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Understanding Traumatic Brain Injuries: A Comprehensive Guide to Pennsylvania Laws and Compensation

October 5, 2023

Understanding Traumatic Brain Injuries: A Comprehensive Guide to Pennsylvania Laws and Compensation

Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) are complex medical conditions with potentially life-altering consequences. When caused by the negligence or wrongdoing of another, Pennsylvania law provides avenues for victims to seek justice and compensation. This article aims to shed light on TBIs, their implications, and how Pennsylvania laws cater to affected individuals.

What is a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?

A TBI occurs when an external force injures the brain. It could be due to a blow, jolt, or penetration. Based on severity, TBIs can be classified into mild, moderate, and severe. Symptoms vary widely, from headaches or temporary confusion in mild cases to prolonged unconsciousness or memory loss in severe cases. TBIs can lead to cognitive, physical, and emotional impairments, sometimes with enduring or even permanent consequences.

Common Causes of TBI

  • Vehicle Accidents
  • Falls (especially in elderly and young children)
  • Sports-related injuries
  • Assaults
  • Workplace accidents

Pennsylvania Laws and TBIs

Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) can have life-altering consequences for victims and their families. Understanding how Pennsylvania laws approach TBIs can be instrumental in securing rightful compensation and justice for affected individuals. Here’s a detailed insight:

  • Definition and Recognition: In Pennsylvania, like elsewhere, TBIs are recognized as injuries resulting from external forces that cause brain dysfunction. They can be mild, such as concussions, or severe, leading to long-term impairment or disability.
  • Statute of Limitations: One of the most crucial legal parameters TBI victims need to be aware of is the statute of limitations. In Pennsylvania, victims have two years from the date of the injury to initiate a personal injury lawsuit. If one fails to file a lawsuit within this period, they may lose the right to pursue compensation.
  • Comparative Negligence: Pennsylvania employs a modified comparative negligence system. This means if a victim is partially at fault for their injuries, their compensation can be reduced by their percentage of fault. However, if the victim is found to be more than 50% at fault, they are barred from recovering any damages.
  • Damage Caps: While Pennsylvania doesn’t cap compensatory damages (e.g., medical bills, lost wages), it does have limits on punitive damages. Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant for particularly reckless or malicious behavior and are capped at two times the compensatory damages awarded.
  • Helmet Laws: Pennsylvania has specific helmet laws aimed at preventing TBIs. While not mandatory for all riders, those under 21 or those with less than two years of riding experience must wear helmets. While failure to wear a helmet doesn’t prevent a victim from seeking compensation, it could be introduced as evidence when discussing comparative negligence.
  • Mandatory Reporting: Pennsylvania law mandates certain professionals to report suspected cases of TBIs, especially if they arise from suspected cases of abuse.
  • Protection for Students: Recognizing the vulnerability of students and young athletes to TBIs, Pennsylvania adopted the Safety in Youth Sports Act. This law requires the removal of student-athletes from play if they show signs of a concussion. They can only return to play after receiving clearance from a healthcare professional.
  • Insurance and Coverage: Pennsylvania requires auto insurance policies to offer a minimum of $5,000 in medical benefits coverage, which can be used to cover the costs of TBIs resulting from auto accidents. However, given the expensive nature of TBI treatments, many victims find that this is insufficient.

Pursuing Compensation

Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) can result in significant medical bills, loss of wages, and emotional distress. In Pennsylvania, when such injuries are caused by another party’s negligence, victims have the right to seek compensation. Here’s a step-by-step guide to pursuing such compensation in the state:

  • Seek Immediate Medical Attention: Regardless of the perceived severity, always consult with a healthcare professional post-incident. Not only is this crucial for your health, but medical documentation is also essential for any legal case.
  • Gather Evidence: Document the accident scene, injuries, and any other relevant details. This includes photographs, witness statements, and details about the event. Keep all medical records and bills, as these serve as evidence of your injury and incurred expenses.
  • Consult with a Specialized Attorney: Seek legal representation, preferably from attorneys who specialize in TBI cases or personal injury law in Pennsylvania, like Purchase, George & Murphey, P.C. They can guide you through the complexities of the legal process.
  • Initiate the Claims Process: Your attorney will most likely start by sending a demand letter to the at-fault party or their insurance provider. This letter outlines the nature of the injury, the reason the other party is believed to be at fault, and the compensation sought.
  • Negotiation: Most TBI cases begin with a negotiation process between the victim’s representation and the at-fault party’s insurance provider. Your attorney will negotiate on your behalf to reach a fair settlement, which would cover medical bills, future care, lost wages, pain, and suffering.
  • File a Lawsuit (if necessary): If negotiations don’t yield a fair settlement, the next step is filing a lawsuit. In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases, including TBI, is two years. Make sure to initiate the lawsuit within this timeframe.
  • Discovery and Pre-Trial: Post-filing, both parties gather evidence in a process called discovery. This might include depositions, interrogatories, and expert testimonies. Your attorney will prepare your case, which may lead to further negotiations or proceed to trial.
  • Trial: If a settlement isn’t reached, your case will go to trial. Here, both sides present their evidence, and a judge or jury will determine fault and the amount of compensation owed.
  • Receive Compensation: If you win the case, the court will order the at-fault party to pay the decided compensation. If they don’t pay immediately, there are legal measures to enforce the judgment.
  • Appeal (if necessary): If the court’s decision isn’t in your favor, and your attorney believes there were legal errors during the trial, you can appeal the verdict.

Contact an Experienced Personal Injury at Purchase, George & Murphey, P.C for a Free Consultation About Your Case Today

TBIs can dramatically change one’s life. While compensation can’t undo the harm, it can alleviate financial burdens and bring a measure of justice. By understanding Pennsylvania’s laws and seeking skilled legal representation, TBI victims stand a better chance of getting the compensation they deserve.

The team at Purchase, George & Murphey, P.C. is committed to ensuring that TBI victims are adequately represented and that their rights are safeguarded at every stage of the legal process. If you or a loved one has suffered a TBI, it’s essential to act promptly and secure the legal expertise you deserve.