When a loved one suffers from a traumatic brain injury (TBI), people usually from a range of emotions. Grief over the suffering their friend or family member is going through; anger over why the injury happened; self-doubt, wondering if there is anything they could have done differently to prevent the injury; fear for the future and disbelief that many of the hopes and dreams for the future may be gone forever. As time goes by, these last emotions are perhaps the most difficult, as the TBI victim and their family suffer one of the worst injuries resulting from a TBI: despair.
Our message for TBI victims is never lose hope for the future. With the right medical interventions, even victims of severe TBIs can live full and meaningful lives.
The latest story of a TBI victim overcoming his injury involves 26-year-old Jackie Lithgow, in a story originally reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer. In 2014, Jackie was a college freshman who suffered a brutal assault at a college party, leaving him in a coma while fractured pieces of his skull were removed surgically. As the severity of Jackie’s injuries became clear, the hopes and dreams Jackie’s parents had for his future, including a college degree, marriage and grandkids one day, were replaced with the simple hope that Jackie would recover.
Like many TBI victims, Jackie did nothing wrong. In fact, his actions might be described as heroic. While he was a 19-year-old freshman, Jackie was at a fraternity pledge party when a fight broke out. Although Jackie wasn’t involved in the fight, he did try and break I up, and in the process he was hit in the back of his head, falling and striking his head on the pavement. Jackie’s skull was fractured and - in critical condition - he was airlifted for immediate trauma surgery and placed into an induced coma for over two weeks. Jackie’s traumatic brain injury ranked as the most severe category on the Glasgow Coma Scale, an important tool used by health providers to assess impairment levels, which you can learn more about here. Jackie suffered from MRSA, a type of staph infection which can be serious and difficult to treat. Jackie went through emergency brain surgeries while he battled for his life.
Fortunately, Jackie emerged from his coma but, like most victims of a severe traumatic brain injury, this was only the beginning of a long and difficult process. What followed for Jackie echoes the journey followed by some of our own TBI clients.
After awakening from his coma, Jackie was severely impaired in performing the basic functions of his life: breathing, talking, standing and walking. Jackie spent months completing inpatient rehabilitation trying to learn these basics of life. While he worked hard to make progress, Jackie continued to suffer significant ongoing impairments, including seizures, slurred speech, difficulty finding the right words, short term memory loss, and a variety of other problems.
While Jackie received excellent medical care, perhaps the most important tool he had as he persevered through recovery was the love and support of his family, which never lost hope. As his mother explained to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Jackie’s dream was not over, it was just delayed. She constantly made clear to Jackie that there was light at the end of the tunnel, he just needed to continuously search for it and never give up.
Jackie’s mom also recounted her urge to put Jackie in a bubble to protect him, but that Jackie himself would not allow this and – despite his limitations – he fought to return back to the world and to continue to pursue the dreams he had before his TBI. For Jackie, this meant a return to college.
This return was filled with doubt, including many of Jackie’s medical providers who cautioned against his return to school. However, Jackie and his family pushed on, with him starting a tentative return to campus life in 2016. A small army of people at his university helped out, and worked to accommodate Jackie’s limitations, while gradually increasing his workload.
This week, Jackie became a college graduate. His remarkable journey was recognized by all around him, and at the graduation ceremony he was called upon to stand and be recognized – something he wasn’t even able to do following his accident. Watching from the stands was Jackie’s girlfriend and his family, who supported him along the way. A job awaits Jackie which will allow him to put his bachelor’s degree in media and journalism to work.
As part of his remarkable recovery, Jackie also helped found the Jackie Lithgow Foundation, which helps survivors of traumatic brain injury.
Many have called Jackie’s journey miraculous, while his trauma surgeon describes Jackie’s perseverance and recovery as one of hope to others going through the exact same thing. She proclaims that Jackie is an example of what is possible. She also cautions, however, that Jackie is an exceptional kid with an exceptional family and that this contributed significantly to the remarkable outcome.
Jackie’s challenges following his injury closely mirrors the difficulties of our clients who have suffered a severe traumatic brain injury. We know from experience that these injuries are extremely difficult not only on the victim, but also on their family. Dealing with the fallout from these types of injuries is exhaustive, both physically and emotionally. One of the biggest challenges can be issues with the loved one’s irritability, mood swings, and changed personality. Symptoms of the injury may include inappropriate social behavior, unexpected outbursts, and bouts of irrational anger. It is important for loved ones to remain patient and supportive, although this is not always easy to do.
