I’m going to talk about head and brain injury settlement amounts. We’re going to dive deep into understanding how to value head injury cases.
If someone’s negligence caused your head injury, you may be able to get compensation.
Damages may include:
- Medical expenses (e.g. ambulance bills, hospital bills, doctors’ bills, etc.)
- Lost Wages
- Pain and Suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Most head injuries are small because our skull is firm and guards the brain.
A minor head injury has a very small full value for the pain and suffering component for settlement purposes. This is because you need little medical treatment.
It is also because there is little pain and suffering associated with a minor head injury. However, other head injuries can be serious, like a skull fracture, concussion, or traumatic brain injury.
What is the Settlement Value of a Skull Fracture?
Before I get into settlement values, I want to talk about the different types of skull fractures.
A linear skull fracture is a break in a cranial bone resembling a thin line, without splintering, depression, or distortion of bone. It is often caused by a blunt force trauma, like a car that hits a pedestrian.
A depressed skull fracture is a break in a cranial bone (or “crushed” portion of skull) with depression of the bone in toward the brain. Below is an image of a depressed skull fracture.
Here is another image of a depressed skull fracture.
A compound fracture involves a break in, or loss of, skin and splintering of the bone.
Linear skull fractures tend to be less serious than a depressed skull fracture, or a compound fracture. Thus, all things equal, the full settlement value for pain and suffering of a linear skull fracture isn’t as high as a depressed or compound fracture.
The responsible party’s insurance company will likely say that a linear skull fracture isn’t serious unless it:
- is parallel and near or runs across a suture. (Sutures are the joints of the skull.)
- Involves a venous sinus grove or vascular channel
If a linear skull fracture meets one of those two criteria, this increases the full settlement value.
What is the Settlement Value of a Child’s Linear Skull Fracture?
In young children the possibility exists of developing a growing skull fracture especially if the fracture occurs in the parietal bone. Growing skull fractures are rare in kids.
A growing skull fracture increases the full value of the case.
If a child suffers a skull fracture in an accident, the settlement will likely have to be approved by a court. This is true unless you’re dealing with a small auto insurance policy.
A serious brain injury has a larger full value for settlement purposes.
Are Open Head Injuries Worth More Than Closed Head Injuries?
Head injuries are classified as closed or open. A closed head injury is when you receive a powerful strike to your head from hitting an object. However, the object does not crack the skull.
An open (or penetrating) head injury is when you are hit with an object that breaks the skull and goes into the brain. All things equal, open head injuries have a higher full value for settlement purposes than a closed head injury.
Open head injuries happen during high-speed events. Examples are:
- A car hits a motorcyclist and the rider flies through the car’s windshield.
- A truck T-bones you and your head strikes the side of the car (or airbag).
- Getting shot.
- You get punched or stomped on.
- Serious motor vehicle accidents.
There are some signs of a moderate or serious head injury. Get medical attention immediately if you have any of these signs.
- Increased confusion, agitation or restlessness
- Difficulty with coordination
- Lack of strength or numbness in the legs or arms
- Slurred speech
- Dilation of one of both eye pupils
- You cannot wake up
- Seizures or convulsions
- Continued nausea or vomiting
- A headache that gets worse and remains
It also helps a personal injury case to get these signs documented by a medical professional as soon as possible after an accident. You should send the claims adjuster your medical records as soon as possible after an accident.
The full value of the pain and suffering component of your case increases if you have any of the above signs.
Symptoms and Diagnosis of a Head Injury
MRI is a diagnostic test. Actresses/Dramatization.A doctor may order a:
- Computed tomography (CT) of your head.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of your head.
- Skull radiography (X-rays)
- Ultrasound (only done on babies younger than 6 months old)
A radiologist will review the test and look for any sign of a head injury.
Does Failing to Prevent a Head Injury Affect the Settlement Amount?
There are many things that people can do to prevent head injuries.
In Florida, if you do not wear a bicycle helmet, it may not be considered evidence of negligence or contributory negligence. Florida Statute 316.2065. The same is true if a parent or guardian fails to prevent a child from riding a bicycle without bicycle helmet.
This means that the full value of your injury case will not get reduced just because you did not wear a helmet. Learn about Florida bicycle accident laws.
How Medical Treatment for a Head Injury Affects Settlement Amount
The course of treatment for a head injury will depend upon the location and severity of the injury. For a minor head injury, a doctor will close cuts with staples, stitches or glue.
Take photos of any scarring. Even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal. If the insurance limits aren’t big, a “small” scar may be enough to get the limits.
The doctor will probably give you a pain reliever like Motrin or Tylenol. If you have a severe head injury, a neurologist will need multiple tests and observation. These tests increase the total amount of medical bills.
If you have an internal head injury, pressure may build up in your skull. The pressure buildup can be serious and sometimes cause death. A doctor will insert a probe to see if you have pressure.
Surgery Increases The Settlement Value of a Head Injury Case
If you have pressure, the doctor may perform surgery. Surgery increases the full value of a head injury case for settlement purposes.
The cases below are not mine unless I say that they are. However, I have handled settled many head injury claims.
Shopping Center Not Liable for Patron’s Head Injury (Object Fell Through Hole in Ceiling)
Check out a case where a jury ruled that a shopping center was not liable when a rock or hard clay fell through a ceiling and onto a patron at a hair salon. The patron claimed a head and neck injury.
