Our society often fails those who suffer mild to moderate brain injury, and our society pays a substantial cost as a consequence. In fact, TBI costs $76.3 billion per year in lost productivity from people with TBI, according to the Brain Injury Association of America. The majority of these traumatic brain injuries are from car accidents.
But there’s an additional societal cost that is often completely ignored: The risk of suicide among people, especially young men, who suffer brain injury. And societal effects from TBI also can include the following: medical complications, permanent disability, family dysfunction, job loss, homelessness, impoverishment, medical indigence, and involvement with the criminal or juvenile justice system, according to Dr. Brent Masel, National Medical Director for the Brain Injury Association of America.
As an attorney who helps many people with traumatic brain injury, I also see the challenge sometimes in presenting the complete picture of how all of these effects – physical, emotional, cognitive and societal – of TBI can be very difficult for the public, juries and even doctors and some lawyers to understand.
That challenge is compounded because people with traumatic brain injury often look “normal,” even when they suffer from a brain injury that is causing devastating impairments. Symptoms can also include other serious psychiatric and neurological problems, like depression and chronic pain, which also can point to suicide.
And this is not just what I say as an attorney who litigates these cases in courtrooms. The medical literature backs this up.
Take this recent article from the Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services, which is shedding more light on the correlation between traumatic brain injury and suicide.
You can read the full article here: Traumatic Brain Injury and Suicide, by Roy. R. Reeves, DO, PhD; and Janet T. Laizer, MD.
The article explores current literature on the risk of suicidal behavior in people with TBI, suicide risk factors, assessment of suicidal behavior and treatment.
Here are some statistics from studies on TBI and suicide:
- A study by Simpson and Tate (2002) reported that 35% of outpatients with TBI had signficant levels of hopelessness, 23% had had suicidal Ideation, and 18% had made a suicide attempt post injury.
- A study by Silver, Kramer, Greenwald, and Weissman (2001) found that individuals with a history of TBI reported a higher frequency of suicide attempts, than those who had not had TBI (8.1% versus 1.9%).
According to the article:
“Thus, some evidence suggests there may be a correlation between TBI and increased riskof suicide, and there is certainly enough evidence to warrant clinicians being alert to this potential problem.”
The risk factors for suicide in people with TBI are as follows, according to the article:
- Young (usually mid-adolescence to mid-20s),
- Lower socioeconomic status,
- Psychological disturbance,
- Presence of alcohol or drug abuse,
- Cognitive and motor disturbance,
- Increased impulsivity,
- Personality changes,
- Post-injurv change in capacity (both mental and physical),
- Change in work status, income, and quality of life, and
- Psychiatric problems (Kuiper & lancaster, 2000).
In addition, the severity of the brain injury may increase the risk of suicide:
Teasdale and Engberg (2001) found that patients who had experienced traumatic intracerebral hemorrhages had a significantly greater risk of suicide than those with a concussion or an uncomplicated cranial fracture.
Takeaway: Injury lawyers throughout the country can use these peer reviewed medical studies and journal articles to help explain the deadly complications and the complete risk factors of traumatic brain injury to the insurance company claims adjusters, and sometimes juries, who otherwise will have a difficult time understanding what life is like for a car accident victim who looks so good and talks so well.
TBI, sadly, is far more complicated.
Named a “Leader in the Law” and “Lawyer of the Year” by Michigan’s largest legal newspaper for his record-breaking auto accident verdicts, settlements and advocacy work in preventing wrecks, Steven Gursten heads Michigan Auto Law—a firm dedicated to serious motor vehicle accident injury and wrongful death cases.