Proving invisible personal injuries can be difficult and requires a special set of lawyering skills.
Invisible injuries – or those types of personal injuries which are not readily observable externally – can range from extremely serious traumatic brain injuries to painful soft tissue injuries, such as muscle sprains and strains. The right combination of medical records and witness testimony can go a long way in successfully proving your case and helping you to obtain the monetary damages to which you’re entitled. This article will explore some basic techniques for proving invisible injuries in Vancouver’s personal injury cases.
Traumatic Brain Injuries
Traumatic brain injuries are a type of catastrophic head injury where the amount of blunt force to the head is intense. This causes the brain to move about inside the head and make direct contact with the front or back of the skull, resulting in severe and long term damage to the injured plaintiff’s brain and functioning.
Traumatic brain injuries are commonly sustained in serious slip and fall accidents or in a severe motor vehicle, bicycle, motorcycle, or pedestrian accidents, where the injured plaintiff’s head makes direct contact with a part of the vehicle or the ground. Bicycle, motorcycle, and pedestrian accidents are especially likely to result in traumatic brain injuries because the injured plaintiff is directly exposed to his or her surrounding environment.
Types of traumatic brain injuries include concussions, cognitive impairments, short and long term memory losses, psychological and psychiatric injuries, and spinal cord injuries, to name a few. In many cases, treating these types of injuries requires long term care at a nursing home or assisted living facility – or lengthy periods of hospitalization. Treatment can be painful and lifelong.
Both lay witness testimony and expert witness testimony play an important role in proving traumatic brain injuries. In many traumatic brain injury cases, the cognitive impairments are so serious that the injured person is unable to testify on his or her own behalf. In those cases, lay witness testimony becomes especially important. Lay witnesses in these cases are usually family members, friends, or coworkers. These individuals can testify how, in their observation, the injured person’s work life, family life, and social life have changed as a result of the traumatic brain injuries sustained in the accident. These witnesses can also paint a picture for the ladies and gentlemen of the jury about what the injured plaintiff’s life was like before the accident (i.e. a normal life), as opposed to after the accident.
Expert testimony is also essential to prove traumatic brain injuries. Expert witnesses are typically healthcare providers, such as doctors, physical therapists, psychiatrists, and psychologists. These individuals can testify firsthand about the nature and extent of the injuries sustained and about how these injuries are expected to impact the plaintiff’s life for the foreseeable future, given his or her age, vocation, and activity level. Vocational rehabilitation experts may also be called upon to testify about an injured plaintiff’s inability to continue at the same job or career – or to work in any capacity – as a direct result of the accident and the injuries sustained.
Soft Tissue Injuries
Soft tissue injuries can be equally difficult to prove. Soft tissue injuries are those types of injuries where surgery or other invasive medical treatment is not necessary or required. The most common types of soft tissue injuries are muscle sprains and strains. There are no fractures associated with soft tissue injuries.
In order to prove soft tissue injuries resulting from a slip and fall, motor vehicle accident, or other types of accident, it is first necessary to point to objective findings in imaging reports, such as x-rays and MRI’s. These objective findings may include disc bulges or ligament tears. It is also important to highlight objective findings in the injured plaintiff’s medical records and permanency evaluations, such as demonstrable losses of range of motion or other deficiencies that are directly attributable to the soft tissue injury (as opposed to preexisting medical injuries, medical conditions, or degenerative changes).
In order to prove soft tissue injuries, it may also be necessary for the injured plaintiff to undergo a permanency evaluation (i.e. when he or she is claiming permanent injuries resulting from the accident). During a permanency evaluation, a healthcare provider examines the injured plaintiff – not for purposes of treating him or her, but rather, for purposes of generating a permanency rating for the injured body part(s). The permanency evaluation doctor will thoroughly examine the injured plaintiff, make objective findings, and establish a permanency rating for each of the injured body parts, relative to the whole person. For example, the permanency evaluation doctor may find that a plaintiff sustained a 20% whole person impairment to her neck and back as a result of soft tissue injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident. A permanency evaluation doctor may also opine as to the necessity and cost of future medical procedures that the injured plaintiff might require, should his or her condition worsen over time.
While proving invisible injuries in personal injury cases can be challenging, it is certainly not impossible. These types of injuries are provable with the right combination of lay witness testimony, expert witness testimony, permanency evaluations, and objective findings in medical records.
It is essential that you immediately contact an experienced Vancouver personal injury attorney who will be able to assist you with proving your case and maximizing its value, both throughout settlement negotiations with the insurance company and at trial.