Brain injuries can occur as a result of many different incidents, including:
Open Head Injuries – Occur when the force of an object pierces the skull and damages the brain. Open head injuries can be caused bullets, or any other object that penetrates the skull.
Closed Head Injuries – A closed head injury occurs when an outside force impacts the head, causing the brain to shift and collide with the inside of the skull. Falls and motor vehicle accidents most often cause closed head injuries.
Chemical Brain Injuries – If certain chemicals or poisons enter the body, they can cause serious damage to brain cells, causing permanent damage to the brain. The most common chemicals and toxins that cause this traumatic brain injury are insecticides, carbon monoxide, and lead poisoning.
Infections – If an infection is allowed to grow within the body, it can affect the brain, causing the brain to swell and become damaged from pressing against the inside of the skull.
Hypoxia – If the body is deprived of oxygen for too long, it can cause serious damage to the brain because it is not receiving the oxygen it needs to stay alive.
Stroke – If there is a blockage in the blood flowing to or from the brain, it can cause irreparable damage to brain cells, causing long lasting effects and disabilities.
Traumatic brain injuries are often misdiagnosed, or undiagnosed. Many times, the only people aware of the effects of the traumatic brain injury are the victim or their loved ones, who notice subtle changes or differences. Even “mild brain injuries” can have numerous, long lasting effects on the victim and their family. Common traumatic brain injury symptoms include:
Inability to understand the problems of things
So what has this to do with Virginia Workers Compensation? A lot.
If you suffer a brain injury from a work accident, you may have LIFETIME benefits. Thus, insurance companies fight hard to prevent these types of cases. Add that traumatic brain injuries are many times undiagnosed because of the subtle differences and that the injured worker may have memory problems, the insurance company already has the advantage.
One trick to be aware of is the difference between a “head” injury and a “brain” injury. You would think that if you fell 30 feet and split your head open requiring 50 stitches, and then later are diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury, it would be an obvious no brainer (check out the pun) that the brain injury would be covered .It will NOT be covered UNLESS a brain injury has been noted in agreement forms or claim for benefits within 2 years of the date of accident. So if the forms say “head” injury and the insurance company voluntarily pays for the “brain” injury for 2 years and then suddenly stops, you will know why. You have been tricked and now have permanently lost your lifetime lost wages and medical benefits.
Another trick is making voluntary payments until statutes of limitations run as I just commented about.2 years is literally 2 years- not 2 years and one day and you have a very legitimate reason for the 12 hour delay.
Another trick is that the insurance company is the one who writes the agreement forms!!! And are the ones who send it in to the commission. Why would they ever put brain injury which would be totally against their interests and profits? They put head injury. If you mark on the agreement form and add brain injury, they will not send it in to the Commission for you to get the award order. The award order only says medical benefits- it does not say specific body parts so be careful in assuming it means what you think it means.
How do you protect yourself? Make sure every body part is listed .Remember voluntary payments are not a “nice” thing insurance companies do because you have a serious extremely legitimate injury, but is a way to deceive-if I am getting my benefits what is the problem? The problem is that insurance companies have no obligation to tell you anything and many benefits are lost by the injured worker not knowing and statute of limitations running. Finally if you have not gotten agreement forms or the ones you get don’t list a head and a brain injury, then file a Claim for Benefits listing all the body parts injured with the Virginia workers compensation commission. Diligence in the beginning can protect you or your loved one for a lifetime.
Michele Lewane, Attorney for Workers’ Compensation in Virginia