February 3, 2023
Traumatic Brain Injuries in the Construction Industry
By Jonathan Damashek
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 Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the construction industry has the highest number of traumatic brain injuries—both fatal and non-fatal—among all U.S. workplaces.
Types of Brain Injuries Suffered by Construction Workers
If you work in construction, you know that you face numerous hazards that can result in serious injury. Brain injuries are among the most serious, and it’s therefore important to understand the specific type of brain injury you have suffered:
- Concussions: Concussions are typically caused by a sudden blow to the head, perhaps from being struck by falling equipment or a minor fall. Concussions can range from mild to severe, but even mild concussions can have long-term effects.
- Penetrating head wounds: This is an injury caused when some object penetrates the skull and is driven into the brain. These can be caused by flying debris or falling objects. Penetrating head wounds are very serious injuries that often carry life-long effects.
- Closed head injury: These are similar to a concussion, in that the skull remains intact. However, the injury is caused by severe trauma to the brain, such as a fall from a great height. Closed head injuries can result in permanent brain damage.
Causes of a Traumatic Brain Injury
The Mayo Clinic lists the five most common TBI causes as follows:
- Vehicle-related collisions, such as crane accidents
- Violence such as gunshot wounds, domestic violence, and child abuse
- Sports injuries
- Combat injuries such as explosive blasts
Penetrating head wounds and falling or flying debris striking the head also cause their share of TBIs. Since construction workers enounters a handful of these hazards frequently, it is important for them to be aware of the causes, risks, and symptoms of a brain injury.
Why are Construction Workers At-Risk for 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 50% of all fatal TBIs.
- Workers aged 65 and above were four times more likely to suffer a fatal TBI than younger workers.
- Foreign-born workers experienced a significantly higher TBI fatality rate than workers aged 25-34.
Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms
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.
Depending on the severity of the brain injury, however, different symptoms can be present.
More mild traumatic brain injuries can cause symptoms such as:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sleep disturbances
- Temporary loss of consciousness
- Blurred vision
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Sensor symptoms, such as change in small and taste
- Mood swings
- Memory and concentration problems
- Depression and anxiety
The symptoms of mild TBIs are often temporary, with the majority of patients fully recovering within months. However, they can cause a victim to be more vulnerable for future head injuries, and if left untreated, mild TBIs can have signficant consequences.
More severe TBIs can cause:
- Convulsions or seizures
- Loss of coordination
- Slurred speech
- Numbness or weakness in fingers and toes
- Extreme agitation and/or combativeness
In addition to all of the above, a major TBI increases the victim’s risk for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. These diseases further 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.
Long-Term Effects of TBIs
Unfortunately, surviving a traumatic brain injury can have devastating impact—particularly if the injury was severe or went untreated. Survivors of TBis can suffer permanent damage, including:
- Motor disabilities
- Speech impairment
- Mental, psychological, and behavioral conditions
- Trouble with processing information
- Sleep disorders
- Chronic pain
- Hormonal changes
- Paralysis or spasms
- Vision loss or blurred vision
All of these and other disabilities require long-term rehabilitation and/or care. Many victims struggle with employment, and cannot contribute to their own support. Their personal independence not only may be severely limited, but also may decrease over time. This loss of dependence can be devastating for a survivor. However, there are many resources for TBI survivors, and ways to recover compensation if your injury was the result of a construction accident.
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 loved one’s disabilities. 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.
Compensation After a Construction Accident
If your TBI is the result of a construction workplace accident, the burden of treatment costs doesn’t have to be yours alone. You may be entitled to compensation. Even if you filed a workers’ compensation claim, a lawyer can help determine if you can recover further compensation through a third-party liability claim or lawsuit.
A Lawyer Can Help You Recover Financially
If you or a loved one has been involved in a construction accident resulting in a traumatic brain injury, you are not without legal recourse. The construction accident attorneys at Hecht Kleeger & Damashek, P.C. can evaluate your case and determine how to proceed in seeking compensation for you. We understand that a TBI has changed your and your loved ones’ lives. We’re here every step of the way to help fight for you, just like we have for countless other personal injury victims.