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Proving the severity of a traumatic brain injury: What to know

Traumatic brain injuries are serious injuries that can have lasting implications for victims. In many cases, these injuries have symptoms that are permanent, even if there is some recovery that does occur.

Traumatic brain injuries happen when the brain is injured due to a blow, jolt or penetrating object. That initial injury, known as the primary injury, causes the first set of challenges. If it's not treated quickly, then secondary injuries may occur.

What makes it hard to establish a traumatic brain injury in court?

Part of what makes it difficult to establish the seriousness of a traumatic brain injury is the fact that traumatic brain injuries are so varied. The recovery each person goes through will be different, even if they share similar injuries.

Traumatic brain injuries are classified as mild, moderate or severe based on the initial injury. A victim of a traumatic head injury will be examined by doctors in the emergency room. They learn as much as they can about how the injuries happened to try to quickly assess the patient's condition.

Most patients will be rated using the Glasgow Coma Score. Using this assessment, medical providers can identify if the injury is mild, moderate or severe based on how the patient responds (or doesn't respond). Mild injuries have high scores between 13 and 15. Moderate brain injuries have scores of 9 to 12, and severe injuries have a score of 8 or below.

In court, it's essential that information like this can be properly described to the judge and jury (if there is one). The score itself may be somewhat subjective, so it's also important to get additional tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) or Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS) to show a full picture of the victim's health.

Trying to describe injuries to a court can be difficult, especially since brain injuries are generally "invisible" to the naked eye. While the victim may struggle significantly in daily life, they may look totally normal. It's valuable to work with an attorney who can clearly express the way that this injury has affected the victim of the TBI. Additionally, having witnesses, such as those who were at the scene, friends who saw the recovery or family members living with the victim, speak in court could help drive the point home about how serious this injury is and what needs to be done to support the patient in the future.

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