Note: This commentary refers to mild traumatic brain injury. For information relevant to severe brain injury, refer to Catastrophic Injury.
What is mild traumatic brain injury?
Mild traumatic brain injury (“MTBI”) occurs frequently in motor vehicle accidents. While the name suggests that it is ‘mild’, this is only relative to a full blown traumatic brain injury – MTBIs can also have severe consequences. An MTBI can happen even if you do not strike your head forcefully or lose consciousness. In some cases, the sudden jarring or whiplash effect of an accident is sufficient to cause MTBI. In most cases, those who suffer MTBI go on to a full recovery, but for the unfortunate few, the symptoms can last indefinitely, and have a devastating impact.
What are the symptoms of mild traumatic brain injury?
The symptoms of MTBI can be subtle and difficult to detect, even to those close to the injured party. Signs or symptoms include personality change, irritability, mood swings and loss of emotional control, apathy or lack of motivation, poor memory, forgetfulness, or poor concentration, word finding problems, and difficulties planning and organizing (executive functions).
How is mild traumatic brain injury diagnosed?
Diagnosing MTBI can be problematic, in part because of the subjective nature of the symptoms and lack of a verifiable cognitive baseline to compare the injured party’s functioning pre and post-injury. Further, imaging studies such as MRI will usually not show any brain lesions to establish an injury. Moreover, psychological symptoms such as depression often mimic or overlap with MTBI symptoms. An important distinction, however, is that MTBI recovery usually takes place in the first two years. Any remaining symptoms tend to be permanent. Psychological injury can be treated well beyond two years.
When diagnosing MTBI, medical experts tend to focus on how the injured party was functioning in the immediate aftermath of the accident. Therefore, evidence of physiological changes, such as loss of consciousness, amnesia for the events around the accident, dizziness, or confusion, are important. Observations of the ambulance crew or other accident witnesses can also be helpful in forming the diagnosis. Likewise, evidence of family and friends regarding personality and cognitive changes before and after the accident is crucial.
It is very important that you let your doctor know immediately about any cognitive or personality changes you experience following an accident, even if they are mild. This will lay the foundation for establishing that you suffered a MTBI, and also alert your doctor to take whatever treatment steps are deemed necessary.
Finding a MTBI lawyer
If you have an ICBC claim and believe you suffered a MTBI, contact us. We have considerable experience handling injury claims involving MTBI. We will assist you in getting the help you need and develop your claim against ICBC to get the compensation you deserve.