Soft-tissue injuries tend to be invisible injuries — not readily apparent from mere observation, but quite real and apparent to the sufferer. This article will explore common types of “invisible” soft-tissue injuries and suggest some strategies for proving the true nature and extent of the harm done to you.
Common Soft-Tissue Injuries
Soft tissue injuries are injuries to the muscles, ligaments, and tendons of the body, as a result of a traumatic event (typically a motor vehicle accident, pedestrian accident, or slip-and-fall). Some common types of soft tissue injuries sprains, strains, whiplash injuries, and bruises. Soft tissue injuries do not require surgery or other invasive medical procedures; rather, these injuries are usually treated with rest, exercise, physical therapy, and pain medication, as needed.
Because soft-tissue injuries cannot be seen on an X-ray, there often is little in the way of objective medical proof that an injury occurred. This perpetuates a misconception among insurance companies (and the doctors these insurance companies retain) that soft tissue injuries are not serious injuries. Consequently, the injured party’s subjective complaints of pain and other symptoms may be given little to no weight in evaluating a claim for compensation.
What to Do If You Have a Soft-Tissue Injury
In order to overcome this misconception and maximize your compensation, follow these guidelines:
Obtain treatment as soon as possible. If you are injured in accident and delay seeking treatment for your injuries, you can bet that the insurance company will take notice and use this against you in settlement negotiations and at trial. The defense lawyer will attempt to portray your injuries as insignificant (and non-compensable), and will allege that since you delayed treatment, your injuries must not be all that serious.
Follow through with all of your healthcare provider’s treatment recommendations; complete all of your treatment; and show up to all medical appointments on time.
Line up favorable witness testimony. Witness testimony will be important to prove the nature and extent of your injuries. Family members, co-workers, and friends can testify that you were involved in a traumatic event and suffered serious injuries. They can also testify about the impact of your injuries on your work activities, family activities, and social activities; they can identify things that, in their observation, are more difficult (if not impossible) for you to do now than before you were injured. For example, a co-worker could testify that before your accident, you could easily lift fifty-pound crates, but that after the accident, you require assistance to lift them or cannot lift them at all. Moreover, these witnesses can testify, firsthand, about what you went through before, during, and after treatment. Your treating doctor(s) also can testify as to the nature of your injuries, your treatment and your prognosis.
Be prepared to testify. You also can help you case with your testimony (at deposition and/or trial) about the mechanism of the injury. That is, you can describe how the injury occurred (i.e. how a particular body part twisted, turned, or moved in the vehicle at the time of the collision) and whether or not any part of your body made contact with any part of the vehicle, such as the steering wheel or headrest.
Traumatic Brain Injury
A traumatic brain injury or TBI is an injury to the soft-tissue of the brain, as a result of a traumatic event. Traumatic brain injuries are most often sustained in auto accidents, motorcycle accidents, slip-and-falls, and competitive sports. Most traumatic brain injuries are closed-head injuries and are sustained when the brain makes contact with the front and/or back of the skull. You do not have to hit your head to sustain a TBI. Any sudden, rapid and/or violent movement of the head and neck can cause a TBI (think of a whiplash injury or shaken baby syndrome).
Symptoms of traumatic brain injuries vary, depending upon the severity of the injury. Symptoms of mild traumatic brain injury include headaches, light-headedness, dizziness, blurred vision, and mild memory loss. Symptoms of more severe traumatic brain injuries include loss of consciousness, long-term memory loss, seizures, inability to care for oneself, and personality changes, such as frequent mood swings.
One of the difficulties in proving a TBI is that symptoms may not appear for several days, weeks, or even months following the accident. Moreover, as with other types of soft-tissue injuries, insurance companies will often discount the injured party’s subjective claims of pain or other symptoms and take the position that the injured party is faking and/or exaggerating his symptoms for financial gain.
Witness testimony will be important to proving a TBI, either to maximize the settlement value of your case or to persuade a jury to award you compensation. In addition to the “lay” witness testimony described above (from you and from your friends, family, and/or co-workers), expert medical testimony often is essential to proving TBI cases.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney
Proving an “invisible” injury is never easy, but an experienced attorney, who is knowledgeable about the pitfalls of soft-tissue injury cases, can help you obtain full and fair compensation. For a free case evaluation, call us today.