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What is the Value of a Brain?

After a catastrophic auto accident, attorneys, judges, and juries are sometimes asked to do the unthinkable: put a value on an injured motorist’s brain. Insurance requirements for combat sports like Mixed Martial Arts provide a comparison, but as one commentator notes, their estimates are unrealistically low.

How much does it cause to recover from a traumatic brain injury? $5,000? $50,000? How about $1 million? That’s the number New York legislators have chosen. They recently voted to legalize mixed martial arts, a high-impact combat sport. But they also required promoters to carry $1 million insurance coverage for life-threatening brain injuries suffered by athletes.

Boxing and mixed martial arts put competitors in real danger for head injuries. Concussions are so common that a fighter is often called “punch drunk” when he or she takes too many blows to the head. Punch-drunkeness, also called dementia pugilistica, is a form of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). It causes behavioral, cognitive, and memory problems for its victims.

Injury Insurance and Brain Injury Treatments

The new insurance requirements, which apply to boxers as well as MMA fighters, are designed to provide for athletes who fall victim to the risks of their sport. But even the $1 million price tag assigned by New York falls short when you consider the cost of care.

Forbes Contributor Ron Kats, a sports injury lawyer at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP, explains:

“That sounds like a lot of money at first blush, but even the most superficial analysis reveals how inadequate it is.  Most MMA fighters are in their twenties.  Assuming conservatively that they have another 50 years of life expectancy, that comes to $20,000/year.  Anyone who has had experience with someone with a life-threatening brain injury knows the enormous expenses associated with such injuries.  These include sophisticated medical care and numerous paramedical aides to help the sick person with the activities of daily life. Often the person with such an injury has to live in some sort of nursing facility, which is extremely expensive.”

New York’s insurance requirement is the highest. California only requires $50,000, which works out to $1,000 per year.

Traumatic Brain Injury and No-Fault Insurance

The victims of auto accidents who suffer traumatic brain injuries can expect the same level of medical expenses. Surgeries, therapy, attendant care, and home modifications can add up to well over $1 million over the course of a lifetime.

That’s why Michigan’s no-fault insurance is so crucial. It ensures that a person’s medical expenses will be covered, no matter the cost. Without this coverage, it would be up to the families, and ultimately the tax payers to make up the difference.

What is the value of a brain? Because symptoms vary so widely, it is almost impossible to put a number on the average brain injury. But one thing is clear: $1 million is not enough.

David Christensen is a brain injury expert at Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan. He represents TBI patients against insurance companies. If you have suffered a serious head injury, contact Christensen Law to schedule a consultation.