affected by brain injuries include:

  • Active members of the military and veterans
  • Victims of domestic violence
  • Minorities
  • The homeless
  • Correctional facility detainees
  • Individuals who reside in rural locations

Additionally, in all groups, males are nearly twice as likely to sustain a brain injury as females.

Common Causes of Traumatic Brain Injuries in the United States

While traumatic brain injuries can occur for a number of reasons, the most common causes of TBIs in the United States are the results of falls, motor vehicle accidents, being struck by or against objects, physical assaults, and firearm-related injuries. Of the most common causes, falls are responsible for almost half of all hospitalizations following TBIs, and firearm-inflicted suicides are the most common cause of brain injury-related deaths.

Additional TBI-Related Data

The following is additional pertinent information related to brain injury victims in the United States.

  • An estimated 25 percent of people who are seen in emergency rooms following a brain injury in the United States are considered mild cases.
  • Approximately 70,000 individuals who have been diagnosed with a TBI experience life-long complications.
  • When combined, the medical costs and loss of wages that occur as a result of TBI were valued at more than $60 billion in the United States in the year 2000.
  • Being struck in the head or striking an object into the head during sporting activities is another common cause of brain injuries in the United States. Of the numerous sports that Americans participate in, cycling is the most common cause of brain injuries, football is the second most common cause of TBIs, and baseball and softball is the third most common cause.

How Much is a Brain Injury Case Worth?

Whether the result of a motor vehicle collision, an assault, a shooting, a work-related accident; no matter the cause or the severity, if you or a loved one has been the victim of a brain injury that was caused by someone else – whether intentionally or due to negligence – the effects can have a severe impact on all aspects of your life; namely, the financial impact can be devastating.

While adding up the medical costs and the lost wages may be easy, the personal losses, not to mention the inconveniences you and your family will have to deal with, don’t have a particular dollar amount. Legal recourse can not only provide financial assistance, but can also help you get closure. With that said, you’re probably wondering how much your case is worth. It’s important to note that no two cases are the same and that there are several factors that can impact your case; however, familiarizing yourself with the factors that can affect your case can help to paint a clearer picture of how much compensation you may be eligible to receive for a brain injury.

Statute of Limitations and Brain Injuries

A statute of limitations refers to the period of time during which a case must be filed, according to the law. It can take time for the full effects of a brain injury to develop. As such, it’s important to be aware of the statute of limitations that pertain to TBIs because if you fail to file your case within the allotted time period, your case may not be heard.

The statute of limitations for brain injury cases varies from state to state, as each state sets its own time limits for filing such cases. In some states, such as California, victims of TBIs can file a case up to two years following an accident, and in others, such as New York, victims have up to three years post-accident to file a case.

It’s also important to note that there may be instances in which the statute of limitations can be tolled (paused), which means that the clock stops, so-to-speak, with the intention of filling a claim or motion following an incident that resulted in a brain injury. In the State of New York, for example, there are several reasons why the statute of limitations on a brain injury case can be tolled; for example, the individual may be mentally unfit to file a claim, and therefore, the statute of limitations may be tolled until the individual is mentally able to file a suit.

If you intend on taking legal action following a brain injury, it’s important to find out about the rules regarding the statute of limitations in the state where you will be filing your case.

Liability and Comparative Fault

Some states, comparative fault applies, and in these states, it is possible for the plaintiff in a brain injury case to share part of the fault with the defendant if the plaintiff’s actions contributed to the circumstances that caused the injury. To illustrate, Minnesota is a comparative fault state, and if you file a brain injury case in this state, it may be found that you are 50 percent liable for the brain injury. In this example, if the total damages amount to $50,000, you would still be able to receive $25,000 from the defendant. It’s important to note, however, that the plaintiff’s percentage of fault must be less than that of the opposing party; otherwise, the victim will not be able to receive damages from the other party.

Brain Injury Case Assessment

Several factors will be assessed when determining the valuation of a brain injury case. Of all these factors, a patient’s medical records are among the most important, as medical records illustrate changes in the victim’s health. For example, to demonstrate a patient’s cognitive decline following a TBI, MRI results taken on the day of the accident, as well as subsequent images, may be taken into consideration.

