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Articles Posted in Brain Injury Lawsuits

The human brain is essentially what makes our species stand out from the rest on the planet. Evolutionary biologists explain that humans adapted our unique physical features in much the same ways as all other animals. But in one respect we completely out-did anything else: our brains. Brain size usually correlates with physical size. Mice have small brain; whales have large brains. Humans, however, break the mold. The size of our brains is drastically larger than what would be expected based on our body size. But it is the very size of our brain that has allowed us to thrive in the manner that we have.

Interestingly, our biggest strength, is also a vulnerability, particularly in our earliest stages. Historically, childbirth is one of the biggest health risks for women. That is in large part because of the challenges of delivering a child with a large head necessary to protect the brain. Evolutionarily, the human body developed with trade-offs, sacrificing an easier birth in exchange for a longer gestation period and larger brain in the infant.

Fortunately, we have made enormous strides over the years in improving birthing safety, drastically reducing the mortality rate for mothers and children. The availability of alternative birthing methods, like a cesarean section, can save lives and minimize injury when traditional vaginal births would otherwise cause harm. But that is not to say that the process is without risk, particularly when caregivers make mistakes. When that happens, affected families may be able to seek accountability via the civil justice system.

Frivolous lawsuits. You hear the phrase all the time. Those seeking to change the law in Illinois to limit the legal rights of community members often throw the phrase out there as if everyone “knows’ that most lawsuits have no merit. A recent column in the Press Mentor made the point, arguing that juries should effectively automatically assume that the injured plaintiff is responsible for their own harm and reject fair awards against negligent-defendants.

Fortunately, Stephen D. Phillips, President of the Illinois Trial Lawyer’s Association, wrote an enlightening column responding the misleading article.

Real Harm

Over the past year, many headlines were made regarding the thousands of former NFL players who filed suit against the league. The claims made by players are widespread, but all stem around league actions which increased concussions for players and otherwise led to the athletes suffering long-term harm.

The case took a new turn in recent weeks with an apparent settlement between the league and roughly 4,500 players who were part of the initial matter. Multiple sources reported on a $765 million settlement. The money will mostly go to aid in the recovery of injured former players with some of the settlement earmarked for education and prevention efforts.

Some assume that this proposed settlement will end the matter. But that assumption is a bit premature. Other athletes still remain and future actions are not out of the question. In fact, one was just filed last week.

On any given day, you are most at risk for suffering a TBI the moment that you enter a car and pull out onto the road. Motor vehicle accidents are far and away the most common cause of brain injuries, because they combine high speeds and (relatively) high chance of collision which are the hallmarks of head trauma.

But if car accidents are the single most likely cause of TBI, then the actual causes of the car accident are quite varied. There are simply many different factors that may contribute to one of these accidents on the roadway. Any legal action that might be pursued following these events will hinge specifically on those causes.

At times the answer may be somewhat straightforward. Perhaps a driver ran a red light and T-boned a traveler who was properly traveling through an intersection. At other times, the cause may not be so clear. That is because those involved may have different accounts of what happened, requiring sophisticated accident reconstruction specialists to examine the position of the cars and other factors to determine whose story is accurate. If things like drifting or speeding were the underlying cause, it takes close analysis to actually prove it.

There were new developments last week in the large National Football League (NFL) concussion case. As blog readers know, thousands of former players filed over 200 individual lawsuits in recent years. Those suits make a range of specific allegations, including claims that the league misled players about long-term damage caused by repeated head injuries.

The lawsuit has become part of a national conversation about brain injuries in general, and the hidden harm that may be caused by sports like football where concussions are common.

The Concussion Lawsuit

What do brain injury lawsuits, marriage, and the U.S. Supreme Court have in common?

More than you think.

Last week was an important one for those who support the rights of all couples under the law, regardless of sexual orientation. That is because the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion in two hotly contested cases related to marriage rights for same sex couples. In one of those cases (U.S. v Windsor), the Court struck down the critical portion of a law known as the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA was the law passed in 1996 which forbid the federal government from recognizing same sex couples as married, regardless of whether those couples were lawfully married by their own state.

Most brain injury lawsuit news space is gobbled up by talk of the legal challenges against the National Football League. NFL officials, among other things, are accused of downplaying information about serious head injury risks to professional athletes and encouraging hard hits that ultimately caused serious harm to thousands of players.

Often forgotten is that many of those same plaintiffs also pointed to other liable parties, including the makers and manufacturers of the equipment used in the sport. By far the leader in this regard is the helmet-maker, Riddell. The company was hit by many different lawsuits. A jury verdict recently came down in the latest of these, resulting in a significant renunciation of the company’s practices.

$11 Million Riddell Verdict

Brain injuries can arise in a wide array of events, from car accidents and sport collisions to medical malpractice and more. When the injury is caused by the negligence of someone else, then a civil lawsuit may be filed to compensate the party for their losses. In the truly unique cases where the wrongdoer acts with reckless abandon or extreme negligence, then there is also a chance that the defendant will be hit with punitive damages. Instead of compensating the one hurt, these damages are meant to punish the person who acted so wrongly.

There remains much confusion about the purpose of these awards, their size, and frequency.

At the outset, it is important to understand that punitive damages are rare. They are not something that comes up in the vast majority of cases. Additionally, when they do arise, they do not automatically mean a penalty of tens or hundreds of millions of dollars. Punitive damage awards are usually much smaller, and tied to the size of the compensatory damages themselves.

Troubles continue to mount for the National Football League, as more and more brain injury lawsuits are being filed by those who claim to have been affected in one way or another by the league’s action (or lack of action) which allegedly led to athlete head injuries. As we have discussed frequently, many former NFL players claim that the league knew (or should have known) of long-term harm that came to players because of the sport. Claims suggest that the NFL downplayed those risks and otherwise encouraged certain conduct on the field which increased the risk of player head injury. For many of these former players, their years on the gridiron have led to significant problems in retirement, with early dementia and other cognitive disabilities.

Wrongful Death Lawsuit

In the past, most of the claims against the NFL sought to assist those players who were struggling with the effect of long-term brain injury. However, this week several news outlets reported that two wrongful death lawsuits were recently consolidated with the concussion-cases. The Journal Times noted that the two cases both stem from the suicide of NFL superstar Junior Seau. One of the lawsuit was filed by Seau’s parents and the other by his four children.

There is no magic bullet to “solve” the brain injury problem. The issue is so large, arises in so many different settings, and includes so many different medical concerns that we can all expect to be dealing with brain injury risks for the rest of our lives. But one simple step that can lead to beneficial benefits for all types of injuries is increased awareness. The mere act of getting more people to take some time to consider the seriousness of brain injuries and the myriad of risks they face each day may have ripple effects that ultimately change the lives of those suffering from the injury. From being more cautious when behind the wheel (car accidents are a leading cause of TBI) to prioritizing safety in sporting events, the more residents are aware of the scope of brain injuries, the better.

It is in that spirit that March has been designated at Brain Injury Awareness Month. Various events for both professionals and community members have been ongoing throughout the past few weeks. One overarching theme is to spread the message that a staggering 1.7 million Americans suffer a traumatic brain injury each and every year. In other words, these are not fluke accidents but serious systematic injuries that affect virtually everyone at one point or another.

As a Huffington Post story explained this week, the statistics remain somewhat shaky, because many people experience milder TBIs without getting a proper diagnosis or treatment. There are often no outward symptoms. Instead the harm is often felt only internally, including things like dizziness, concentration problems, nausea, and more.

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