As lawyers, we would certainly never pretend to diagnose someone with an injury. Still, from our experience, we develop a pretty good sense of the type of medical and observational evidence needed to prove injuries resulting from another person's wrongful conduct. In any personal injury case, the case is driven by two elements: liability and damages. Damages are a reflection of the injuries and the impact those injuries had on a person's life.
Head injuries can range from mild with little to no disruption on a person's life to catastrophic. The catastrophic injuries, when a person is a vegetative or massively impaired mental state, can be obvious after a traumatic event like a car accident. The more common, harder to spot, and more difficult to prove head injuries are the mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI).
Rapid flexion and extension of the neck or blow to the head — for example, from something like hitting her head on the headrest or steering wheel after motor vehicle accident – can injure the brain and impair cognitive functioning. Openly communicating the details of the collision with medical providers is an important step to allowing them to spot the possible injury. Often, I see my clients reporting headaches, nausea, dizziness, or sensitivity to light when they suffer a brain injury.
To prove the injury for purposes of a personal injury case, expert medical testimony is required to establish the injury. To document the effects of the injury on the person and to treat the injuries, medical providers will often refer people to occupational therapy, speech therapy if word finding is one of the adverse side effects, or vision therapy if sensitivity to light or problems with concentration and reading are occurring. The long-term, residual effects of the injury can be explored when a person is at a medically stationary point. A neuropsychologist will run a battery of tests, collect data, and interpret that data to form an opinion whether and to what extent the head injury is causing ongoing problems.
In short, when a head injury is suspected, the basic ingredients to confirm and relate it to a personal injury case include open communication with medical providers, following through with medical treatment, and presenting the right kind of specialized, expert testimony.