A woman who sustained a serious brain injury while undergoing a routine procedure at a local medical center was recently awarded $2.9 million dollars for future medical costs, pain and sufferings, and loss of earnings. According to one report, in 2002, a woman named Kathryn Brethour was having an X-ray taken when the cord from the X-ray tube caught the machine’s keypad, which then fell on Mrs. Brethour’s forehead. She subsequently suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and filed the personal-injury lawsuit against the medical center and X-ray manufacturer. The lawsuit against the manufacturing company was dropped because the State Supreme Court found that they did properly install the equipment. However, a six-person jury ultimately found that Mrs. Brethour did indeed suffer permanent brain damage as a “direct result” of the accident and held the medical center, thus awarding her the $2.9 million.
While it’s hard to know the severity of the injury exactly, it does seem as though the jury’s decision suggests that people take the damaging effects of brain injuries very seriously and recognize the high costs that come along with this type of injury. However, though $2.9 million sounds like a hefty sum, even that amount may fall short of covering all of Ms. Brethour’s long-term care, depending on the severity of her injury. Hopefully, the amount she receives will be enough to cover the lifetime care she needs, though according to one report that analyzed the lifetime costs of moderate and severe brain injuries, medical care associated with TBI can be as much as $5 million but this figure is quickly becoming antiquated. A 2007 Harvard study by Dr. L. Blimes, supported by the Department of Defense, entitled “A View of Three Wars” estimated that the lifetime cost of brain injuries can soar to around $15 million.
Clearly, the cost of brain injuries can be yet another overwhelming concern people have to deal with in addition to coping with the injury itself. Additionally, the scenario that resulted Ms. Brethour’s injury is a strong reminder that though the brain is a powerful organ, it can still be quite delicate–something that may seem so simple and harmless can happen so quickly and result in serious damage. Certainly, it is unfortunate that Mrs. Brethour has to cope with effects of a serious brain injury in order for this lesson to be learned, but hopefully experiences like hers will help encourage anyone who experiences a blow to the head to get checked out by a medical professional as soon as possible, even if the injury seems minor. That way, any sort of brain injury can be diagnosed, treated, and managed appropriately. Not only will receiving proper treatment early on help improve health outcomes, but it can help avoid the real costs of a lifetime disability associated with brain injury that even money can’t change.