The individuals in a patient’s life can also play a key role in showing the extent to which a brain injury has impacted his or her life. Family members, friends, work colleagues, and others whom the patient spends a lot of time with can document and explain the changes in behavior and physical abilities in the patient.

Recovering Damages Following a Brain Injury

Seeking fair compensation for a brain injury case begins with creating a list of the damages or losses that the patient can be compensated for. The damages that can be obtained can be both financial and non-financial in nature.

Financial Damages

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average lifetime cost of a TBI is an estimated $76.5 billion; however, your financial losses don’t have to amount in the billions to have a severe negative impact on your finances. There are several costs that a TBI patient can incur as a result of a brain injury, with medical expenses and lost wages being the most prevalent costs. An attorney will calculate the projected costs, such as the costs associated with future medical care, as well as reduced earnings potential.

Another kind of economic damage that is often associated with brain injuries are replacement services. When someone experiences a TBI, they may be required to pay someone else to do services for them that they would have otherwise done themselves had they not been injured. Examples of replacement services might include childcare, transportation, and general home care. These expenses can be included in a legal case, as well.

Non-Financial Damages

TBI patients are also entitles to non-financial damages. One of the most common examples of non-financial damages associated with a brain injury is mental anguish. Patients may experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can cause them to repeatedly relive the incident that resulted in the injuries. Neurological damages are another form of non-financial damages that TBI victims can experience; changes in behavior or memory problems, for example. Invoices and receipts cannot be used to prove non-financial damages, and as such, an attorney will assist the patient with documenting and quantifying these types of damages.

Available Damages

There are several financial and non-financial damages that a brain injury patient may be eligible to receive compensation for. The losses vary and are determined on a case-by-case basis; additionally, as with the statute of limitations, the damage that TBI patients may be able to obtain vary from state to state. The following is an overview of some of the types of financial and non-financial damages that brain injury victims may be entitled to:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Medical devices
  • Medications
  • Physical therapy and rehabilitation
  • Occupational therapy
  • Permanent disability
  • Lifetime care
  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish and emotional distress
  • Psychological trauma
  • Reduced quality of life
  • Wrongful death benefits
  • Punitive damages

Famous Brain Injury Cases

The following are some of the most famous brain injury legal cases of all time.

Gary Busey

Gary Busey is an actor who is best known for his roles in The Buddy Holly Story, Point Break, and Lethal Weapon; however, off the screen, he is also well-known as a TBI survivor. In 1988, Busey was riding a motorcycle without a helmet when he was involved in a serious accident.

Steve Wozniak

Co-founder of Apple, Inc. and computer phenomenon Steve Wozniak was the victim of a TBI when he was involved in a plane crash in 1981. “Woz”, as he is affectionately called, was piloting a single-engine plane when it stalled soon after taking off. The plane crashed into an embankment after slamming onto a runway, and while Woz and his three passengers survived, the pilot was diagnosed with anterograde amnesia for a total of five weeks following the accident, during which time he was unable to create new memories.

Phineas P. Gage

The subject of one of the most famous case studies in psychology and neuroscience, Phineas P. Gage, a foreman on a railroad, was overseeing a blasting project in 1848. When the charges went off, an iron rod that was used to pack sand into the rock that was being blasted hit Gage in his cheek, and it continued to travel behind his left eye, through the left side of his brain, and exited out of the top of his skull.

Henry VIII

One of the Tudor Dynasty’s most famed kings, it has been said that Henry VIII was the victim of two major brain injuries in his 30s. The first is said to have occurred in 1524 during a jousting tournament, and the second is said to have occurred the following year, when the king fell on his head while he was attempting to do a pole vault.

Frankie Muniz

The star of the TV sitcom Malcom in the Middle, Frankie Muniz sustained a TBI that was so severe that he has no recollection of being on the show. Muniz played the lead character on the show, Malcom, and while the cause of his brain injury isn’t clear, it is believed that he suffered from a series of concussions during his teens that resulted in mini strokes later on in life, and those strokes are believed to have caused amnesia that partially erased his memories, including his role on the TV show.