Not long ago, we saw a huge verdict of $3,000,000.00 in a mild brain injury case in Hampton, VA.
A 41 year old woman was driving when a dump truck took a left turn in front of her. In addition to orthopedic injuries, the woman suffered symptoms of brain injury like memory loss, anxiety and loss of balance. The emergency room doctors found no evidence of actual brain injury. This is very common. First, emergency room doctors are so busy that they cannot take the kind of time with each patient that they would like to. Also, the diagnostic testing done in an emergency room often can show no brain injury at all, even when there is real damage. For example, it is very common to have negative CT scans that do not show the loss of function from a brain injury. What is needed to show the injury are much less common tests that are typically not run in an emergency room setting.
Other symptoms of brain injury are most typically found by neuropsychologists comparing the function of the person after an accident with their functioning before. The key witnesses in brain injury cases are often the family members and friends who knew the person before and after the accident. Those witnesses are in the best position to explain the devastating effect of this kind of injury on a person’s life. Other symptoms of brain injury often include being impulsive, irritable, sensitive to light and a whole host of impairments that are extremely difficult to live with.
One of the other difficulties in brain injury cases is that the injured person looks fairly normal. You cannot see the brain injury or its effects just by looking at them. In the big case in Hampton, the defendants hired medical experts who claimed there was no objective evidence of the brain injury. There is only one neuropsyciatrist in the state of Virginia. This is a person who has both an M.D. and treats brain injuries on a regular basis. That doctor in Richmond is one of the best at explaining how this kind of injury is real, even though it may not be obvious to the jury. A big part of the attorney’s task is to bring in the right medical testimony to make sure the jury understands how brain injury works and how it leaves the injured person as the walking wounded. One of the other important aspects of proving a significant injury, like a brain injury, is to have good visual aids in court. There is a local team that we regularly use who helps us present medical illustrations and evidence.
A common defense technique in brain injury cases is to attack the victim. In the Hampton case, the lady had prior problems with alcoholism. The defense will typically latch on to a fact like that and try to say that any brain problems that she has are from something that they did not cause. Again, it is very important to have good medical testimony and lay witnesses to show the effect of the injury on the person.
It is always good to see when a jury and the court system come through and properly award full compensation to a person with a brain injury from a car wreck.