There are many resources available to help family members cope with issues arising from a traumatic brain injury and provide support that is needed. If you find yourself dealing with these issues, there is no need to go through it alone. Contact us and we will connect you with resources to help you overcome the adversity of a loved one with a TBI. Getting this help can make a meaningful difference, as Jackie’s story reveals.
Families of traumatic brain injury victims are also likely to face a variety of legal issues. If the family member is over the age of 18 and is no longer able to take care of his or herself, then it is important that a legal guardianship be declared so that a responsible person can assist with important financial and other decisions. If the injury was the result of another person’s negligence, there are also likely claims for compensation, the result of which can change the course of the injury victim’s life, as well as their family. In our experience, catastrophic brain injury claims often require future medical care and financial support exceeding $10,000,000 over the lifetime of the victim in order to achieve the best quality of care. Efforts to achieve a recovery like Jackie’s often requires access to the leading brain injury doctors and hospitals over the course of the victim’s lifetime, as well as case management services and other support structures.
Experienced brain injury lawyers will obtain a Life Care Plan from leading experts as part of the legal process. This plan, which is frequently formed in consultation with treating doctors, leading neurologists, physiatrists, rehabilitation specialists and a Certified Life Care Planner, provides a complete and organized plan for the current and future health care needs of a brain injury victim. To be an effective tool, it needs to follow established standards of practice, data analysis, and research.
In addition to providing a comprehensive care plan, it also includes a detailed economic analysis of the expected cost of the TBI victim’s care and support over their lifetime. Regrettably, not all victims of severe brain injury are as fortunate as Jackie and many are permanently disabled and unable to return to or start working. In these cases, a Life Care Plan will include lifetime economic costs for things such as housing and living necessities. In these instances, the Life Care Plan will also include an analysis of a Vocational and Economic expert to document the victim’s inability to work and the lifetime wages and benefits lost as a result of the injury.
We believe these reports are critical to an injury victim’s full legal recovery, and they can also provide an incredibly useful blueprint for the future care and treatment of the TBI victim once money is recovered. Unfortunately, quality expert analysis is not inexpensive, and proper reporting often costs in excess of $30,000. In preparing a severe traumatic brain injury case, it is not unusual for expert analysis and reporting to cost in excess of $200,000. In our experience, this evidence is vital to making sure the brain injury victim recovers the full amount they are entitled to and has the best quality of life going forward. Given the importance of this evidence, we advance all costs related to necessary expert analysis out of our own pocket when we represent the families of TBI victims. In our opinion, all qualified TBI lawyers should be prepared to invest significant resources into preparing these types of cases.
Severe TBIs are tragic and challenging, but Jackie’s story illustrates that there can be hope for a full and meaningful life. If you have a family member of loved one who has suffered from a TBI, please let us know how we can help and direct you to the resources which are available to you.
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Don is a founding partner and one of the nation’s top-ranked personal injury litigators. He is a member of the Multi-million Dollar Advocates Forum, which includes less than 1% of the nation’s trial lawyers, and awarded the highest ranking given by Martindale Hubbel and AVVO.
More importantly, Don understands representing personal injury victims is about more than recovering the best settlement: it’s about helping clients get back on their feet and supporting them in every aspect of their recovery.
In nearly all cases, our clients seek compensation from the wrongdoer’s insurance company. Before forming Wruck Paupore, Jason worked for a prominent law firm representing some of the world’s largest insurers. This experience gives Jason a deep understanding of the insurance industry and the strategies it uses to pay injury victims as little as possible.
Jason -- and our entire team -- put this inside knowledge to work to force insurance companies to pay what is actually owed. Often, we use the insurance company’s own tactics against them as we fight for the full compensation our client deserves.
For more than four decades, Keith has been fighting for injury victims. During that time, he’s watched the insurance industry change, with insurers now more interested in protecting their stock price than treating injury victims fairly.
Since the beginning, Keith has put people first. From his childhood in Gary, Indiana during the 1960’s and working his way through law school, Keith has risen to become one of the Midwest’s most respected trial lawyers. He has never forgotten that being a lawyer is about helping people -- and seeing injury victims through struggles in a way that could change their lives forever.
Over the decades, Keith, Don and Jason have fought relentlessly for clients, even when other lawyers have said the case was impossible to win.
Advertising Materials / Legal Advertising. Any testimonials or stories set forth on this website are by actual clients and their families. Such testimonials or stories are provided for informational purposes only and are not to be considered as a promise or guarantee as to the outcome of your specific case and may not be typical. Every case presents unique facts and circumstances. You case and expected outcome will likely differ from the facts of the cases listed. The only way to properly evaluate your case is to consult with a qualified personal injury attorney.