In a motor vehicle crash, an accident victim can suffer a very serious brain injury. Diffuse axonal brain injury or DAI is one of the most catastrophic brain injuries commonly caused by traffic accidents. This injury can cause a permanently vegetative state or death.
DAI causes coma, which can vary in length. Only 10 percent of those who awake from a DAI coma regain anything approaching normal functioning, and nearly all of these suffer some form of cognitive impairment. Some doctors believe there is no such thing as a full recovery from a DAI of any significance.
Causes of Diffuse Axonal Brain Injury In a Motor Vehicle Accident
A diffuse axonal injury often occurs in a motor vehicle accident when the passengers or driver of a vehicle are thrown forward or sideways, causing rapid acceleration and then deceleration of the brain tissue within the skull, when the head undergoes a sudden change in velocity.
Diffuse injuries affect large areas of the brain, usually in the frontal and temporal lobes, as opposed to focal injuries that affect only the point of impact. There are two phases to DAI injuries: the first is at the moment of impact and involves the stretching of the axons from the force of the impact; the second stage is in the days, weeks, and months following the initial impact and involves biochemical change from the impact that cause swelling and rupture.
Psychological, Behavioral, and Cognitive Impairments from DAI
Approximately 90 percent of those who survive a head injury with diffuse axonal injuries will exist in a persistent vegetative state, sometimes for many years.
Among the few who do awake from the coma, some improvement may take place within the first twelve months following the accident. Rarely does a patient improve after the first year. DAI patients typically have difficulties with memory, concentration, attention, and “executive functions,” such as organization, planning, problem solving, and judgment. They may have a variety of sensory problems, especially visual impairment, which results in poor hand-eye coordination.
Speech is often slurred or garbled, and intonation may be affected. Emotional problems include depression, anxiety, apathy, confusion, agitation, paranoia, and mood swings. Behavioral issues can include aggression and violence, impulsiveness, lack of inhibition, sexually inappropriate behavior, substance abuse, lack of self-control, and others.
Even in the patients with the best outcomes, the very tiny number who return to a relatively normal life and are able to return to work or school, studies have shown an inefficiency of cognitive functioning that makes everyday tasks more difficult to accomplish.
An Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help After a Serious Head Injury
The vast majority of accident victims who survive a diffuse axonal injury require care for the remainder of their lives, which can be many years. This is very expensive and takes an emotional toll on family and caregivers. It is essential that the family of a person suffering from this type of extreme disability has the means to provide for the patient’s care and to be compensated for their other losses, both financial and emotional, that resulted from the accident. When the accident was caused by the other driver’s careless, reckless, or negligent behavior, that person needs to be held accountable for the harm done.
An experienced personal injury attorney can help to prepare and present a case for compensation for the full range of losses the victim and family suffered because of the accident.
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