Traumatic brain injury is a leading factor in 30 percent of all injury deaths, according to recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For survivors of a traumatic brain injury, the road to recovery can be fraught with a myriad of long-lasting effects and complications, including permanent changes in cognitive capability.
When traumatic brain injuries happen, it's usually up to a skilled and experienced attorney, such as Bennett & Sharp PLLC, to help those affected seek fair compensation for lost wages, emotional distress and pain and suffering. Calculating the monetary damages in a traumatic brain injury case is often a difficult process and there are numerous factors that must be taken into account.
It Depends on the Severity of the Injury
TBI cases are often valued based on the severity of the brain injury, which is usually calculated based on the Glasgow Coma Scale, a commonly used method of quantifying closed head injuries. Mild brain injuries are rated on a scale of 13 to 15, while moderate and severe injuries are rated on a scale of 9 to 12 and 3 to 8, respectively. In many cases, a severe injury on the GCS may result in a higher valuation of a TBI case than a mild injury, although there are many other factors that could result in a different outcome.
Although the GCS provides some degree of accuracy in terms of assessing brain injury, it's still exceptionally difficult to assign a specific dollar amount to a traumatic brain injury. For this reason, a typical award for TBI can range from just a few thousand dollars to several million dollars, depending on the severity of the injury and other circumstances surrounding the event.
Different Types of Damages
A typical TBI case usually involves calculating economic and non-economic damages, as well as any compensatory and/or punitive damages ordered by the court:
- Economic damages typically include medical expenses, lost earnings, property damage and other quantifiable damages. The plaintiff may also be compensated for projected future medical expenses as well as future earnings that would be lost due to TBI-induced disability. If the case involves a deceased individual, these damages also include funeral and burial expenses.
- Non-economic damages include damages that are difficult to quantify in monetary terms, including pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of reputation and/or companionship. The spouse or family of the plaintiff may also file for loss of consortium.
Both economic and non-economic damages may be covered under compensatory damages, which aim to compensate the plaintiff not only for the injuries they've suffered, but also for any future hardships they may face due to those injuries. For instance, the extent of the severity of the brain injury may preclude the plaintiff from holding gainful employment for the rest of his or her life and/or create further expenses for future medical treatment to address the condition.
Punitive damages may also be awarded in addition to the affirmation compensatory damages. Punitive damages are often used as a measure to deter the defendant and others from committing the same negligence or conduct leading to the injury in question.
Some States May Impose Caps
Some states place damages caps or monetary limits on non-economic and punitive damages awarded in injury cases, including those involving TBI. These caps are designed to discourage plaintiffs from seeking outsized verdicts by bringing suits with little to no merit.
The size of these caps may vary depending on the state's statutes, as well as the role the defendant played in causing the injury. For instance, the cap for punitive damages for an injury may be significantly lower for injuries caused by accidental negligence than for an injury caused by a malicious and life-threatening act.
Other Expenses May Also Be Included
In addition to compensatory and punitive damages, the courts may also issue an award or settlement that adequately covers the various fees and other expenses incurred throughout the case. These expenses often include filing fees, expenses for expert witnesses and various other court costs and attorney's fees. Most attorneys will put forward a specific monetary amount to cover these and other potential costs prior to trial, usually in hopes of recovering said amount and other expenses through the award or settlement.