Slip/trip and fall accidents are known to result in serious injuries such as traumatic brain injury and spinal injury, but rarely do they cause long term memory loss that suddenly and dramatically heals itself. This is what reportedly happened to Edgar Latulip when he suffered brain damage and amnesia from a fall that occurred 30 years ago and then recently regained his memory. Although often subject matter for films and television, global amnesia or a fugue state, in which someone forgets everything about their lives, is extremely uncommon.
Edgar Latulip, originally from Kitchener, left a Waterloo Region group home in 1986 at the age of 21 and was not heard from again for 30 years. Mr. Latulip took a bus to Niagara Falls and soon after that, he fell and experienced a head injury that likely caused his complete memory loss. Mr. Latulip’s family filed a missing person report after his disappearance; however, there was no indication what happened to the young man for 30 years, until he began to experience flashbacks and eventually remembered his real name, a few months ago.
Mr. Latulip was discovered to be a missing person after he related what he was remembering to a social worker who reported the situation to authorities. After a voluntary DNA exam confirmed his identity, Mr. Latulip’s mother was contacted in Ottawa where she currently resides. Local media reported that his mother was overjoyed and excited to hear that her son was alive and well, after having spent many years not knowing what had happened to him and feeling close to a nervous breakdown in the early years of his disappearance.
Amnesia includes everything from forgetting about certain facts to blocking the memory of a traumatic experience to complete loss of memory of all past experiences. The most common type of memory loss or amnesia is most often caused by some form of brain dysfunction, such as head injuries, brain tumors or neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Damage to the brain’s temporal lobes or hippocampus is often associated with this form of amnesia.
Falls are a leading cause of brain injury in Canada, and the risk and incidence of falls increases in the winter due to slips and falls on icy surfaces. In addition to head and brain injury, slips and falls often result in abrasions and bruises, serious back and spinal injuries, broken limbs and cracked ribs. More often than you might think, a slip and fall can even result in death when severe brain injury is sustained.
When a person slips and falls causing their legs to go out from underneath them, their head can violently hits the ground. This kind of trauma to the head may result in crushing of the brain, an open skull fracture or a closed skull fracture, any of which may have serious consequences. These injuries to the head often cause damage to brain cells, for example: when blood vessels or tissue between the skull and brain rupture and bleed; from bleeding that causes the brain to swell and put pressure on brain tissue; due to damage to the blood vessels and nerves of the spinal cord and brain; and/or from blockage of blood flow to the brain. Any of these circumstances affecting brain injury can have severe consequences. If there is swelling and the brain expands through the base of the brain, the outcome is usually fatal.
The most common type of acquired brain injury through a traumatic event is concussion. Concussion is caused by a direct blow to the head or the body, possibly resulting from open or closed head injuries, whiplash, a violent knock to the head or violent shaking. Concussion results when the blood vessels in the brain stretch and there is damage to the cranial nerves. In serious concussions, the injured person may experience a brief loss of consciousness for up to 20 minutes.
Concussion and the treatment of concussions is still not particularly well understood, particularly in comparison to the other potential injuries that may be sustained in a slip/trip and fall accident. Concussion generally happens at a microscopic scale; there are often no outwardly visible injuries; and it may not even show up on diagnostic imaging tests including CAT scans. Concussion may result in temporary or permanent damage and may take a few months to years to heal. In some cases, the symptoms of concussion are permanent and have a substantial impact on an injured person’s ability to work, social and family relationships, and general enjoyment in life.
The symptoms of brain injury, which may be short or long-term, include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Difficulty controlling balance
- Feeling confused or dazed
- Forgetfulness or amnesia, particularly with respect to the causal event
- Hearing problems
- Sleep disturbances
- Fatigue, drowsiness
- Speech problems such as slurring
- Lack of bowel control
- Sexual dysfunction
- Personality changes such as irritability, mood swings
- Concentration and memory problems
- Light and noise sensitivity
- Psychological conditions such as depression
- Inappropriate behaviour and/or speech
Brain injuries and disorders are among the most difficult conditions to understand and predict in terms of their effects and recovery. Brain injury rehabilitation can take a long time, often years, and brain injury survivors report that it is a bumpy path to recovery; some days can be much better than others. Also, the difficulty in ‘seeing’ and measuring the severity of a brain injury such as concussion makes these types of injury more difficult to prove to insurance companies.
If you or a loved one sustained a serious injury, such as acquired brain injury, in an accident caused by someone’s negligence, you are advised to contact a trusted personal injury lawyer to find out about your legal rights in the matter. The ILO group are experienced brain injury and slip and fall accident lawyers who can provide strong representation to get you the compensation you need and are owed as a result of your injury and losses.