Assessing damages in child brain injury cases

Those who survive a brain injury can suffer for years, or even a lifetime. The physical and financial impact of a brain injury can be devastating. The law allows brain injury victims to pursue compensation from those responsible. The amount of compensation available generally depends on the severity of the injury, the cost of medical treatment and the impact of the injury on the victim's life.

Determining this amount is particularly difficult when the plaintiff is a child. Because children's brains are still developing, it can take time for brain damage to become apparent. When brain injury survivors are young, they may appear to have normal brain function. In the future, however, they may begin showing symptoms or missing developmental milestones.

While quantifying how a brain injury affects an adult, evaluators can compare the person's level of function after the injury to what the person was like (his or her "baseline") before the brain injury. Evaluators can look at educational records and testing and work performance to develop a baseline of how the adult functioned before the injury.

For children, especially those who are still developing, it is extremely difficult to detect and quantify functional deficits. Testing may be limited and it may be necessary to allow the child to develop to the age where skills would be expected, in order to evaluate whether the child is failing to reach developmental milestones because of a brain injury. Often times serial testing (multiple tests repeated over time) are necessary to track a child's growth and functioning over months and years, in order to determine all of the ways in which the brain injury is affecting the child.

The Importance of a Thorough Investigation

A personal injury claim is typically a parent's only chance to pursue financial compensation for the costs associated with a child's brain injury. It may be tempting to accept the first offer from an insurance company and try to move on, but it is important to consider whether the settlement will cover all the expenses associated with the injury - both in the immediate future and further down the road.

Because brain injuries can take time to manifest in younger injury victims, parents and guardians need to be patient and seek the advice of a law firm that has experience in handling these unique cases. Seek the advice of a law firm that knows what evidence and experts will be needed to prove the injury and who will fight to recover the compensation needed to adequately address the lasting effects of the brain injury.

To assess the strength of a case involving a child's brain injury, it is important to:

  • Evaluate the mechanism of injury;
  • Evaluate investigative reports, first responder notes, and witness statements, to uncover evidence of the brain injury, such as loss of consciousness or altered consciousness immediately after the incident;
  • Evaluate the initial medical reports and images of the brain for findings indicative of a brain injury;
  • Evaluate cognitive, neurological, and neuropsychological evaluations and testing;
  • Consider long-term observation of the child; In one case, we tracked the brain development of a child for seven years to determine how an injury affected him.
  • Evaluate witness reports: Parents, teachers and other adults close to the child can testify to changes in the child's behavior or function.
  • Evaluate expert testimony: Medical professionals, vocational experts and educators can testify to what challenges they believe the child will face as a result of the injury and the costs associated with those challenges.

Determining the financial impact of a child's brain injury is difficult, but it is important that parents and other representatives use every tool available to ensure the best possible life for the child.

Work with an Experienced Legal Team

Brain injury cases are highly complex and the stakes are high, particularly when children are involved. For the best possible outcome, parents should work with attorneys who have a record of success in similar cases. A personal injury lawyer cannot take away the pain of a serious injury, but he or she can fight for appropriate damages so parents can focus on caring for their child.