Each year, 12,000 Ontarians sustain disabling brain injuries; about half are acquired in motor vehicle accidents. While these statistics are concerning, for most people they will remain abstract. It is only when you or one of your loved ones sustains a traumatic brain injury that you understand how suddenly, dramatically and totally a life can change.
An acquired brain injury can cause physical, cognitive and behavioural or emotional impairment. These debilitating injuries can cause temporary or permanent damage, and rehabilitation and the path to recovery can remain quite uncertain. The complexity of our brains means that while many traumatic brain injuries share common characteristics, each can have unique effects.
The most serious acquired brain injuries - particularly among children whose brains are still developing - will require a person to have significant medical needs and a high level of attendant care. In addition to suffering from a diminished quality of life in ways that cannot be quantified, the calculable cost of lost income, lost familial support, and medical care can be astronomical for the most severe injuries.
When a person sustains a traumatic brain injury in or as a result of a motor vehicle accident in Ontario, they are eligible to apply for funds through the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule, also known as (SABS). These no-fault benefits provide up to $1 million for medical and attendant care over a lifetime if a brain injury is deemed to be “catastrophic.” However, if an insurance company contends an accident victim does not meet this threshold, they could receive substantially less compensation.
If you or a loved one has suffered a serious brain injury in a motor vehicle accident, it is important to contact a knowledgeable, experienced and skilled personal injury lawyer to ensure you have help accessing the benefits and compensation you need. Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers’ catastrophic brain injury team has a proven track record of assisting people like you in your time of need with the respect, dignity and compassion you deserve.
Traumatic brain injuries in motor vehicle accidents.
Whether you are a driver, passenger, cyclist or pedestrian, if you are involved in a motor vehicle accident you can sustain a traumatic brain injury from a blow to the head, the insertion of a foreign object into your brain, or even a sudden movement of your head or neck.
Some examples of motor vehicle accidents that result in traumatic brain injuries include:
- A front-end collision will cause your vehicle to stop suddenly while your body continues to move forward with momentum. This can cause your head to make contact with the steering wheel, dashboard, window or a loose, flying object. Even if your head does not contact an object, whiplash associated disorder (internal tissue and blood vessel damage) from the violent backward and forward movement of your head and neck is common. Sudden movements like these can lead your brain to hit the inside of your skull with great force causing bruising (coup lesions).
- In a side-impact collision, your body will move toward the direction of the point of impact. Frequently this causes a person’s head to hit a side window or other part of the side of the car. If direct contact between the head and an object is avoided, both sides of the brain are still often impacted by the skull as the head and neck move from side to side. Being “T-boned” directly in the side of the car, as opposed to an impact near the front or rear of the car, is considered much more likely to cause severe injury.
- If a person is thrown from the vehicle, or a car strikes a pedestrian or cyclist, there is a great risk of contact between the head and a stationary object. If debris manages to enter the brain, an accident victim could have a life-threatening open head wound.
Injury levels and symptoms.
Whether a person sustains a mild, moderate or severe traumatic brain injury depends on the extent of the damage to the brain and whether it is repairable:
- Mild traumatic brain injuries are minor concussions that may cause temporary headaches, sleep disturbances, and/or impaired concentration, memory, speech, coordination or judgement. Other common symptoms include nausea or vomiting, fatigue or drowsiness, sensory disturbances (blurred vision, ringing in ears, light sensitivity, etc.). There may be brief loss of consciousness or a dazed or confused feeling following the injury. These symptoms usually resolve on their own within days to weeks with rest. They can, however, last much longer.
- Moderate traumatic brain injuries often cause a loss of consciousness for several minutes to hours and can lead to post-concussion syndrome involving persistent or worsening headaches, extended periods of nausea or vomiting, seizures, convulsions, dilated pupils, clear fluids draining from the nose or ears, weakness, loss of coordination, significant memory loss or confusion, and unusual or extreme changes in mood and behaviour. In these cases, symptoms may last months or years and increase the risk of anxiety, depression and mood disorders.
- Severe traumatic brain injuries usually lead to an extended period where consciousness is lost and may cause coma. A person may spend periods in a vegetative state or be minimally conscious. When emerging from a state of minimal consciousness, a person may be able to answer simple questions or complete simple tasks. Once consciousness is regained a person may spend time in a post-traumatic confusional state with potential for amnesia. People with severe TBIs may be unable to form or retain new memories, be unable to perform complex tasks, lose the ability to walk or talk, have notable sleep disturbances, experience altered moods, do unsafe things and/or lose impulse control. Significant bruising, ripping or tearing of brain tissue from violent movement or from a foreign object entering the brain, can lead to death or serious permanent injury. A severe traumatic brain injury from a motor vehicle accident may be designated a “catastrophic brain injury” for insurance purposes if certain criteria are met.
