A potentially serious outcome of slip and fall accidents is an injury to the head. This may include trauma to the scalp, skull, or brain. Head injuries may occur during slip and fall accidents when the head strikes the floor, table, countertop, furniture, or other hard object on the way down. Head injuries can range from a mild bump on the head to a traumatic brain injury and are a common reason for visits to the emergency room.
An injury to the head can result in physically debilitating symptoms as well as emotional strain for victims of slip and fall accidents and their families. Following a head injury, there may be significant changes in daily routines and ability to function independently. In severe cases, patients could face permanent, long-term damage that requires them to relearn basic skills like eating with a fork, walking, and speaking. Some head injury patients may not be able to return to work at all or are forced to find employment in a different industry.
In addition to the physical effects, slip and fall head injuries also hit victims in the pocketbook. Americans spend $34 billion annually on medical treatment for slip and fall accidents. If you’ve sustained a head injury as the result of a property owner’s negligence, call the personal injury attorneys at Berry Law. They can assess the strength of your case and offer assistance on the next steps. Damages may include compensation for medical bills, the cost of rehabilitation, private nursing care, lost wages, lost future earnings, and pain and suffering.
Closed Vs. Open-Head Injuries
Head injuries are typically divided into two categories: closed-head injuries and open-head injuries. Closed head injuries are caused by a blow to the head with a hard object or by striking the head on a hard object. The skull isn’t broken, and there may or may not be external bleeding of the scalp.
Open-head injuries occur when the head is hit with a hard object that breaks the skull and enters the brain. This type of injury is most common when high rates of speed are involved, such as when the body is thrown through a windshield during a motor vehicle accident or the high velocity of a bullet penetrates the skull.
Because the skull acts as a protective barrier for the brain, many head injuries are thankfully relatively mild in nature, requiring only stitches, pain medication, and time to heal. However, a blow to the head can also cause more serious and long-term injury. More than half a million people each year experience head injuries that are grave enough to require emergency care or hospitalization. In severe cases, seeking immediate treatment for a head injury can be the difference between life and death.
Types of Head Injuries Caused by Slip and Fall Accidents
Certain head injuries are more common in slip and fall accidents than in other types of trauma, including:
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)/Concussions
Falls are among the leading causes of Traumatic Brain Injury or TBI, accounting for almost half of all TBI-related emergency room visits and resulting in 235,000 hospitalizations annually. TBIs are currently associated with more than one in six injury-related hospital admissions.
A TBI occurs when the brain bounces off of the hard interior surface of the skull, causing bruising and bleeding of the brain. A bruise on the brain is called a contusion. Brain contusions are more serious than bruises from a bump on other parts of the body. Severe TBIs can lead to permanent changes in brain function, causing life-altering injury and fatality in some cases.
Concussions are a less severe form of TBI and are the most common type of head injury. At their mildest, a concussion usually resolves itself in seven to 10 days with rest, activity modification, and over-the-counter medication for pain relief. While concussion symptoms are generally temporary, studies have shown that repeated concussions can lead to permanent brain damage over time.
Any trauma to the brain can lead to edema, which is swelling of the brain. Unlike other parts of the body that can stretch to accommodate swelling caused by trauma to tissue, the skull cannot expand. This makes swelling much more serious when it occurs in the brain, causing pressure to build up and brain tissue to press against the skull, which can very quickly create an emergent and life-threatening situation.
A hematoma in the brain is a collection or clotting of blood that has pooled outside of the blood vessels. Clotting causes pressure to build inside of the skull, leading to a loss of consciousness or permanent damage to the brain. There are different types of hematomas, named for the area of the cranial cavity where blood pools.
A subdural hematoma occurs when blood collects between the skull and the surface of the brain. A common symptom of subdural hematomas is a headache that continues to worsen over time.
Extradural hematomas are a collection of blood in the space between the skull and the dura mater, which is the outer protective lining that covers the brain. This is a serious condition that necessitates emergency treatment and may require surgery to remove the hematoma and help with healing. Both types of hematomas can be very serious if left untreated, leading to stroke and other grave outcomes.
Since the head has more blood vessels than any other part of the body, the head may be more susceptible to uncontrolled bleeding, and therefore, bleeding or hemorrhage on the surface of the brain or inside of the brain tissue is a concern with head injuries.
