Head injuries and Workers’ Compensation in North Carolina and Virginia

Posted on Wednesday, December 20th, 2017 at 2:27 pm    

Injuries to the head can be caused by slips and falls, merchandise or inventory that falls, vehicle accidents, equipment that doesn’t work, diving accidents, and for many other reasons. Some head injuries heal with time. More serious injuries, like severe traumatic brain injuries, can change a life forever. In the worst cases, an on-the-job workplace head injury can cause death.

Industries where head injuries are common

Jobs that have the highest risk for a head injury are:

  • Police officers
  • Construction work
  • Firefighters
  • Loading dock workers
  • Delivery personnel
  • Professional sports
  • Healthcare work

This does not mean to say we have not seen severe head injuries occur in all kinds of occupations such as nurses, certified nursing assistants or truckers. You can slip on water or ice and get knocked unconscious in almost any occupation.

How head injuries are categorized

The various types of head injuries include:

  • Concussions. A concussion is a form of traumatic brain injury (TBI) that occurs due to a violent blow or shaking of the head. Symptoms include memory loss, poor balance, difficulties with concentration, and headaches. A concussion can (but doesn’t necessarily) mean a loss of consciousness. While a single concussion is often temporary, the cumulative effects can be devastating and even cause death. Evidence is now beginning to show that even one concussion often causes permanent damage.
  • A traumatic brain injury (TBI). Aside from concussions, TBIs include:
    • Closed head injuries. Here, the head is injured but the skull doesn’t break. These may include a subdural hematoma, or brain bleed.
    • Open/Penetrating head injury. Here the injury breaks the skull.

Traumatic brain injuries are typically categorized as mild, moderate, or severe.

  • Contusion. This is a bruise to the brain. Surgery may be required to stop any bleeding.
  • Coup-contrecoup. This type of injury causes multiple brain contusions – one at the impact site and another at the side of the brain opposite the impact site.
  • Diffuse Axonal injury. Here, nerve tissue is torn which can affect communication. Car accidents and accidents that cause the head to rotate usually cause this type of head injury
  • Anoxic brain injury. Here, the brain doesn’t get the oxygen it needs.
  • Recurrent traumatic brain injury. A second brain injury that occurs before the first TBI has healed.
  • Skull fracture. Skull fractures are categorized as either a depressed skull fracture or a compound fracture.

Physicians generally use the Glasgow Coma Scale (CGS) do determine the severity of any brain injury. The CGS categories for TBI injuries are:

  • Mild TBI symptoms. Headaches, nausea, difficulty sleeping, problems with memory and concentration, mood swings, and balance problems.
  • Moderate TBI symptoms. Loss of consciousness, coma, headaches, and changes in behavior
  • Severe TBI symptoms. Consequences include coma, minimal responsiveness, and living a vegetative state.

Other symptoms include pain, loss of vision and hearing, inability to reason, and loss of cognitive function.

Finally, there are often symptoms that last for six months to a year after a concussion that may include difficulty concentrating, dizziness, increased irritability, loss of desire to be in social situations, and other symptoms that form a constellation of symptoms known as Post Concussion Syndrome (PCS).  Typically a neurologist would be in the best position to diagnose and treat these symptoms.

Steps to take if you have a head injury

Any employee who suffers any type of head injury should:

  1. Report the injury to your employer. The sooner you see a doctor or go the emergency room, the less likely the employer will claim that your injury isn’t work-related. It is best to report the symptoms and leave the medical classification of your injury to your physician.
  2. Seek medical attention. Head injury symptoms can take a while to appear. Early intervention can save a life. Once you complete the necessary work injury forms, your employer will give you a list of approved doctors to see. These doctors are paid by the workers’ compensation insurance carrier. If these doctors aren’t helping, aren’t fighting for you and not the employer, an experienced North Carolina or Virginia workers’ compensation lawyer will help direct you to a doctor of your choice.

In head injury cases, you will normally see a neurologist or neurosurgeon. These doctors will normally order a CT scan to see if you have a skull fracture, hematoma  or other brain injury.  An MRI and in some cases a PET scan may also be administered to head injury patients to evaluate brain function.

In addition, in many cases, a neuropsychologist or neuropsychiatrist may administer a battery of written tests to the brain injury victim in order to determine the extent and nature of any cognitive deficits that may have occurred as a result of the head injury.

Workers compensation benefits for head injuries

Whatever your type of head injury, you are entitled to have the insurance company for the employer pay your medical bills until you reach maximum medical improvement (MMI). Common head injury medical bills include:

  • Any surgeries in a hospital or ambulatory surgery center
  • Doctor visits
  • Medical equipment
  • Medications
  • Diagnostic tests such as EEG’s MRI’s and PET scans.

Many head injury victims also need to see different types of rehabilitative therapists including occupational therapists, speech therapists, psychologists, and other doctors and counselors.

Head injury victims often need attendant care services such as home-health nurses and aides to help them with daily living matters.

Once you reach MMI, an evaluation will be made by your doctor about whether you can return to work at your prior job, a different job – or if you can’t return to work.

Workers are entitled to 2/3rds of their lost wages during the time they can’t work for up to 500 weeks while disabled from work.

Severe brain injuries are one of the categories of injury in Virginia and North Carolina that may entitle a worker to lifetime compensation instead of just the 500 weeks based on permanent and total disability.  This is if the brain injury renders the employee permanently unemployable in gainful employment.

If you can return to work but at a lesser-paying job, you are entitled to 2/3rds of the difference between your current wages and your prior wages.

Employees should never attempt to settle their head injury claim before they reach maximum medical improvement – which can take months or years.

Workers may also be entitled to vocational training if they can’t do their old job but may be able to do a new job – if they acquire new job skills.

Speak with a trusted North Carolina and Virginia work injury attorney today

Attorney Joe Miller understands the complex cases. He works with medical professionals to properly prepare your medical reports and to properly relate your injuries to your inability to work. He has helped thousands of employees get strong work injury settlements. For help now, please phone Joe Miller Esq. at (888) 694-1671 or complete his contact form.