Recovering from Acquired Brain Injury

Posted by Injury Lawyers of Ontario on April 25, 2016

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) affects many more Canadian families than most people realize.  The occurrence rate of brain injury is greater than spinal cord injury, HIV/AIDS, breast cancer and multiple sclerosis combined. At least 400 people a day or about 160,000 annually suffer from a traumatic brain injury in Canada alone.  Further, a brain injury is more likely to end in death than any other form of injury worldwide.

Acquired brain injury (ABI) is an injury to the brain that is caused by an accident or traumatic event such as a severe blow or injury to the head, lack of oxygen to the brain, or a substantial rotation of the neck or whiplash. Brain Injury Canada estimates that 50 percent of ABI incidents result from a motor vehicle accident or fall.

Brain injury typically has a substantial effect on family members as well as the accident victim, and recovery is often a long and difficult process. Canadians who advocate for brain injury victims suggest that the incidence of ABI can be reduced if more resources and money are invested into education and prevention.

Accident victims who sustain a brain injury often seek compensatory damages for their financial losses and pain and suffering.  Rehabilitative treatment and attendant care for injured persons can be substantial and ongoing, particularly in the case of a catastrophic impairment.  A personal injury claims in such cases may claim for the cost of medical treatment, rehabilitation, loss of past and future income, home maintenance and housekeeping expenses, and other losses arising from the injury.

One of the leading causes of acquired brain injury, slips or trips and falls, typically result in a closed head injury. Closed head injuries are also common in motor vehicle accidents. Closed head injuries occur with no penetration to the skull. Open head injuries involve penetration to the skull and most often result from an assault, particularly a gun or knife injury, however they can also occur in vehicle accidents involving crushing of the vehicle.  

What to Expect after Acquired Brain Injury

Recovery after a brain injury can be an overwhelming experience, both for the victim and the victim’s family. In serious accidents, survival may be an initial and serious concern as brain injuries are often fatal.  Emergency treatment may require doctors to reduce swelling of the brain, stabilize blood pressure, steady the patient’s heart rate, and stop the bleeding in the brain. It is not uncommon for the injured to not remember this part of their recovery process and they may fall in and out of consciousness. The injured person may also have a hard time understanding sentences when spoken to, which is normal in the beginning stage and usually temporary.

Although acquired brain injury is complex and not entirely understood, the general thinking is that rest is very important to the healing process.  The injured person should ideally rest in bed and avoid any activities that involve brain stimulation, including reading.  Sometimes doctors recommend staying in a dimly lit and quiet room for the first few days following injury.

It is important to be aware of the changes that brain injury can cause. Memory is often affected as well as the ability to concentrate and reason. Short-term memory loss occurs in brain-injured patients, similar to stroke victims who can’t remember what happened over the short-term but are able to remember events that occurred a few years before. Speech therapists are often involved during the rehabilitation process. Personality changes and depression are also common with brain injuries.  Research has shown that victims of TBI are statistically more likely to develop both depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to the Northern Brain Injury Association. This can be hard on loved ones, and often impacts family and social relationships.  Psychological counseling coupled with prescribed medication helps some patients, but these treatments have only limited success for some sufferers.


Rehabilitation efforts focus on working through disabilities so that patients can live independently. Immediately after an incident resulting in traumatic brain injury, patients may undergo acute treatment. During this process, doctors may clear the patient’s airways, administer medication, remove life-threatening clots, and put patients on life support, if needed.

After acute treatment, patients are transferred to subacute TBI treatment. During this phase, the patient is sent to a specialized facility where doctors will closely evaluate the impairments and disabilities. Doctors will also evaluate the probability of recovery and outline treatments needed. Chronic treatment is often needed for long-term rehabilitation, which can involve counseling, physical & speech therapy, medications, and assistive technology.

The length of recovery varies from person to person. The most improvements will be observed during the first six months of recovery. The patient will continue to show improvements from six months to two years, however, after the 2 years period, the rate of recovery will slow substantially.

Simple and common sense strategies for good health, including a healthy diet, exercise and sleep are particularly important for the injured person’s successful recovery.  On the other hand, stress, becoming over tired, and drugs and alcohol are not recommended during this period.

Compensation for traumatic brain injury

More than 90% of men and women in Ontario who sustain a brain injury will never return to full-time employment according to the Northern Brain Injury Association. In addition to the expenses for medical and rehabilitation treatments, a loss of income takes a substantial toll on the injured person’s finances.  Accident victims whose injury resulted from a reckless driving incident, unsafe property or another negligent action are entitled to sue the responsible party for damages.  Financial compensation in a personal injury suit is intended to return the injured person, as much as possible, to the state they were in prior to the accident. 

Medical professionals and therapists play an important role in the injured person’s healing process. Our experienced and compassionate lawyers at Injury Lawyers of Ontario strive to help our clients and their families during recovery by alleviating the stress of the claims process and by providing strong representation for your best interests against the insurance company. We will provide expert advice on your best course of action to receive the owed compensation needed for your recovery and will ensure that the requisite medical assessments are gathered to support your claim.

Sustaining a traumatic brain injury is a life-altering and difficult experience for everyone involved.  Not surprisingly, patients are greatly helped when supported by loved ones, both emotionally and by providing physical aide, during treatment and recovery. In many cases, the lives of family members is also drastically affected.  Though the healing process can be lengthy, it is always beneficial for family members to remain positive.

There are several brain injury associations and online support groups who offer support to injured persons and family members, in terms of providing needed educational resources and support.



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