If you were working offshore on a vessel or oil rig and you suffered a head injury, the most important thing for you to focus on following the injury is your medical treatment.
There are two types of head injuries, both of which can be categorized as “Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)” – a blow to the head that disrupts brain function, either momentarily or permanently.
- Penetrating injuries occur when an object breaks the skull and reaches the brain.
- Closed-head injuries are injuries in which the skull is not broken.
Each year there are almost 250,000 people admitted to the hospital with head injuries in the US. A staggering 50,000 deaths occur and the majority of these injuries are caused by accidents. Unfortunately, many head accidents become more serious because the injured person just doesn’t know whether to seek medical help.
Head injury symptoms
There are many possible symptoms of head injuries, and those symptoms differ based on what part of the brain has been affected. Brain injuries are not easy to diagnose, and often symptoms do not show up immediately. In addition, some symptoms affect alertness and speech, which might make it difficult for the injured person to accurately describe the injury.
Examples of possible symptoms:
- Loss of consciousness (even briefly)
- No memory of sustaining the injury
- Dizziness, vertigo or nausea
- Memory problems
- Speech problems
- Mood changes
- Blurred vision, strange smells or a funny taste in the mouth
How are brain injuries diagnosed and treated?
Neurologists use several tools to diagnose TBI:
- Neurological examination: the first step in diagnosis, including a physical examination.
- Computed tomography (CT) scan: A quick, accurate scan of the brain.
- Magnetic resonance Imaging (MRI): shows more detail than a CT scan, and is used in determining long-term outcomes.
- X-rays: rarely used, but still considered a tool.
- Angiography: sometimes used in a penetrating head injury to see if blood vessels are damaged.
- Functional imaging: looks at blood flow in the brain.
- Electroencephalography: occasionally used, this records the electrical activity of the brain.
- Neuropsychological assessment: a series of cognitive tests to determine how the brain is functioning.
Prompt medical treatment
If you have sustained a head injury, it is important to seek prompt medical attention. Serious brain injuries can affect an accident victim for the rest of his/her life, and what may seem like a minor injury at first can often escalate. An epidural hematoma, for example, is a very serious head injury – in fact 40% of such injuries can result in death. However, the symptoms only occur much later, if at all. This type of injury can only be diagnosed by a CT scan.
Physicians talk about the “golden hour” following a head injury, which can be classified as mild, moderate or severe. A person who has suffered a blow to the head needs to be checked out and treated within the first hour following the accident to prevent complications and allow for the best treatment.
What can I do to help myself right away?
The Young Firm has handled dozens of serious head injury cases over the years, and there are a few medical issues that are involved in all head injury cases that are critical:
- Make sure you have extensive testing done (MRI’s, scans, etc.).This is how doctors can see if there is any bleeding or swelling that could cause you problems now or in the future.These tests are usually done by a neurosurgeon or neurologist; you do not want to only see a family physician if you suspect you’ve suffered a significant head injury. See a specialist. Often, offshore companies will delay approval of such treatment; however, this treatment needs to happen immediately to avoid the possibility of permanent damage.
- You need to determine whether or not your injury has caused any cognitive difficulties.To do so, you usually will need to see a neuro-psychologist or neuro-psychiatrist, which are, essentially, brain psychiatrists.These doctors will spend nearly a whole day with you and test your reading and writing capabilities to determine if you are thinking as well as you were before your injury.With head injuries, it’s critical to test all thinking abilities, including reading, writing, and arithmetic.The specialist will likely acquire copies of previous school or employment records – including writing tests, safety tests, etc.Often, in the case of a significant head injury, you will have difficulty performing to your previous ability levels on such tests, and having the prior records will show the dramatic difference and determine the severity of your head trauma.
- You will need to have an expert diagnose any personality changes. Many clients that have come through The Young Firm with head injuries struggle with being agitated, impatient or quick-tempered, even though they never had such issues prior to their injury. It is very important to have an expert document changes such as this if you suffered any head injury while working offshore. Many times, your company will not want to prove these changes because it will lend validity to the seriousness of your case.
Recovering from a head Injury
There are many factors that will determine the length of your recovery, and if there will be any lasting complications. For example, if you went into a coma, experienced amnesia, or had other injuries, doctors will examine the following factors to more accurately assess your recovery:
- How long did the coma last, and how severe was it?
- How long did the amnesia last?
- What is the size and location of the injury(s) to the brain?
- How severe are your other injuries?
All injuries are different, but there are a few general rules that apply to all recoveries:
- The more severe your injury, the longer you will take to recover.
- The type of injury will determine recovery time.
- Location of the injury will determine how long and how fully you recover.
- Surgery does not necessitate longer recovery time.
Long-term expenses & effects
Head injury patients may require expensive on-going medical treatment, physical therapy, occupation therapy, rehabilitation and other long-term special services. All of that treatment can get very expensive, and you may be eligible for compensation under the Jones Act or Maritime Law.
While a TBI offshore injury will impact every seaman and their family differently, here are some general statistics on the long-term costs of a TBI:
- the average cost of lifetime care for a head-injured seaman is over $3 million;
- annual costs of care for TBI in the U.S. is estimated at over $48 billion; and
- the CDC estimates the total cost of care and rehabilitation for a TBI offshore injury is $9-10 billion per year.
The impact of brain injury long-term care on a family is felt in many ways. Seamen injured in maritime accidents who suffer TBI will often be permanently unable to work, meaning they will no longer generate an income for the household.
Medical expenses are also part of the costs associated with life after a TBI:
- assisted living care;
- equipment; and
- lifestyle changes all add to the cost of a serious offshore injury with head trauma.
If you have suffered a head injury, call The Young Firm today and speak to one our experienced attorneys. They will address any questions or concerns that you have, and talk to you about getting medical treatments approved.