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Traumatic Brain Injury During Motorcycle Accident

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is one of the worst outcomes in a motorcycle accident. The extent can range from moderate and temporary to permanent and life-altering.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains moderate to severe traumatic brain injury can result in a lifetime of physical, cognitive, emotional and behavioral changes that negatively affect a victim’s ability to function in everyday life. The International Brain Injury Association notes many who survive a traumatic brain injury have a decreased life expectancy, due to both causes related to the injury as well as higher rates of substance abuse and suicide.

At The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman, our team of motorcycle accident lawyers in Boston are committed to fighting for full and fair compensation for traumatic brain injury sufferers and their families. We recognize the enormous economic and personal burdens victims bear for these injuries, and work to identify all possible defendants and obtain maximum recovery.

Dozens of motorcyclists die every year in this state, according to Massachusetts Crash Statistics, but hundreds more sustain serious injuries, such as a traumatic brain injury. The Commonwealth does have a universal helmet law, MGL ch. 90 section 7, requiring all motorcyclists and passengers to wear approved protective head gear, but while this lowers the risk, it doesn’t eliminate it. The NHTSA reports that while helmeted riders were significantly less likely to experience head injuries and facial injuries than un-helmeted riders, helmets were not fail-safe. Thirteen percent of helmeted riders injured still suffered head injuries.

Those who do suffer traumatic brain injuries are:

  • Far less likely to be discharged home;
  • Far more likely to require rehabilitation or be discharged to long-term care facilities;
  • Incur substantially higher medical costs than those with other types of motorcycle injuries.

Furthermore, while the failure to wear a helmet may result in reduced damages in civil litigations due to findings of comparative fault, as outlined in MGL ch. 231 section 85, it does not free negligent motorists or other responsible parties of their obligation to compensate for their wrongdoing. Our injury attorneys can often still obtain substantial compensation for traumatic brain injury motorcycle accident victims, regardless of whether they wore a helmet.

Types of Motorcycle Accident Head Injury

A traumatic brain injury occurs when there is a blow, bump, jolt or some other injury to the head that results in damage to the brain. The National Institutes of Neurological Disorders reports millions of people suffer traumatic brain injuries annually.

Motorcyclists are at higher risk of TBI than other motor vehicle accident victims for numerous reasons, namely because they are at higher risk of ejection from their vehicle and direct bodily contact with the pavement, other vehicles or crash debris.

These injuries are sometimes referred to as “the silent epidemic” because in some cases, traumatic brain injuries may not manifest obviously or immediately. Some victims may speak just fine at first and appear generally normal. There are several classifications of TBI that help us understand the range. As explained by The Mayfield Clinic, these include:

  • Mild traumatic brain injury. This is a somewhat misleading classification because it doesn’t mean the associated disabilities and impairments are “mild,” but rather it’s a medical classification. The person may be awake with their eyes open, but suffer from some combination of confusion, disorientation, memory loss, headache and brief unconsciousness.
  • Moderate traumatic brain injury . An individual may seem fatigued, but their eyes will react to stimulation. They may lose consciousness anywhere from 20 minutes to six hours. They may suffer some degree of swelling or bleeding of the brain, but they are generally still rousable.
  • Severe traumatic brain injury. A person with a severe TBI will generally not be conscious or open their eyes, even with stimulation. Their loss of consciousness will span more than six hours.

In all cases, individuals may suffer long-term effects. Skull fractures and penetrating injuries are generally associated with severe traumatic brain injury, but non-penetrating injuries are the most commonly suffered by motorcycle riders. These can include:

  • Concussion. This is a bruising of brain tissue upon high-speed impact, and it can happen even if you’re wearing a helmet. Symptoms may not be immediately apparent, but can include headaches, nausea, dizziness and sometimes permanent speech impairments.
  • Countercoup. This is sometimes called “shaken brain syndrome,” and it occurs when the brain is shaken inside the skull. A rider who is ejected from a bike at a high speed from a far distance would be likely to suffer this, and helmets usually can’t protect against this type of injury.
  • Hematoma. These are blood clots, and there are several different kinds, including an epidural hematoma (between the brain and skull) and a subdural hematoma (inside the brain itself). These occur after a hard blow to the head, though symptoms may not be apparent for days or even weeks. Surgery is almost always necessary.
  • Rotation. If the brain rotates inside the skull, it can lead to a hematoma but also a diffuse axonal injury, which can lead to death. Here again, helmets may provide little to no protection.

Sometimes, the shock of a motorcycle accident can mask the telltale symptoms of a serious head injury, which is why all riders who have suffered any blow to the head should seek an immediate and thorough medical assessment – even if they initially feel “fine.”

Consequences of a Motorcycle Accident TBI

Traffic accidents are a leading cause of traumatic brain injury in the U.S., and motorcycle riders are especially vulnerable. The major costs resulting from traumatic brain injury after a crash are:

  • Cost of medical treatment;
  • Value of lost work;
  • Decreased quality of life;
  • Rehabilitation;
  • Long-term care.

These are all arguments that can be made for maximum damages in a motorcycle accident lawsuit. One study published in the journal Cost Effectiveness and Resource Allocation found that even those with “minor” head injuries required treatment ranging anywhere from 2 to 15 weeks, with hospital stays, medication and rehabilitation costs soaring higher the more severe the injury. Medical care is more expensive than ever these days, and one analysis found the lifetime costs of treatment for individuals with a traumatic brain injury can range from $85,000 to more than $3 million.

Motorcyclists in Massachusetts are required to carry bodily injury liability coverage minimums of $20,000 per person and $40,000 per crash but given the likelihood and high cost of motorcycle injuries – particularly traumatic brain injuries – additional UM/ UIM coverage (insurance payable to victims when a negligent driver has no insurance or not enough insurance) is advisable for all riders and their families.

Contact the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman today for a free and confidential consultation.
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