Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Estimating your Future Losses After a Traumatic Brain Injury in Florida

Traumatic Brain Injuries1 (TBIs) are among the most severe injuries you can suffer as a result of a car or truck accident, and they commonly occur “when an external mechanical force cause brain dysfunction.” This can include a violent blow or jolt to the head, which causes the soft tissues of the brain to impact the skull. A severe traumatic brain injury can take away your ability to communicate, walk, and prevent you from taking care of or feeding yourself. Losing any one of these abilities can impact almost any profession, and people who are suffering from TBI can also lose the ability to concentrate and retain memories, drastically affecting your ability to perform at high levels. Because the brain is such a complex organ, and no injuries or persons are the same, it can be difficult to estimate how the consequences and symptoms of a TBI with affect your future earning capacity.

Societal Effects of a Traumatic Brain Injury

It is estimated that most survivors of severe traumatic brain injuries2 never recover full social independence, are unable to return to work, and necessarily live with and rely on their families for support. This creates extensive burdens on family members who are tasked with caring for their injured loved ones, especially when those loved ones have lost their earning capacities. However, if you suffered from a TBI due to an accident, you are entitled to full compensation for your injuries, which includes the following:

  • Medical bills and out-of-pocket expenses;
  • Home nursing care and household held;
  • Lost wages; 
  • Pain and suffering; and 
  • Future/anticipated economic losses. 

Accordingly, it is essential to contact an experienced traumatic brain injury attorney following diagnosis, as having an attorney on your side early can help you estimate expenses and assist you in getting compensation and household assistance to take the burden off of your family.

Common Types of Traumatic Brain Injuries

Generally, there are three classifications of traumatic brain injuries:

  • Closed Brain Injury: Occurs when the head either “snaps” back and forth or collides with another object, such as the steering wheel or windshield of a car, and damages brain tissues or nerve endings. Such injuries generally cause varying degrees of disability; 
  • Open Brain Injury: Occurs when an object, such as a piece of metal or glass from a windshield, penetrates the skull and injures the brain. However, such injuries tends to be to only one area of the brain, and as such, medical science can often predict the resulting disabilities; 
  • Acquired Brain Injuries: This is the general term for any brain injury that occurs by unnatural means and includes diffuse axonal injuries and anoxia (loss of oxygen injuries).  

The most common type of TBI seen after car accidents is, unfortunately, one of the most severe. It is called “Diffuse Axonal Injury,” and it occurs when the brain, which sits in fluids, moves back and forth violently within the skull and hits the bone. This can cause the brain tissues to shear, which results in swelling, decreased blood flow, and brain death. It also causes injuries throughout the brain that are not localized to one specific area. This can make it difficult for doctors to predict how such brain injuries will impact your future.

Economic Loss Experts

If you or a loved one has suffered a severe traumatic brain injury such that doctors predict you will either not be able to return to work or will only be able to work in a limited capacity, most courts require an expert witness to testify regarding the value of that future economic loss. Under Florida law,3 “if scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact [jury or judge] in understanding the evidence or in determining a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify about it in the form of an opinion.”

One such expert witness is an “economic expert,” who will generally work for a litigation economics firm and specialize in accounting and valuations. Many such experts will have a Ph.D. in economics, and they will generally be published authors on related topics. The court will often question the qualifications of an economic expert prior to permitting him or her to testify, as the expert is permitted to give his or her professional opinion regarding the potential economic value of an individual’s case. For example, the expert could testify that, due to your inability to work after a TBI, you should be compensated approximate $70,000 each year over the next 30 years (i.e., the remainder of your work life). This would result in the expert testifying that your future economic loss is approximately $2,000,000 dollars.

Factors Used for Estimating Future Losses

Estimating a future economic loss traditionally begins with analyzing the medical aspects of your case. It must first be determined what kind of injury you suffered from, and it must then be determined what the nature and extent of your symptoms and injuries are. After this, doctors will have to provide your attorney and his economic expert a prognosis, meaning they must determine what the likelihood is that you will recover, and if so, when and to what extent. It will then fall to your economic and occupational expert to determine if you will once again work in your full capacity. If the answer is no, it must then be determined if you can work in a limited capacity, and if the answer is again no, it must then be determined whether you can successfully transition to another career field.

For example, let’s take a firefighter suffering from TBI after an accident. If doctors determine that, due to the injury, he has lost function of his left arm, he will not be able to continue in his current career but may be able to undertake a desk job in a similar field at a compensable salary. If, however, the injury also affected his memory, then he may not be able to continue in the field at all. The expert must then use medical reports to determine his likelihood of recovery, and if the answer is that he will only make slight improvements over the next 10 years, then the economic value of his case, including lost salary and benefits, would be quite high.

Don’t Delay - Contact a Clearwater Brain Injury Attorney Immediately

Traumatic brain injury litigation is some of the most complex personal injury litigation attorneys undertake. It takes a team of experts and a plethora of medical, economic, and occupational knowledge to ensure you get the full compensation you deserve for the loss of your future earnings. Further, it is important to ensure that your family is provided with all the help they need as they care for you during this difficult time. The Dolman Law Group is your premier traumatic brain injury firm in Clearwater, Florida, and our attorneys are here to ensure nothing falls through the cracks. Contact us today at (727) 451-6900 for a free, no-risk consultation.