When a child sustains a head injury, it can be very frightening and traumatic for the child and the parents. Immediately following an incident, outward signs of trauma may not be immediately be evident, but traumatic brain injury in children may be hiding below the surface. Traumatic brain injuries or TBIs are common in children. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that TBI is the leading cause of disability and death for young adults and children in the United States.
Approximately 1.5 million cases of TBI are reported in the United States each year. TBI results in about 50,000 deaths each year and 90,000 cases of long-term disability. During 2014, approximately 812,000 children 17 years or younger received emergency room treatment for traumatic brain injury.
Children under the age of four and young adults between the ages of 15 and 24 years are included in the age groups for being most at risk of sustaining a traumatic brain injury.
Our California traumatic brain injury lawyers represent children and parents in personal injury claims seeking compensation for TBI-related damages. We understand that you may have questions about TBI claims and children. In this article, we cover several topics for parents who may be dealing with a pediatric traumatic brain injury.
Keep reading to learn more about:
- Causes of Traumatic Brain Injury in Children
- Symptoms of Pediatric Traumatic Brain Injury
- Types of Traumatic Brain Injury, Diagnosis, and Treatment
- Myths About Traumatic Brain Injury
- Compensation Available For Traumatic Brain Injury Claims
- Hiring a California Traumatic Brain Injury Attorney
Causes of Traumatic Brain Injury in Children
A TBI can result from almost any accidental injury. It can also result from cases of medical malpractice. Some of the most common causes of traumatic brain injury in children include:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Sports-related injuries
- Being struck by an object
- Bicycle accidents
A traumatic brain injury may be caused by a blow to the head or a penetrating head injury (an object breaking through the skull to enter the brain). However, a child may sustain a TBI without receiving a blow to the head.
TBIs can also develop when a child is violently shaken or the head jerks suddenly backward and forward or from side-to-side. Any action that causes a violent or sudden “whipping motion” can cause the brain to move within the skull.
As the brain moves within the skull, it strikes the skull in one or more places, which can result in bruising, bleeding, tearing, or other trauma to the brain. An example would be a child involved in a rear-end car accident or a child on a roller coaster or other amusement ride that jerks the body around violently.
Symptoms of Pediatric Traumatic Brain Injury in Children
The symptoms of pediatric traumatic brain injury vary from case to case. Many of the symptoms are the same as TBI symptoms for adults. However, younger children may develop additional symptoms that are not necessarily common in older children or adults.
Children can display TBI symptoms related to physical, sensory, cognitive, language, behavioral, speech, and emotional functions. Some common symptoms of TBI include:
- Physical symptoms, including loss of consciousness, dizziness, fatigue, headaches, pain, nausea, seizures, vomiting, changes in bowel/bladder functions, and impaired movements.
- Sensory or perceptual symptoms, including problems with vision, hearing, smell, touch, and taste
- Cognitive problems, such as problems with memory, mood changes, attention problems, and information processing
- Behavioral and emotional symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, agitation, irritability, mood swings, and changes in sleep patterns
- Problems with swallowing and feeding
- Language and speech problems, such as difficulty maintaining conversations, impaired nonverbal communication, difficulty following directions, problems comprehending written text, and trouble maintaining a topic of conversation
Symptoms of TBI in Children
Children, especially younger children, may display symptoms of TBI that are not present in older individuals. Children may be unable to verbalize symptoms like headaches, dizziness, or sensory problems.
The symptoms may present in various forms of behavior, such as:
- Persistent crying or fussiness that does not respond to consoling
- Loss of interest in favorite items or activities
- Changes in sleeping, feeding, or nursing habits
- Extreme fatigue or drowsiness
- Loss of acquired language skills
- Unable to pay attention
- Changes in play
- Loss of balance or unsteady when walking
- Sensitivity to noise or light
- Loss of acquired skills, such as toilet training
Any changes in your child’s behavior after a head injury could indicate a TBI. Always trust your instincts. Call your pediatrician or go to the emergency room if you believe your child needs immediate medical attention.
Danger Signs that Require Immediate Medical Attention
There are some danger signs that indicate an adult or a child requires immediate medical attention for a traumatic brain injury.
According to the CDC, if your child experiences any of the following symptoms, go to the emergency room immediately:
- Is inconsolable or will not stop crying
- Refuses to eat or nurse
- Loss of consciousness
- Has seizures or convulsions
- Headaches that do not go away or get worse
- Cannot recognize people or places
- Slurred speech
- Decreased coordination
- Numbness or weakness
- One pupil is larger than the other
- Repeated nausea or vomiting
- Increased agitation, confusion, or restlessness
- Cannot wake up or very drowsy
- Any unusual behavior
Types of Traumatic Brain Injury, Diagnosis, and Treatment
Traumatic brain injuries can range in severity from mild to severe. Mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) is often referred to as a concussion. The treatment for traumatic brain injuries varies depending on the severity of the brain injury.
Individuals who sustain concussions typically recover within a few weeks or months. Even though a head injury may not appear severe or a child is not experiencing symptoms, it is generally best to have your child checked by a physician any time a head injury occurs or is suspected.
Mild TBIs can cause headaches and other mild symptoms. For most people, rest and over-the-counter pain medications for headaches are sufficient to treat a mild TBI. However, if your child continues to experience symptoms, symptoms become worse, or additional symptoms develop, contact your pediatrician immediately.