Hemorrhage in the space around the brain is known as a subarachnoid hemorrhage and typically causes sudden and severe headache and vomiting. An intracerebral hemorrhage is bleeding within the brain tissue itself and is the most-deadly type of brain hemorrhage and the second most common cause of strokes. It occurs when the blood vessels that carry blood to and from the brain are affected, resulting in the rupture of arteries or veins due to abnormal pressure or trauma.
Although the severity of a brain hemorrhage depends largely on the amount of bleeding that occurs, any amount of blood can lead to pressure buildup in the skull over a long period of time.
Lacerations, or cuts to the scalp are common head injuries, especially in children. Because the head bleeds more profusely than other parts of the body, uncontrolled external bleeding is also a concern. Following a slip and fall accident that results in a laceration to the head, first apply direct pressure to the wound to stop the bleeding and have it evaluated by a medical professional as soon as possible.
Treatment for scalp lacerations usually requires irrigation or cleaning of the wound followed by closing with stitches, staples, or glue under general anesthesia.
Even though the skull is very strong and difficult to break, fractures of the skull do happen. A broken skull is not as efficient at absorbing the impact of a blow to the head. As a result, damage to the brain is more likely to occur.
If there is a suspected fracture of the skull, it’s important not to apply direct pressure to a wound on the head. Instead, place a clean bandage over the wound if it’s bleeding and seek medical help immediately.
Diffuse Axonal Injury
A diffuse axonal injury, also referred to as a shear injury, is a wound to the brain that doesn’t cause bleeding, but still damages brain cells, resulting in loss of normal function in those cells. Diffuse axonal injuries may also cause swelling that can lead to additional damage if left untreated. One of the most dangerous types of head injury, diffuse axonal injuries can lead to permanent brain damage and even death.
What Are the Symptoms of a Head Injury?
Following any kind of trauma, the head may initially appear fine, but head injuries have the potential to cause issues later due to bleeding or swelling inside of the skull. Symptoms may appear immediately or develop slowly over several hours or days.
Some signs of a serious head injury may include:
- Severe headache that worsens over time
- Stiff neck
- Clear or bloody fluid leaking from the nose, ears, or mouth
- Confusion or loss of orientation
- Extreme drowsiness
- Loss of consciousness
- Pupils that are unequal in size
- Inability to focus the eyes
- Abnormal eye movements
- Changes to sensory perceptions, including hearing, sight, taste or smell
- Temporary ringing in the ears
- Memory loss
- Mood changes or altered/abnormal behavior
- Slurred or incoherent speech
- Nausea or recurrent vomiting
- Weakness or loss of muscle control in the arms or legs
- Loss of balance
The only way to know for certain whether your symptoms are caused by a head injury or something else following trauma to the head is to be evaluated by a trained medical professional immediately following a slip and fall accident. The use of diagnostic imaging like CT and MRI scans can reveal hidden injuries so that doctors can develop a plan of treatment.
Not only does seeking medical attention prevent further damage to the brain, the documentation of injuries following a slip and fall accident is crucial in a future personal injury lawsuit. Keep all documentation that you receive showing your diagnosis and any treatments you underwent as a result of your injuries.
Berry Law’s Team Provides You With Multiple Attorney Perspectives
The best way to prevent a head injury caused by a slip and fall accident is for individuals to stay aware of their surroundings, but also for property owners to exercise vigilance in keeping their residences, places of business, and other areas open to the public free from slipping and tripping hazards. This includes wiping up spills and repairing the source of leaks immediately, tying up loose cords and wires, and keeping handrails and walking surfaces in good condition. These are all examples of responsibilities that rest with a property owner when they allow invited guests onto their property. To act otherwise invites liability on their part.
Some slip and fall accidents occur when an individual could not reasonably anticipate being injured. For example, while visiting in a residential setting, at work, in a retail store, movie theater, or bank. In other cases, a head injury can be prevented through the use of protective gear.
To protect yourself from potential head injury during a slip and fall, wear a helmet during high-risk activities like skateboarding, roller skating, skiing, snowboarding, or when riding a bicycle or motorcycle.