Head injuries are one of the most vexing concerns for medical care providers and patients alike. Unlike many other types of injury, the long-term effects of head trauma may not manifest for months, or even years after an accident.
According to a new study from the New York University Langone School of Medicine, even victims who suffer a single concussion, or mild traumatic brain injury, can have lasting damage in parts of their brain an entire year after the infliction of the injury. This was an important finding, as it was the first research to prove measurable effects on the brain a year following a concussion.
Researchers in the recent study used three-dimensional MRI scanning technology to detect damage in the brains of concussion victims. The use of MRI imaging was significant because CT scans are the imaging technology most widely used in emergency departments to evaluate concussions. However, CT scans are often poor indicators of the severity of brain injury following a head trauma, meaning it can be easy for doctors to miss serious damage.
Michael Selzer, a neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania, told the MIT Technology Review that mild traumatic brain injury is notoriously difficult to diagnose, and that “cognitive deficits can be subtle, even to a neurologist.” Doctors have a responsibility to ensure that their patients are receiving an accurate, complete diagnosis; when lapses in care result from an inaccurate diagnosis, victims may be entitled to monetary damages. Yet, the long-term nature of many difficult-to-detect brain injury symptoms presents certain legal challenges.
Oregon’s statute of limitations for head injuries generally prohibits suit after two years
When you are injured, the law puts a time limit on the period during which you may seek compensation from the at-fault party. This time limit is called a “statute of limitations,” and is meant to keep the financial specter of long since passed events from hovering over potential defendants indefinitely. While the finality imposed by the statute of limitations is beneficial to society in some ways, it can also be a huge burden on those who suffer brain injuries and other conditions whose symptoms might not become evident for years.
In Oregon, the general statute of limitations for personal injury is two years from the date of injury. This means that, for example, if you suffered a brain injury in a car crash, you would have two years from the date of the accidents to file a legal claim against the other driver.
For medical malpractice, the statute of limitations is also two years. In this case, the two-year clock begins ticking either on the date of the act resulting in injury, or on the date the injury was, or should have been discovered.
It can be complicated to determine when the statute of limitations has expired on a medical malpractice claim, because it is not always clear at what point an injury should have been discovered. Imagine you see a doctor after being in a car accident, and the doctor says you are fine. But, you continue to experience headaches, memory loss, and other brain injury symptoms. At some point, if you do not get a second opinion on the cause of these symptoms, a court may find that your injury “should have been discovered,” and the two year time limit to sue your first doctor for misdiagnosis will have begun.
No matter how long it takes to discover your injury, a medical malpractice claim must be filed within five years of the date of the act resulting in injury.
Talk to a lawyer today about your head injury
Even though a brain injury can be difficult to detect, it can cause long-term problems that may entitle you to compensation. If you believe that you or a family member may be suffering from a brain injury, do not let the statue of limitations prevent you from recovering the money you deserve; talk to an attorney as soon as possible to explore your legal options.