Children, particularly pre-verbal children, may not be able to explain or indicate symptoms. If you believe a child has experienced a TBI, look for:
- Changes in nursing or eating.
- Change in sleep habits.
- Persistent crying, sadness or depressed mood.
- Loss of interest in favourite things Unusual irritability.
- Difficulty paying attention.
A “catastrophic” designation.
The Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS) provides three tiers of compensation for injuries sustained in motor vehicle accidents in Ontario. The Minor Injury Guideline (which includes whiplash-related injuries) provides up to $3,500 for medical-rehabilitation costs. More significant injuries, including some traumatic brain injuries, are eligible for up to five years of medical-rehabilitation and attendant care funding totalling $65,000. To reach the next threshold, known as a “catastrophic injury” designation, an injured person must meet specific criteria.
For traumatic brain injuries, the criteria differ depending on their age at the time of accident. If the person was 18 years of age or older at the time of the accident, a traumatic brain injury would be indicated on medically recognized brain diagnostic technology. The accident-derived injury could include intracranial contusions or haemorrhages, diffuse axonal injury, cerebral edema, midline shift or pneumocephaly. An assessment based on the Glasgow Outcome Scale guidelines would rate the injury as a:
- Vegetative State, one month or more after the accident;
- Upper or Lower Severe Disability, six months or more after the accident; or
- A Lower Moderate Disability, one year or more after the accident.
If the injured person was under the age of 18 at the time of the accident, a catastrophic traumatic brain injury would meet one of the following criteria:
- The person is accepted for admission, on an in-patient basis, to a public hospital named in a Guideline with positive findings on medically recognized brain diagnostic technology indicating intracranial pathology that is a result of the accident.
- The person is accepted for admission, on an in-patient basis, to a program of neurological rehabilitation in a paediatric rehabilitation facility that is a member of the Ontario Association of Children’s Rehabilitation Services.
- The person’s level of neurological function does not exceed category 2 (Vegetative) on the King’s Outcome Scale for Childhood Head Injury one month or more after the accident.
- The person’s level of neurological function does not exceed category 3 (Severe disability) on the King’s Outcome Scale for Childhood Head Injury six months or more after the accident.
- The person’s level of function remains seriously impaired such that the insured person is not age-appropriately independent and requires in-person supervision or assistance for physical, cognitive or behavioural impairments for the majority of their waking day, nine months or more after the accident.
Beyond these criteria, if the traumatic brain injury itself or in combination with other injuries results a class 4 impairment (marked impairment) in three or more areas of function that precludes useful functioning, or a class 5 impairment (extreme impairment) in one or more areas of function that precludes useful functioning, due to mental or behavioural disorder, they may also be deemed to have a catastrophic designation.
We’re here to help.
It’s in the insurer’s interest not to assess an accident victim’s injury as catastrophic if possible. When the person’s prognosis leaves any room for doubt about the extent of their disability, an insurer may attempt to deny a catastrophic injury claim or unreasonably delay processing it.
At a time when you or your loved one are coming to terms with a life-altering injury, you should not have to face another battle with insurers on your own. Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyer’s catastrophic brain injury team can be your fierce and tireless advocate for justice. With 60 years of experience in the field, and a reputation that sees us consistently ranked among the country’s top personal injury firms, we have what it takes to help you make a case for a catastrophic designation.
When you contact our team for an initial, no obligation, free consultation, we will listen to your story with great empathy. Once we explain your rights, various options, and how we can help, you will feel confident in making an informed choice on how to proceed.
If you choose to file a claim through our firm, we will work tirelessly on your behalf and with your best interests always in mind. Although you may be worried about the cost of legal representation, rest assured that we will only accept payment if we are successful in negotiating a settlement for you or in winning a court award for damages.
Beyond our skill in this field, we are renowned for our commitment to compassionate full-circle client care. We treat the people we represent as we would our own family. We care not only about your case, but also every aspect of your well-being as you work to rebuild and live your best life possible. We do whatever we can to help you on this journey.
At Gluckstein Lawyers, we often first meet our clients at one of the lowest points in their lives. Our goal is always to help you see better days ahead. You can trust our team to treat you with dignity, respect, and compassionate kindness every step of the way.
Our personal injury lawyers in Toronto, Ottawa, Niagara, and Barrie serve clients across Ontario and are here to work with you. Contact us now to learn more about how we can help you.
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