Traumatic brain injury is a process not an event. This is the emerging school of thought of many medical, neurological and psychological professionals and it has many positive ramifications for workers’ compensation claimants. Following this new way of thinking, TBIs are akin to other chronic conditions such as diabetes or asthma and should be managed as such to ensure that people with traumatic brain injuries receive the appropriate care.
A TBI is caused by some type of blow or penetrating injury to the head. The most common causes of traumatic brain injuries are falls, being hit by an object, motor vehicle accidents, and assaults. TBIs are extremely prevalent in the United States and were diagnosed in more than 2.2 million emergency room visits in 2010. Because TBIs often occur while someone is at work, these types of injuries frequently result in workers’ compensation claims.
Research shows that traumatic brain injury is associated with:
– Neurological disorders such as epilepsy
– Disorders that lead to gradual decline in cognitive function
– Disorders that lead to hormonal dysfunction
– Psychological disorders
This is relevant to workers’ compensation lawyers and their clients because many insurance companies still characterize TBIs as a single event in an effort to lower costs of treatment. This means that when a person with a TBI requires specialized medical treatment or other services, payment for the treatment may be denied.
We attorneys who represent people with brain injuries must understand that the injury often goes way beyond what’s seen at the onset. A workers’ compensation client whose initial emergency room visit does not identify a multitude of obvious injuries may still have suffered a brain injury. In fact, a traumatic brain injury can occur without a loss of consciousness but the effects of the brain injury may still be serious and permanent.
Our understanding of the nature of brain injuries will assist us in establishing the causal link between our client’s work-related brain injury and the need for certain medical treatment or other services that they are guaranteed under our workers’ compensation laws.
Understanding the process of TBI can help us navigate our clients through the inevitable vocational rehabilitation issues that frequently arise in workers’ compensation cases involving TBIs.
As Dr. Brent E. Masel, who is one of the leaders in the concept of brain injury as chronic condition states, “Only by reimbursing and managing brain injuries on par with other chronic diseases will patients get the long-term treatment and support they need and deserve.”
For additional information see Science Daily , Brain Injury Professional, Traumatic Brain Injury Fact Sheet, Brent E. Masel, Douglas S. DeWitt, Traumatic Brain Injury: A Disease Process, Not an Event. Journal of Neurotrauma, 2010; 27 (8): 1529.