Just as an example, over half of all reported traumatic brain injuries are the result of an automobile accident. Catastrophic injuries, such as a traumatic brain injury, can occur as a result of any force that penetrates or fractures the skull; areas which are susceptible during an auto accident.
Trauma to the brain can occur during an automobile accident when the skull strikes, for example, an object like a steering wheel or windshield. There may not be an open wound to the skull as a result of the accident. Yet in automobile accidents, the skull may not necessarily need to have been penetrated or fractured for a traumatic brain injury to occur. In the case of an automobile accident, the sheer force of the accident can cause the brain to collide against the internal hard bone of the skull. The reason why this can occur is that when a moving head comes to a quick stop, the brain continues in its movement, striking the interior of the skull. This can cause bruising of the brain (referred to as a contusion) and bleeding (brain hemorrhage) which may not be visible at the time of injury.
Blunt trauma is a more serious type of head injury that can occur in an automobile accident when a moving head strikes a stationary object like the windshield, where the head is impacted causing an open wound which can be sustained from a variety of sources such as roof crush or occupant ejection in a car accident. At impact the brain opposite the site of impact is pulled away from the skull, injuring the brain there.
When a traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury or any type of severe injury in which the occupants of a motor vehicle have sustained serious, debilitating injuries severely affecting their way of life, there are a number of factors that should be evaluated. In some cases the extent of the injury may have been more severe due to outside factors that contributed to the accident.
Crashworthiness is a term used to define the ability of a structure, such as an automobile, to protect its occupants during an impact. The “crashworthiness” of a vehicle is a term used commonly when testing and investigating the safety of vehicles. In the case of an automobile accident which has led to a more severe injury such as a traumatic brain injury, you may want to discuss your case with an experienced attorney to find out if your injury was caused by factors outside of the types of injuries that one may see in a motor vehicle accident. Depending on the nature of the impact and the vehicle involved, different criteria are used to determine the “crashworthiness” of the structure. In a “crashworthiness” case, it does not matter whose fault the accident was, and it doesn’t matter how the accident occurred; the real question in the case is, “Did the vehicle protect the person driving and the passenger(s) as it should have in the crash,” according to attorney Joel Rosen of the law firm of Cohen, Placitella and Roth.
There is a duty known as the “crashworthiness doctrine” which states that “although a collision may not be the normal or intended use of a motor vehicle, vehicle manufacturers must take accidents into consideration as reasonably foreseeable occurrences involving their products. The design and manufacture of products should not be carried out in an industrial vacuum, but with recognition of the realities of everyday use . . . The manufacturer must evaluate the crashworthiness of his product and take such steps as may be reasonable and practicable to forestall particular crash injuries,” continues attorney Joel Rosen.
In the case of an automobile accident, a traumatic brain injury may have occurred due to an automotive defect. Cases of an automotive defect have recently been featured in the news such as sudden acceleration, in which the vehicle suddenly accelerates due to a manufacturing defect. In these types of cases, there is a pre-existing defect in the vehicle, which may have actually caused the accident to occur. An automotive defect or defective part, can include anything from defective seatbelts, defective airbags, defective seatbelts, child seat safety failures or product recalls, tire failure or defective tires, improper window glazing, laminated versus tempered glass on windshields, side and rear windows, faulty door latches, improperly designed roofs which can crush in a car accident which results in a rollover, or defects in the vehicle which lead to rollovers.
When these types of automotive defects contribute to the accident, it can lead to more severe injuries for the victims.
No one expects to get hurt. But if you or a loved one has been injured in an automobile accident, the facts of the accident, and the amounts of coverage that are available are important. However, you will need someone who can stand up for you, protect your rights and fight for what is fair. And that should be an experienced lawyer.
You’ll want to contact an attorney who has the experience that you and your family need. The lawyer will be able to assist in determining if you are entitled to compensatory damages for your injuries from those responsible due to at-fault, negligent, reckless or aggressive drivers or by other means such as defective parts, defective or recalled vehicle, or automotive design defects. These include the cost of medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Victims may also be entitled to punitive damages, which are designed to punish the defendant for their reckless behavior in the case of automotive negligence/ liability claims.
State laws regarding medical insurance available for catastrophic injuries and disabilities sustained in an auto accident vary. Typically, the insurance carrier for the vehicle that you (or your family) own pays your medical bills, if the policy provides for such coverage.
If you do not own the vehicle, or live in a household with relatives who own the vehicle, under certain state laws your medical bills will be paid under that policy. If there is no motor vehicle coverage in the household, typically medical bills will be paid by the auto insurance carrier for the vehicle in which you are a passenger when the accident occurred. It is important to know that under the typical auto insurance policy, there is very limited “health” insurance coverage.
Once the insurance benefits under the auto policy have been paid out, if you have other health insurance, your bills will then be paid through that health insurance carrier. If not, then you need to apply for insurance benefits or Social Security, Medical Assistance and/or Medicare.
Catastrophic automobile accidents are caused by the drivers, the vehicle, the roadway, or some combination. Accordingly, an investigation needs to be undertaken to determine the causes of a catastrophic injury. Only an experienced attorney can properly and effectively investigate and analyze the matter.
The drivers involved in the accident may have some responsibility to compensate you for injuries and losses. If the drivers do not have auto insurance, you may be able to receive benefits from your own auto insurance policy through the “uninsured motorist coverage” in your own policy.
Additionally, claims can be brought against others. Products liability cases can be brought against the manufacturers of the vehicle if a defect in the vehicle caused the injury or disability. Claims can be brought against the state or municipal highway department if the roadway is unsafe (one of the so-called “killer highways”).
In certain circumstances, an investigation needs to be undertaken to determine whether any of the drivers were intoxicated, and whether any bar or other person is responsible for having continued to serve an intoxicated or minor person. A professional investigation by an experienced attorney, along with investigators and forensic experts must be undertaken regarding the safety of the vehicle, the safety of the roadway, and other circumstances surrounding the accident.
Disclaimer: Meeting Life’s Challenges, LLC is a not for profit corporation that provides without charge confidential social services resources, information and networking opportunities. If you have legal questions you should consult an attorney of your own choosing. The web site and the resources and information provided are not offered in lieu of medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult a physician for diagnosis and treatment of any medical condition or for any questions you may have regarding a health concern.