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People with brain injuries often think, number one: they're fine, or number two: they think, “I'm going to be okay, and I don't really want to tell anyone that I'm having problems.”
Do you know what injury is often called “the invisible injury” and why that would be? Well, we're going to find out today, because that's what we're going to ask the lawyer.
Hi again, everybody. I'm Rob Rosenthal with askthelawyers.com, and my guest today is Arizona attorney Tim Tonkin with the Phillips Law Group. Tim, nice to meet you, thank you for making some time for us today.
Thank you, Rob, for having me. I appreciate it.
So let's just start at the beginning. What is this invisible injury? And why is it called that?
Well, a traumatic brain injury is called the “invisible injury” because the last stats revealed that 80% of them are missed at the hospital. So someone's injured with a concussion, or a blow to the head, or are in an auto accident, sometimes they'll go to the hospital and maybe they'll do a CT scan of the head, maybe they won't. But usually they’ll be sent home and say, “Okay, you're pretty much fine. Let us know if anything else happens.” That's one reason why TBIs are called the invisible injury.
The second reason is, historically, we haven't had a very sophisticated way to determine by scanning whether or not someone has a traumatic brain injury or not. In the last several years, we've gotten a lot better in terms of the medical field and determining that there's more sensitive tests that can occur through MRI and specific types of MRIs, where we can reveal whether or not there's been some axonal shearing in the brain, but those are very difficult to determine, and those are tests that are not routinely ordered when someone goes to the hospital. The reason it’s called the invisible injury, and I'm sorry to cut you off there, Rob, is you may look at me and you may not know. I may look normal to you, but I have a brain injury. Or you may look at your friend, or your spouse, or your co-worker, and they're different, but you look at them and they look the same, and that's why TBIs are called the invisible injuries.
So, you mentioned 80% often are not diagnosed, at least right away. That seems like a huge number to me. That seems really big, right?
It is a huge number. There's three types of traumatic brain injuries, there's mild, moderate, and severe. If you've got a moderate brain injury or severe brain injury, those are the ones that probably are going to be picked up in the hospital; those are going to be picked up by a CT scan of the head you're going to see some sort of brain bleed. You're going to see evidence of it in unsophisticated testing that the hospital will do. Those are easy to determine at the hospital.
The other 80% we call mild traumatic brain injuries are really ones where people look fine, and they may be complaining of some symptoms, but, if we watch football for years and years and years, someone may say, “Well, they just had their bell rung.” And that's what hospitals are doing. They just say, “They had their bell rung, and they should be fine.” Unfortunately, many of these mild traumatic brain injuries have symptoms which persist well after the initial injury. A lot of literature says that those symptoms will persist three to six months later, and that's for the majority of those injuries and symptoms will go away. However, there's a small percentage of those mild traumatic brain injury patients who don't get better over that three to six month time period, and they don't get better at all; they have life-changing injuries and symptoms that will persist.
So in your experience Tim, when you've got somebody that maybe was not originally diagnosed with a TBI, how is it you usually find out that they do have it? Is it just from a family member or somebody going, “there's just something not right; they're not the same person they were”? What happens?
Here at the Phillips Law Group, we have a checklist of questions that we ask someone. It may pertain to themselves, or oftentimes we're asking a family member as well, but usually after an injury, if someone's had a head injury, or been hit in the head, or even in a rear-end whiplash-type injury—a coup-contrecoup motion that's forward and back where the brain actually hits the inside of the skull, versus the outside of the skull hitting something within the vehicle—you can have these symptoms as well. We ask people. How are you feeling? Are you having headaches? Are you having sensitivity to light or sound. Are you having any dizziness? Are you forgetful? Are you having difficulty remembering words? Are you having difficulty remembering things that happened a short time ago?If you start with those questions of the patient or our client, then you can get some insight as to how they're doing.
Oftentimes people with brain injuries, even mild ones, say, “No, no, no. I'm fine. I'm fine.” And that's why it's important to speak to their loved ones or speak to their co-workers. How is Jane Doe doing after the accident? And their spouse may tell you a whole different story than what the patient or our clients are going to tell us, because people with brain injuries often think, number one: they're fine, or number two: they think I'm going to be okay, and I don't really want to tell anyone that I'm having problems, because none of us like to admit sometimes that we're having problems, and patients with traumatic brain injuries are no different.
One thing you mentioned makes me think that this type of injury could affect not only the original person injured, but it could affect the whole family, correct?
Oh, absolutely, absolutely. What we see with our brain injured clients is that their relationships have changed. If you have a fully functioning member of your household, and that person is responsible for different chores around the house, or going to work, or spending time with the kids, and all of the sudden you have someone who's different or diminished, or is not acting or interacting in the same way that they were previous to their injury, then the relationships with their family change significantly. It is up to the rest of the family sometimes to pick up the slack or to help an injured person, and that becomes difficult for family members when you have kids with the parent—especially, because they maybe look at mom or dad and say, “I don't see an injury.” So, we're back to the invisible injury portion that you ask me about earlier, which is difficult. Some people say, “I don't understand why mom or dad are different or where they're not doing the same things with me as they did before, or acting out or acting angrily, or blowing up at small things when I don't see a different person just by looking at mom or dad.”
We've seen those things; the invisible injury, the fact that it can affect the whole household, the fact that maybe the injured person can't or doesn't want to tell you they’re injured. Those are all really challenging things for them, for yourself being their attorney; that would seem like the reason you need somebody who has some experience in this area when it comes to this sort of thing.
Absolutely, because we need to dig deep with clients who've had a blow to the head or have been diagnosed, or maybe not even diagnosed, with a brain injury because the consequences are severe, the consequences can be very long lasting. We always hope that our clients get better within that three to six month time period, but many do not, and if you don't ask the right questions and you have a person who is minimizing their symptoms, then those injuries are not going to be explored.
Our role as attorney for all injured people is to make sure that we're documenting what their injuries are, so that when it comes time to go to trial or to engage in settlement discussions, that the compensation is commensurate or equal to what their injuries are. And if you have someone who doesn't say that they're injured, or are minimizing their injuries when it comes time to resolve their claims with an insurance company or in front of a jury, no one is going to give proper compensation because the injuries have not been documented; the injuries have not been explored; the injuries have not been explained; family members have not come in in order to give testimony or to tell their side of the story about the injured person.
So if you don't have an experienced lawyer who is going to make sure that the work is done to present a fair and accurate picture and portrayal of what the consequences of a traumatic brain injury are, or an auto accident, or any time someone gets it in ahead, then that person is going to continue to suffer not only from their injuries, but also from the fact that they're not getting fair compensation for those injuries. It's critically important that people call a lawyer who has experience in this area in order to make sure that they get fair compensation for what someone else or some other corporation caused.
Tons of great info. Tim, thank you so much. I think you've probably helped a lot of people. Thanks for answering our questions.
It's a pleasure being here. We really like to discuss traumatic brain injuries here at the Phillips Law Group because we think it's critically important to tell these stories for our clients, and quite frankly, there's a lot of people and a lot of lawyers out there who may not be telling the full story for their clients. So I just want to encourage all your viewers to make sure that they find a lawyer, be it us or be it anyone who has experience in this area to make sure their stories are told in the correct and proper way.
Great advice. Thank you again. That's going to do it for this episode of Ask the Lawyer. My guest has been Arizona attorney Tim Tonkin with the Phillips Law Group. Remember, if you want the best information or you want to make sure you can choose a lawyer that lawyers choose, go to askthelawyers.com. Thanks for watching. I'm Rob Rosenthal with AskTheLawyers™.
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