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How a RI Attorney Can Help Victims of Traumatic Brain Injuries

According to current statistics from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 1.4 million Americans suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI) each year. The majority of these injures are closed head, or “mild” traumatic brain injuries, and mainly are caused by falls, motor vehicle accidents and sport accidents. Closed head brain injuries can be difficult for medical professionals to diagnose and treat and present special evidentiary issues for attorneys. However, with the help of a skilled trial attorney experienced in handling these types of cases, TBI victims can receive the medical treatment they need and recover the compensation they deserve for their injuries.

Diagnosing Traumatic Brain Injuries

Many people who sustain closed head traumatic brain injuries are not initially properly diagnosed. This happens for a number of reasons. First, the initial medical care received in the emergency room is often directed at any observable physical injuries the person may have following a traumatic accident. ER doctors may not consider testing for brain injuries in patients who do not have an open head wound or other obvious trauma to the head.

Second, closed TBIs generally are not apparent to the casual observer (or even medical professional) and require additional testing to diagnose. The symptoms of a TBI can be general enough that physicians mistake them for other conditions, like depression or anxiety attributed to the trauma of the accident. Some of these symptoms include agitation, mood swings, insomnia, short-term memory loss and difficulty concentrating. Lastly, even in cases when doctors order further diagnostic testing, including MRIs and CAT Scans, they still may miss the diagnosis. Depending on the severity of the injury and the area of the brain affected, the TBI still may not be detected by the most common types of diagnostic tests.

The Lawyer’s Role in Helping TBI Victims

The lawyer’s role in helping TBI victims extends much further than simply helping them recover compensation for their injuries. The attorney also can help the victim receive a correct diagnosis and the treatment they need for their injury.

A personal injury lawyer experienced in working with brain injured clients often will be able to recognize that the problems plaguing the client are the result of a TBI and not some other medical condition. The attorney then can direct the client to the appropriate medical professionals to obtain a proper diagnosis and begin a treatment regime. Generally, this will include the help of a neurologist or physiatrist (i.e., rehabilitation physician) who has experience in working with TBI victims.

The attorney, however, will not turn complete control of the TBI victim’s care over to the doctors. Instead, the lawyer will stay on top of the victim’s medical treatment for the purposes of providing input regarding care alternatives and, even more importantly, making sure that the right evidence is developed for the client’s underlying legal claim. In this way, the attorney works as the point person in directing the patient’s care and legal representation.

Assembling a Team of Expert Witnesses

TBI legal claims require the extensive use of expert testimony to prove the extent of the injury and the injury’s relationship to the accident, or “causation.” This requires the attorney to work closely with the victim’s team of health care providers and other professionals to build a legal case for recovery.

Some of these professionals include:

  • Neurologists: physicians who specialize in treatment of nervous system disorders, including those affecting the brain. Responsible for making the initial diagnosis and immediate treatment of patient as well as directing further diagnostic testing
  • Physiatrists: rehabilitation physicians who are specialists in treating nerve, bone and muscle injuries. Their work focuses on renewing and restoring function. They work with the neurologist as point person directing further patient care
  • Neuropsychologists: psychologists (PhDs) who have additional training in studying brain-behavior relationships. They can provide the best evidence of closed head injuries when these injuries do not present themselves in diagnostic testing
  • Neuropsychiatrists: psychiatrists (M.D.s) with additional training in studying brain-behavior relationships. They help TBI victims handle the emotional components of their injuries, monitor the patient’s progress and prescribe any necessary psychotropic drugs and other medications to help deal with the short-term and long-term effects of the injury
  • Physical therapists: they help the patient restore motion and joint function, coordination and balance
  • Cognitive rehabilitation therapists: they help patients develop compensatory strategies

The attorney also may use the services of other expert witnesses during the trial, including:

  • Vocational rehabilitation specialists
  • Occupational therapists
  • Economists
  • Speech pathologists
  • Social workers
  • Life care planners

In addition, the attorney will assemble various diagnostic tests for use as evidence of the brain injury at trial. These tests may include MRIs, PET Scans, Electroencephalograms, Electonystagmograms and others.


Traumatic brain injury cases present unique challenges for the individuals suffering from the injury and those trying to help the victims. By working with a trial attorney experienced in handling these cases, victims with even mild brain injuries can get the medical attention they need and deserve. For more information on traumatic brain injury litigation, contact an experienced attorney today.

 Legal Notice per Rules of Professional Responsibility: The Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all lawyers and attorneys in the general practice of law, but does not license or certify any lawyer / attorney as an expert or specialist in any field of practice. While this firm maintains joint responsibility, most cases of this type are referred to other attorneys for principle responsibility.

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