What are the costs of traumatic brain injury (TBI)?
The public often expresses outrage at high-dollar verdicts when they reach the six- and seven-figure level. This is understandable in court cases, since only the jury hears all the evidence in a given case and the public is left to sparse and incomplete news reporting of trials.
For example, take the case of an Arizona teenager who suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) after being hit by a car in a crosswalk while walking to school – and now requires a lifetime of care. The jury, after hearing evidence from both the young man and the defendants, decided on a verdict of $9.14 million for him and his family after deliberating for two days.
Talin Rogers, 15 at the time of the accident, sustained permanent damage to his neurological system, affecting his executive function and memory, as well as his ability to talk and walk.
“It’s a high verdict, but I don’t know where it ranks in terms of the highest ever,” Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry told Tuscon.com.
Pima County was a defendant in the lawsuit, Julie Rogers, Frank Rogers and Talin Rogers v. Pima County, Judith Ealey and Donald Leming.
The jury decided $8.2 million should go to Talin Rogers, $640,000 to father Frank Rogers and $270,000 to mother Julie Rogers. They can thank their attorneys for that, as the counselors helped determine the boy’s long-term medical costs, estimated at $3.5 million, and his loss of income, estimated at $2.1 million. That adds up to $5.6 million, which does not include the mental anguish the family has endured and will continue to for as long as their son is alive.
“These verdicts are not driven by greed or irrationally on the part of lawyers or jurors,” attorney Thomas Waitt Pleasant, of Pleasant Law, wrote, “These verdicts are made up, in my opinion, most often of amounts designed to truly and fairly compensate personal injury and wrongful death plaintiffs.”
The plaintiffs’ lawyers did what all personal-injury lawyers should do in cases of TBIs: produce a Cost of Future Care report, also called a Future Care Assessment or a Life Care Plan. The document considers the severity of the TBI through an assessment test to glean the limitations and losses of the client-patient. The document also considers legal reports, medical opinions and technical details, such as how the TBI was caused.
“The next steps are additional research and consultation with relevant experts regarding the client’s prognosis,” according to the Karp Rehabilitation Web site. “From this, a long term needs analysis is produced, the costs of which are determined via contact with local and regional businesses.”
The Cost of Future Care report is an essential part of litigation because it is used during negotiations with the defendants, insurers and their counselors in court or at settlement.
So while the public continues to show concern for verdicts such as the one for the Rogers, the fact that TBIs can hit families hard with the skyrocketing bills to care for their loved ones has caught the attention of the National Center for Biotechnology Information, a division of the National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health.
“It is well recognized that traumatic brain injury (TBI) causes substantial morbidity, disability, and mortality,” the center’s Web site states. “There is also evidence that TBI is associated with high health care costs, both for individuals and society…. While there is no way to fully describe the human costs of TBI, complete and valid estimates of TBI-associated medical care utilization and costs are essential for informing allocation of scarce resources, targeting efforts toward prevention, identifying best practices, addressing future care needs, and implementing cost-effective treatments.
The final arbiter? Try to imagine when you were 15 years old. Now try to imagine you will live the rest of your life confined to a wheel chair, with neurological and brain deficits that eliminates most of the dreams you had for yourself.