Moderate to Severe Traumatic Brain Injury
Moderate to severe traumatic brain injury typically results in one or more symptoms that can persist for weeks or months. Moderate to severe TBI generally results in symptoms that persist for weeks or months.
In some cases, an individual with a severe TBI can experience permanent disabilities and long-term impairments. Signs that a TBI may be moderate to severe is increasing severity of symptoms, loss of consciousness, or development of additional symptoms.
Moderate and severe cases of traumatic brain injury may require intensive medical treatment. Children may be hospitalized or require surgery to treat a severe TBI. Several medications may be used to treat severe TBIs, including anti-seizure medications, diuretics to reduce fluid in the brain, and coma-inducing drugs in severe cases.
Rehabilitation, occupation therapy, and physical therapy may be required to address complications and impairments from TBI. A child may need treatment from a neuropsychologist, speech & language pathologist, and physiatrist.
The treatment for a severe or moderate TBI depends on the severity of the injury, the area of the brain impacted by the injury, the symptoms, and any complications caused by the TBI.
Diagnosis of Traumatic Brain Injury
In many cases, a child with a head injury is taken directly to the hospital. In the emergency room, doctors work quickly to assess the child’s condition and begin monitoring the child for changes. Many cases of brain injury can worsen very quickly.
The Glasgow Coma Scale helps medical providers quickly assess the initial damage to the functions that indicate the severity of the brain damage. Doctors may request one or more diagnostic tests to help diagnose a TBI, including MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) and CT (computerized tomography) scans. A doctor may also insert a probe into the skull to monitor the intracranial pressure and brain swelling.
Once a child is stabilized and treated for the TBI, the child may need additional testing and assessment to determine the severity of the TBI and any complications and impairments caused by the TBI. Common assessments used with a childhood TBI include:
- Hearing Assessments
- Vision Screenings
- Motor Skills Assessments
- Feeding and Swallowing Assessments
- Behavior and Emotional Assessments
- Cognition and Language Assessments
Assessments are important to determine the long-term effects of TBI on children. Knowing the full extent of a TBI is necessary to develop a comprehensive treatment plan that gives a child the best chance of recovery as fully as possible.
Myths About Traumatic Brain Injury
Many myths about TBI can result in additional harm for a child if a parent is not aware that the information the parent receives is incorrect.
Five of the most common TBI myths are:
- You must lose consciousness – A child can sustain a severe TBI without ever losing consciousness. Loss of consciousness is not a requirement for a traumatic brain injury.
- You must strike your head to sustain a TBI – Not true! A child can sustain a TBI from a fall, car accident, sports injury, riding a roller coaster, or any other activity that causes the head to jerk suddenly or violently. The movement can cause the brain to strike the skull resulting in severe brain injury.
- A mild traumatic brain injury is not serious – All head injuries should be treated seriously. A child that sustains a concussion has a higher risk of developing another concussion. Repeated concussions can lead to death and permanent disabilities.
- A negative imagining test means there is no brain damage – Imaging tests are very useful diagnostic tools. However, the results are not always correct. You can have a negative imaging test and still have a brain injury. A medical provider should conduct a battery of assessments to determine if your child sustained a TBI.
- Helmets prevent traumatic brain injury – Helmets are highly effective in reducing the risk of brain injury and death in an accident. However, helmets do not prevent all brain injuries. Parents should choose the right helmet for the right activity and make sure that the helmet meets or exceeds all federal safety standards. However, parents should not rely on helmets to prevent all types of brain injuries.
Compensation Available For Traumatic Brain Injury Claims
The cost of TBI can be substantial. Traumatic brain injuries can result in expensive medical treatments, assessments, therapies, and long-term care costs. Parents may lose a substantial amount of time from work and may be unable to return to work as they care for their child. A child could have permanent disabilities and impairments that significantly impact the child’s ability to gain an education and earn a living. For some children, they may need assisted care for the rest of their lives after sustaining a traumatic brain injury.
The value of a traumatic brain injury claim depends on numerous factors. A parent should strongly consider hiring a California brain injury lawyer for their child. A brain injury lawyer in California can guide parents on what types of services may be needed for their child. They can also help parents locate providers and experts who can evaluate their child for long-term impacts from a TBI.
Parents should not settle with an insurance company or other party until their child has completed treatment and the full extent of the brain damage is known. However, there are time limits for filing brain injury claims, so parents should not delay in seeking legal advice regarding a claim.
Common damages included in a childhood traumatic brain injury claim include, but are not limited to:
- The cost of medical treatment,
- Personal care costs;
- Medical equipment;
- Necessary home modifications related to disabilities and impairments;
- Assessments and therapy;
- Emotional and behavioral counseling;
- Loss of income for parents taking care of their children;
- Mental anguish and emotional distress;
- Loss of quality of life;
- Permanent disabilities and impairments; and,
- Other damages, financial losses, and expenses related to the accident, injury, and recovery.
Our California pediatric TBI injury lawyers help you and your child fight for the compensation your child deserves. Monetary awards do not undo the harm your child suffered because of the negligence and wrongdoing of another party. An injury claim can help your child have the resources necessary to obtain continued care and support.
Hiring a California Traumatic Brain Injury Attorney
The lawyers of The Thompson Law Office are dedicated to protecting the rights of children who are injured in accidents. We understand a childhood injury can cause overwhelming anxiety and sadness. Let us protect your child’s legal rights while you focus all your attention on your child’s needs.
For a free consultation with a California TBI injury lawyer, contact our office at 1-650-513-6111.