When you visit the emergency room following an accident, and the doctor informs you that you have a “mild concussion,” what exactly does that mean? Since it is mild, you don’t have that much to be concerned about, right?
Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions regarding the diagnosis of a “mild” traumatic brain injury (TBI), which doctors also refer to as a concussion. Too many patients hear the word “mild” and grossly underestimate their injuries or the need to seek compensation for their losses from at-fault parties.
Below, learn more about why doctors might refer to an injury with potentially serious and lasting effects as mild, and what you can do to protect your rights.
How Symptoms Present
Depending on the extent and location of brain trauma, these injuries can have widely varying symptoms from patient to patient. When medical professionals initially examine someone with a suspected brain injury, they look at how the symptoms are presenting to determine the specific diagnosis.
For example, a moderate to severe brain injury might result in a long period of unconsciousness, the inability to wake up from sleep, spinal fluid draining from the ears or nose, and seizures or convulsions, among other serious signs. Doctors observe such symptoms and enter a diagnosis of a moderate or severe TBI.
The immediate signs of a mild concussion can seem less concerning (though they should not be), as they are generally not life-threatening, and these might include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blurry vision
- Feeling confused or “out of it”
- Short blackout period
- Slurred speech
When doctors see these symptoms, they often diagnose a mild concussion, which can be confusing for patients.
“Mild” Does Not Reflect Your Potential Prognosis
When a medical professional deems your TBI to be “mild,” they are referring to your symptoms when you arrived at the emergency room – not to your overall prognosis. Many people assume that a mild concussion should not result in lasting symptoms and effects, which can be dangerous. Patients might not recognize that what they are feeling actually stems from their injury because they assumed their “mild” injury should clear up relatively quickly. This can be bad from both a medical and legal standpoint.
The reality is that mild concussions can have persistent effects that can impact your life in many ways. Some of these effects might include:
- Being overly sensitive to sound or light
- Chronic headaches
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Vision issues
- Balance problems and dizziness
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Sleeping more or less than you usually do
- Feeling like you have brain fog
- Trouble with concentration and focus
- Trouble paying attention
- Short or long-term memory problems
- Difficulty following basic directions
- Decreased comprehension and communication abilities
- Feelings of sadness
- Anger management issues
- Lack of emotional control
- Behavioral issues
Imagine that you believe that your so-called mild brain injury has healed, but you continue to experience several of the above symptoms. You likely will not realize that these effects stem from your concussion – after all, the doctor said it was mild, so it cleared up quickly, right?
Too many people struggle with symptoms of mild concussions for a long time without realizing what is happening, and this can result in additional problems, including depression, anxiety, frustration, isolation, and more.
Further, many concussion victims fail to tell their doctors about their continuing symptoms, as they might not connect the dots between the symptoms and their injury. This puts them at risk of developing complications and not getting the medical care or treatment plan they truly need.
Many people with mild concussions will feel better in the days or weeks after their injury, but it is important to keep in mind that this is not the case for everyone.
Research shows that:
- Almost one-third of mild concussion victims still feel effects of their brain injuries three months later
- Ten to fifteen percent of victims continue to feel effects one year after the injury
Since these symptoms can be debilitating, they might prevent you from performing your job duties, taking care of your household, or participating in your usual activities for a long time. Always tell your doctor about persistent symptoms, as you might receive a diagnosis of post-concussion syndrome. This can lead to a better treatment plan that addresses the true nature of your “mild” injury.
Your Legal Rights After a Concussion
Because of the persistent and serious effects of some “mild” concussions, many people experience surprisingly significant losses.
These can include losses from:
- Emergency medical care
- Follow-up appointments
- Time away from work
- Pain and suffering
If someone else caused your accident and concussion, that party should be liable for all of your losses.
There are many causes of concussions that can lead to financial recovery:
- Car and truck accidents
- Motorcycle and bicycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Dangerous products
- Nursing home abuse
Work with a brain injury attorney to determine the proper insurance claims you need to file to seek financial recovery.
Many insurance companies undervalue claims stemming from mild concussions. This is because adjusters see the word “mild” as part of your diagnosis and assume that your losses cannot be significant.
You want to have an experienced brain injury lawyer handling your claim who knows how to present the full value of your losses – both economic and noneconomic – in the most persuasive manner possible to the insurer. An attorney can advise you when you deserve more than the insurance adjuster offered and continue negotiating for the full amount you need to cover your damages.
If the insurance company continues to lowball your settlement offers, a skilled attorney can escalate the matter and file a brain injury lawsuit. They should handle every step of the litigation process, always working to reach a favorable settlement agreement before trial. Should your case go to trial, you want a lawyer who knows how to convince a jury of the major effects of your injury despite the diagnosis stating your concussion was “mild.”
Always take a mild concussion seriously, and never hesitate to raise concerns to your medical team or to protect your legal rights with the help of a brain injury lawyer.