Failure to Diagnose a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury After an Accident: Tips and Advice from Partner Jack Fine

I recently had several cases where the initial treating physicians in the emergency room failed to diagnose a brain injury or concussion, but later, treating physicians not only diagnosed the injury, they also had their diagnosis confirmed by objective tests.

Why was the diagnosis initially missed?

In each of these cases, the emergency room doctors were more concerned about traumatic injuries that were more apparent. Frequently, if a patient has an acute fracture or even a neck or back whiplash injury, the physician will focus on those injuries and not utilize the typical battery of tests to determine an injury such as a concussion. The emergency room doctors work hard and fast to treat the most acute injuries and the concussion, which is another definition for a mild traumatic brain injury, is not noted by the patient when other parts of their bodies are in more acute pain.

Therefore, friends and relatives of an individual injured in an accident, particularly one who had a period of unconsciousness, however brief, or a period of time where that individual was dazed or confused should be sensitive to the possibility of a brain injury. Problems with memory, nausea, balance, dizziness, vertigo, word finding difficulties, and personality change are all potential symptoms of a head injury.

If a concussion or brain injury is suspected, please let the treating physician know that these symptoms exist. Well-trained physicians will administer a concussion protocol, which is a series of questions designed to evaluate the most common symptoms of a head injury.

In our law practice we will refer clients who have been diagnosed with a brain injury or who are showing the symptoms of a brain injury to a variety of professionals. These can include rehabilitation physicians, neuropsychologists, neurologists, psychiatrists, neurosurgeons, and radiologists. There are numerous objective tests that can be administered to document injury to the brain, but these tests can be expensive.

Critical evidence of a brain injury can be provided by lay witnesses. These “before and after” witnesses can establish the actual effect that the injury sustained in the accident have had upon the plaintiff.

Accident victims may not realize that they have sustained a brain injury so it is important for friends and relatives to be aware of the potential for such a diagnosis. Importantly, if a head, brain or post concussive injury is suspected, bring that to your lawyer’s attention. Your lawyer will try to find the best physician to document and treat the injury. At Fine, Farkash & Parlapiano, we will work to your needs so that you can continue living your life happily.