August 28, 2017

Traumatic Brain Injuries in the Construction Industry

By Jonathan Damashek

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brain injury Any blow to the head can cause a brain injury. Some are mild, some are more severe, some are catastrophic, and some can be fatal. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the construction industry has the highest number of jobsite traumatic brain injuries. Between 2003 and 2010, more than 2,200 construction workers died as a result of a TBI, representing 25 percent of all construction fatalities.

Fatal TBIs

The reason why construction workers are at such a high risk of receiving a TBI is because of the hazardous construction work in which they engage. Often they work on roofs, scaffolding, cranes, tall ladders, and other dangerous places. Even when using the best safety equipment and practicing the best safety procedures, accidents do happen. Additional sobering CDC statistics include the following:

  • Workers employed by small construction companies with fewer than 20 employees were approximately 2.5 times more likely to die from a traumatic brain injury than workers employed by companies with over 100 workers.
  • Falls accounted for over half of all construction TBIs.
  • Workers aged 65 and above were four times more likely to suffer a fatal TBI than workers aged 25-34.
  • Foreign-born workers experienced a significantly higher TBI fatality rate than workers aged 25-34.

The Mayo Clinic lists the five most common TBI causes as follows:

  1. Falls
  2. Vehicle-related collisions
  3. Violence such as gunshot wounds, domestic violence, and child abuse
  4. Sports injuries
  5. Combat injuries such as explosive blasts

Penetrating head wounds and falling or flying debris striking the head also cause their share of TBIs.

Catastrophic TBIs

Even when traumatic brain injuries are not fatal, they can be catastrophic. Victims often have permanent motor and/or speech disabilities and can develop chronic mental, psychological, and behavioral conditions, all of which require long-term rehabilitation and/or care. Many victims are virtually unemployable and cannot contribute to their own support. Their personal independence not only may be severely limited, but also may decrease over time.

The Neurologic Rehabilitation Institute at Brookhaven Hospital says that true lifetime costs are the “piece of the [TBI] iceberg” that remains unseen. It is projected that people in their 20s who suffer a catastrophic TBI could face an average cost of $500,000 per year, with lifetime costs of $15-$20 million.

This is without taking into consideration the ancillary costs affecting the families of TBI victims. A spouse, parent, sibling, or other family member often must quit their job in order to care for their disabled loved one. Such unpaid caregivers are themselves subject to unrelieved stress, often leading to significant physical and psychological problems. The annual cost of these conditions and of the care these caregivers provide to TBI victims is estimated to be $375 billion annually.

TBI Symptoms

Mild TBIs can cause headaches, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, sleep disturbances, and temporary loss of consciousness. Additional after-effects can include blurred vision, tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and a variety of other sensory symptoms like changes in the ability to smell and a persistent bad taste in the mouth. The victim also can suffer from mood changes and/or swings, memory and concentration problems, and depression and anxiousness.

More severe TBIs can cause convulsions, seizures, loss of coordination, slurred speech, numbness or weakness in fingers and toes, and extreme agitation and/or combativeness. Victims can even slip into a coma. In addition to all of the above, a TBI increases the victim’s risk for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s that damage the brain cells, produce a gradual loss of brain function, and lead to the progressive loss of memory and thinking, as well as increased movement problems like rigidity and/or tremors.

TBI Diagnosis

A seemingly “mild” head injury nevertheless is serious and requires immediate medical attention. It is critical that doctors and other medical professionals see the victim as soon as possible in order to assess the situation, conduct tests, and arrive at a diagnosis. The sooner a diagnosis can be made, the sooner treatment can begin.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a construction accident resulting in a traumatic brain injury, contact the attorneys at Hecht Kleeger & Damashek, P.C. We will evaluate your case and determine how to proceed in seeking compensation for you.