Far too often, when I represent traumatic brain injury victims, the issue we take to trial isn’t whether my client was injured, but whether they still require treatment. Insurance providers rush to declare patients “fully recovered” and stop paying for treatments. But new studies confirm what all my clients know: brain injury recovery takes time.
I have been representing auto accident victims suffering traumatic brain injury for over 20 years. I’ve seen the auto insurance industry come up with all kinds of defenses to my client’s claims. “Independent” medical examiners will claim auto accident victims weren’t injured, don’t need treatment, or their injuries aren’t related to the crash.
When traumatic brain injury comes into the picture, one defense almost always comes with it: that the injured motorist no longer requires treatment because they have reached their maximum recovery. But this rush to close cases works directly against the injured motorists whose doctors are prescribing long-term therapeutic care. For them, brain injury means a long, slow road to recovery where it could be months, or even years, before they are back to their old selves.
New medical studies are supporting the need for lasting rehabilitation, focusing on full recovery over the long haul. Mark Tuszynski, MD, PhD, a professor in the Department of Neurosciences and director of the Center for Neural Repair at UC San Diego School of Medicine, and a neurologist with the VA San Diego Healthcare System, recently published a study showing that longer, intense rehabilitation can rebuild brain structure and regain function. He says:
“Typically, insurance supports brief periods of rehab to teach people to get good enough to go home. These findings suggest that if insurance would pay for longer and more intensive rehab, patients might actually recover more function.”
At Georgetown Medical Center, another study shows the importance of rest and recuperation, even after a mild traumatic brain injury. Rushing back to a person’s regular activities can increase the risk of subsequent injury and reduce the chance of spontaneous recovery. Lead author Mark P. Burns, PhD, said in a press release:
“It is good news that the brain can recover from a hit if given enough time to rest and recover. But on the flip side, we find that the brain does not undertake this rebalancing when impacts come too close together.”
Far too often, traumatic brain injury patients are rushed back to work when insurance adjusters declare they are “able to work”, without considering the long-term health implications.
Studies like these show just how important it is for patients to receive full medical benefits. Courts shouldn’t let insurance companies second guess the brain injury recovery needs of auto accident victims. Judges and juries must be educated about the need for full treatment regimes – not just the abbreviated treatment an insurance company trying to make money deems “reasonable.”