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Brain Injuries

John L. Bertoldo:

Traumatic brain injury is probably one of the most difficult areas, in the law or in medicine, for determining when somebody’s hurt, how badly they’re hurt, what are their prospects for getting better. It is a cutting-edge field, a lawyer has to have experience handling these, and he has to work closely with the medical providers to be able to help a client through a situation. Essentially, when you have a traumatic brain injury, you’ve had some type of sudden movement of the brain within the vault of the skull. And that sudden movement could be because you hit your head, because your head moved quickly and then stopped quickly, such as in a whiplash.

We have things such as mild traumatic brain injury, where somebody is not necessarily rendered unconscious, but they still suffer some type of contusion, or some type of insult to the brain. We can’t pick that up on x-ray, we can’t pick that up on CAT scan, or MRI, or EEG, or some of the more common diagnostic tools because there’s not a structural change to the brain that’s visible. But there is an injury, on what’s called the “axonal level” of the cortex, or the outer surface of the brain, inside the vault of the skull, and we document the brain injury, because the person doesn’t function anymore. Maybe they had a great memory, and now they forget things. They can remember things way back, but they can’t remember telephone numbers that they’ve just been given, or they can’t remember their own street address. This can take a high functioning executive, or just a busy mother, homemaker, with a lot of kids and all their schedule, and it can just turn their life upside down. We have to immediately suspect it, have the doctors suspect it, test for it, and then there’s another aspect to this, and that is, it’s observable. It’s observable by the person’s friends, spouse, children, family, coworkers. If it’s an executive, right away, his executive assistant, his secretary, knows he’s not right. And so we isolate those people early on, and we have them observed, and we get feedback from them as to what’s different. And it can be devastating, to somebody who has a head injury, on their capacity to make a living, their capacity to carry forward. Somebody who may have never experienced depression in their life now becomes just overwhelmed. They don’t know what to do. And unless an attorney is experienced at helping somebody through that, by telling them, “Look, you’re going to go through this,” the effect that this has on people is devastating. And all because somebody was negligent in allowing a situation, a dangerous situation to come to be, and you know, somebody gets injured. So these are very important cases. A person ought to interview the lawyer that they’re planning on going to. After almost twenty-eight years, and handling many, many cases dealing with traumatic brain injury, I know what people need, I know how to counsel them through it, I know how to arrange the evidence so that we can give them the best chance at making a recovery and turning their life, which has been turned upside down or turned sideways, getting it back on an even keel, so they have hope, they can go forward.

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