Historically, serious head injuries almost always led to death. Our ancestors had very little medical understanding, and even if someone survived a brain injury, they would almost certainly develop infections through the open wound and would die as a result of these complications.
A lot of our understanding of personal head injuries comes from people who survived brain damage. Railroad construction foreman Phiineas Gage survived for 11 years after a large iron rod impaled his head, destroying a large part of his frontal lobe. This was seen to lead to massive personality changes, resulting in Gage becoming a key case study in psychology, neurology and other medical disciplines.
While Phineas Gage was seen by a doctor, the incident took place in 1848 when medical science was in its infancy. As a result, it was sheer good luck that the victim survived. The incident also took place in a time before employee rights and health and safety regulations, so Gage could not apply for head injury compensation following an accident at work.
Earliest personal head injuries
Surprisingly, people survived serious head injuries before Phineas Gage’s incident. A process called trepanning, which involves drilling or scraping a hole into the human skull, has been dated back to Neolithic times, where it would have been used as a rudimentary medicine. While a lot of people would have died as a result of this procedure, there is evidence that some people survived, with their skulls showing signs of healing. It is thought that this procedure continued in the Americas until its colonisation by the West.
Modern head injury claims
As medicine becomes more advanced, survival rates for personal head injuries similarly improved. If someone receives prompt medical attention, they have a relatively good chance of survival, although they may experience brain damage and cognitive difficulties.
In the United States, the mortality rate for traumatic brain injuries is estimated at around 21%, meaning that 21% of patients survive for more than 30 days after the initial injury. Research into soldiers in the Iraq War revealed that this demographic had a traumatic brain injury mortality rate of between 30% and 50%, although this could be due to the forms their brain injuries take. For instance, people who suffer a brain injury in a fall survive 89% of the time, but this falls to just 9% among those with a brain injury caused by a firearm.
In the beginning of the 1970s, around 50% of people with traumatic brain injuries survived for more than 30 days, and by the early 2000s this had fallen to around 25%. Improved healthcare systems and treatment options in rich societies are held as responsible for these improvements.
However, as survival rates increase, the number of brain injury compensation claims similarly increases. Nowadays, more and more people own cars, with large annual increases in the number of motorists particularly pronounced in the developing world. Motor vehicle accidents are therefore increasingly commonplace, and these can lead to brain injury compensation claims. Many developing countries are seeing huge growths in road traffic volume but do not have the infrastructure needed to cope with these increases.
However, this is not the case in the UK and other richer nations that have a relatively constant number of motorists. Vehicle safety standards are rapidly improving, with safety features such as crumple zones and airbags preventing people from suffering head injuries in car accidents. Nonetheless, motor vehicle accidents remain a leading cause of head injury compensation claims.
Making head injury compensation claims
If you have suffered a head injury as a result of the negligence of someone else or in an accident that was not your fault, then you have the right to receive personal injury compensation for your pain and suffering. You can claim the cost of any rehabilitation expenses, or any other costs you faced as a result of your injury, such as household renovations, lost salary or medical bills.
Making a head injury compensation claim is difficult. Personal injury solicitors will put you in touch with neurologists and other medical experts, who will be able to ascertain what damages you have faced and what your long-term prognosis will be.
There is a three-year statute of limitations for all personal injury claims, so you should start making your claim today.