Any kind of head trauma sustained in a workplace accident should be taken seriously, as a traumatic brain injury (TBI) has the potential to be fatal or cause permanent disability.
A severe head injury can result in drastic changes to a person physically, emotionally, and cognitively, making it impossible for the victim to return to work or even engage in the everyday activities they used to prior to the injury.
Concussions and other forms of TBIs are some of the most severe workplace injuries you can suffer, and employees who sustain work-related brain injuries may be entitled to workers' compensation benefits to cover the cost of their medical bills and lost wages.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), TBI-related accidents cause 61,000 deaths every year in the United States. And while you can pretty much suffer a severe head injury at any kind of job, there are certain industries that place workers at a higher risk of sustaining a brain injury, such as construction, fishing, agriculture, forestry, and emergency medical services employees.
What are common causes of brain injuries in workplace accidents?
To be clear, any injury to your brain, skull, or scalp is considered a head injury and should be treated immediately.
Some of the most common ways workers sustain concussions, closed head injuries, and brain injuries include:
- Falls from height — Common in the construction industry, workers who fall from a ladder, roof, scaffolding, bridge, platform, or through a hole can suffer serious and sometimes fatal head injuries. While falls from heights of more than 30 feet are often fatal, even a 6-foot fall can result in a traumatic brain injury or death.
- Being struck by objects — In general, the four most common ways this type of workplace accident occurs is when a worker is hit in the head by a flying object, a falling object, a swinging object, or a rolling object. This can include a worker being struck by everything from heavy machinery and tools to debris and work vehicles.
- Motor vehicle crashes — Those who are required to drive cars, trucks, and other vehicles for work are at risk of getting into a crash and suffering a life-changing brain injury. The most common jobs where workers have an obligation to get behind the wheel include commercial truck drivers, construction workers, delivery drivers, salespeople, contractors, and home healthcare aides.
- Slip and falls — Anything that causes a worker to lose their traction can lead to a slip, trip, and fall accident that results in a concussion, head injury, or brain damage. Common causes include spills, floors that have cracks, surfaces that were just mopped or waxed, uneven or ripped carpeting, parking lot potholes, loose floorboards or mats, broken stairs, and cluttered walkways.
- Explosions — The risk of experiencing a workplace explosion is higher for those who work in factories, plants, on construction sites, in mines, or in oilfields. For those who aren't fatally injured in such accidents, the blast from an explosion can produce enough force to throw the worker from their feet or cause debris to hit them in the head, resulting in a brain injury.
Recognizing the signs and symptoms of a brain injury
The effects of some brain injuries aren't always apparent until hours or sometimes even days after an accident, which is why you should always seek immediate medical attention to receive a proper diagnosis. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your injury, you may need an X-ray, MRI, or other forms of medical testing before you begin treatment.
Keep in mind that you don't need to get hit in the head and knocked out to suffer a brain injury. Some brain injuries can happen just by the violent jolting of the head and neck.
It's also important to note that while they are often referred to by doctors as "mild" traumatic brain injuries (mTBI), serious concussions can have some of the same debilitating symptoms as other types of brain injuries. As such, no brain injury should be considered "mild."
If you've sustained a concussion or another form of traumatic brain injury, you may experience:
- Lost consciousness
- Chronic headaches or headaches that worsen over time
- Vomiting or feeling nauseous
- Seizures or convulsions
- Dilated pupils
- Problems with sleep or sleeping more than usual
- Agitation or unusual behavior
- Slurred speech
- Memory problems
- Difficulty thinking clearly
- Sensitivity to light or noise
Treatment for a brain injury will vary depending on the severity and the individual and may include rest, medication, surgery, physical rehab, cognitive behavioral therapy, and counseling from a psychologist.
Preventing workplace brain injuries
Proper training, awareness, and performing regular maintenance in the workplace are some of the most important steps an employer can take to prevent an accident that results in a concussion or other form of traumatic brain injury.
For instance, your employer can help prevent a slip and fall accident by removing tripping hazards and ensuring walkways are clear of clutter, cords, and slippery substances. Your boss can also make sure appropriate safety measures are implemented on the job site, such as the mandatory wearing of hard hats or the use of harnesses. Requiring proper footwear for adequate traction, posting signs to warn workers of hazards, and even installing guardrails are other things an employer can do to promote safety in the workplace.
Likewise, since work-related car accidents are one of the most common causes of concussions and brain injuries, employers who require their workers to drive can enforce seatbelt wearing and other safe driving habits, such as:
- Staying under the speed limit
- Avoiding distractions (e.g., talking on a cellphone, texting while driving, eating, etc.)
- Driving sober
- Adjusting for hazardous road conditions or inclement weather
- Obeying all traffic control signals and road signs
McLaughlin & Sanchez fights for injured workers
If you've suffered a concussion, closed head injury, or brain injury in a workplace accident, you have the right to apply for workers' compensation benefits. The problem is navigating the workers' comp system in California can be extremely confusing, frustrating, and overwhelming — and if you've got a brain injury, trying to sort through all the red tape can just be too much to handle.
At McLaughlin & Sanchez, we've got more than 30 years of combined legal experience helping clients in southern California obtain the workers' compensation benefits they need and deserve. Let our attorneys stand by your side and advocate for your best interests.
See how an experienced workers' compensation lawyer in southern California can help you with your work-related brain injury and contact us today for a free consultation. We have offices in San Diego, Chula Vista, and Temecula.