Yes, a fall can cause a traumatic brain injury (TBI). According to data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2013, falls were the top cause of TBI-related visits to the emergency room, hospitalizations, and deaths nationwide.
While they are relatively less common among those between the ages of 15 and 64, falls led to:
- 54 percent of all reported TBIs in children under the age of 15 in 2013
- 79 percent of all reported TBIs in seniors (age 65 and up) in 2013
If left undiagnosed and untreated, a traumatic brain injury can cause long-term brain damage, including issues like memory loss, muscle weakness, and more.
Understanding How Falls Cause Traumatic Brain Injuries
Every fall is unique, and the injuries the victim suffers are unique as well. Fall-related TBIs can be mild, moderate, or severe. These are the most common ways traumatic brain injuries occur, as well as the type of fall that causes them. In many cases, it’s important that you seek immediate medical help when suffering these injuries.
Striking the Head on a Hard Surface or Object
Many head injuries caused by a fall occur because the victim strikes their head on the ground, a wall, or another object. This type of blow to the head can cause both open head injuries and closed head injuries, as well as primary and secondary brain injuries. Secondary injuries occur when the brain bleeds or swells, dangerously increasing intracranial pressure. This can damage other areas of the brain not affected by the primary injury and requires immediate medical attention. Symptoms of this increased pressure in your skull include headache, vomiting, and blurred vision.
Coup and Contrecoup Injuries
Coup and contrecoup injuries occur when the brain bounces back and forth inside the skull, causing bruises on each side. This can occur any time there is a sudden stop or a fall “whips” the head back and forth. Unfortunately, these types of TBIs are often misdiagnosed. Watch out for blurred vision, nausea, headache, and other symptoms. It’s important the victim seek emergency medical help.
Penetrating injuries occur when an object penetrates the skull and wounds the brain. This is possible when the victim falls on an object, especially in a fall from a significant height or when the object is sharp. For example, imagine you fell from stairs when a handrail gave way. If you landed on the metal bracket that previously supported the handrail, it could penetrate your skull and cause a traumatic brain injury. Of course, seeking medical treatment right away is vital.
Slip and Fall Brain Injuries Can Vary in Severity
There is a wide range of TBI symptoms. Most victims only suffer a minor concussion and recover relatively quickly, although they still need to see a doctor and receive treatment. A mild TBI can cause:
- A brief loss of consciousness, in some cases
- Dizziness and disorientation
- Feeling “foggy” and suffering problems with memory
- Sensitivity to light and other vision-related symptoms
- Emotional changes
- Sleep disturbances, including insomnia and/or fatigue
- Problems with word recall
- Slowed reaction times
- Difficulty with everyday tasks
In some cases, paramedics and emergency department staff may put the priority on obvious fall injuries such as a broken bone, soft tissue injury, or laceration. However, it is imperative they also evaluate all patients for head injuries. Many traumatic brain injuries have no immediate outward signs, and the victim may not realize they lost consciousness (if they did).
When TBIs are more serious, such as with moderate and severe injuries, the longer loss of consciousness makes it more likely that first responders or doctors will be aware the victim hit their head. These injuries usually require a hospital stay and may require surgery. Rehabilitation and therapy may follow.
Those who suffer moderate TBIs can expect to miss a month or more of work, and some people will take up to a year to recover. Many with severe TBIs never return to their previous job and life is never the same.
Recovering From a Fall-Related Traumatic Brain Injury
How fast and how much you recover from a brain injury depends on your specific case. The severity of your injury, its location in your brain, and a number of other factors make this very difficult to predict without first-hand knowledge of your injury and treatment plan. Some people can return to work within a week, and others require around-the-clock nursing care for the rest of their lives.
If you or a loved one suffered a traumatic brain injury in a fall, you qualify to receive a free case review with a member of the Pintas & Mullins team. For more than 20 years, our attorneys have protected the rights of fall victims. We can:
- Evaluate the viability of your personal injury case
- Determine if you may be eligible for compensation
- Explain your rights
- Pursue compensation from the property owner or occupier for your fall-related expenses and losses