$12.8 Million Verdict After Motor Vehicle Hits Motorcycle Rider (Florida)
This isn’t my case. De Los Santos v. Brink, Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 5th Dist. 2015 involved a collision with a motor vehicle owned by Santos, and operated by Pereles.
As a result, Dustin Brink (who was riding a motorcycle) suffered serious brain injuries.
His negligence lawsuit against Pereles and Santos went to trial. The jury rendered a verdict for damages in excess of $25 million.
After consideration of Brink’s comparative negligence and calculation of collateral source setoffs and taxable costs, the trial court ultimately entered a final judgment against Santos and Pereles for $12,832,837.17.
Santos’ liability was solely vicarious. In Florida, you are liable for letting someone drive your car.
Pereles had insurance with limits less than $500,000 combined property damage and bodily injury liability. As a result, the parties agreed that Santos’ liability was limited to $600,000.
Learn more about this case, where a Florida Appeals Court said that a Motor Vehicle Owner was only liable for $600,000 for a motorcyclist’s severe brain injuries.
As you can imagine, a motorcycle rider is more likely to suffer a brain injury than a car occupant. For this reason, motorcycle accident settlements are often bigger than car accident settlement amounts.
$15.1 Million Verdict for Skull and Facial Fractures, Brain damage and Seizures (Hit By Drunk Driver)
This isn’t my case. A drunk driver hit a 26-year-old male car passenger. It happened in Broward County, Florida. As a result of being hit by a drunk driver, he had mild to moderate brain injury.
After the trial, the injured man still had difficulty concentrating and paying attention. He also had seizures. The passenger had to have surgery to the bones in his face. He had plates put in his face.
Learn more about personal injury claims against drunk drivers in Florida. Learn more about a $100,000 settlement for a bicyclist after a pickup truck hit her in Cooper City, Broward County, Florida.
Read about a $110,000 settlement after a car hit a pedestrian who was in a crosswalk in Homestead, Miami-Dade County, Florida. She had an orbital fracture (bone next to the eye).
She had a inserted in her face to repair her facial bones. It’s important to understand past settlements for pedestrians who have been hit by a car.
Parent May Be Able To Hire Lawyer for Brain Injured Child Before Being Appointed Guardian
In Re Guardianship Of Deily, 37 So. 3d 277 – Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 2nd Dist. 2010, Jaime Stinson, as natural mother and next friend of Randall Deily handled her son’s bike accident claim.
Florida’s 2nd District Court of Appeals decided this case.
There are fourteen counties in the Second District, which include: Pasco & Pinellas, Hardee, Highlands, Polk, DeSoto, Manatee, Sarasota, Hendry, Hillsborough, Charlotte, Glades, Collier and Lee.
I assume that the accident happened in one of these counties. This is because, in a Florida car accident claim, you generally sue in the court that governs the county where the accident happened.
On June 6, 2007, eighteen-year-old Randall Deily suffered an incapacitating brain injury when his bicycle collided with a car. The Firm made a demand to GEICO for the full policy limits.
On September 4, 2007, GEICO paid the full policy limits of $300,000. The Firm also submitted a settlement demand upon Randall’s uninsured motorist insurance (UM) carrier. It paid the full policy limits of $25,000.
The total settlement was for $325,000. The Florida appeals court said that the severely brain injured bicyclist’s mom could hire a lawyer before she was appointed guardian. However, the personal injury attorney’s fee contract must be fair.
Court OKs $4.5 Million Verdict for Pain and Suffering for Brain Injury
In Hendry v. Zelaya, 841 So. 2d 572 (Fla. 3d DCA 2003), an appeals court approved a $4.5 million dollar jury verdict for pain and suffering. This isn’t my case.
Marcos Zalaya was a young police officer with the City of Miami Beach police department who was injured while celebrating his successful completion of SWAT team training. He was looking forward to a career in law enforcement.
While at a Miami Beach hotel bar, someone hit him with a bottle. He suffered a skull fracture. It required surgery. He also had a brain injury.
There was evidence that he suffered permanent brain damage resulting in memory loss. Further, there was evidence that his marriage has been affected by his injuries. Basically, Zalaya was permanently injured during the prime of his life.
The verdict was based on his life expectancy. It included an award for future pain and suffering.
Head Injury Settlements from Falling Merchandise
Falling merchandise in a store may cause your head injury. In one case, Lila Sparks-Book was shopping with her husband at The Sports Authority on August 23, 1992. This isn’t my case.
There, a camping stove was accidentally knocked off a shelf by an employee. It landed on Sparks-Book’s head. A jury found that Sports Authority’s negligence wasn’t the cause of her injury.
The jury said that Sports Authority did not cause her head injury. However, the appeals court said that the injured customer was entitled to recover for those medical expenses incurred for any diagnostic testing which was reasonably necessary to determine whether the accident caused her injuries.
Find out more about personal injury claims if merchandise falls on you in a Florida store.
$5 Million Award for Pain and Suffering from Brain Injuries and Amnesia (Car Accident)
ln Watson v. Walker, a mother (Watson) was taking her two daughters to a soccer match. This isn’t my case.
Watson reportedly suffered injuries as a result of the collision, including brain injuries and amnesia.” There is no indication of how old she was. However, she was presumably younger than 89 years old. Additionally, at the time the verdict was rendered, she was still alive.
A jury awarded Watson $5 million for past pain and suffering during a timeframe of almost 6 years. I don’t know if the jury awarded compensation for future pain and suffering.
$3 Million Verdict for Pain and Suffering for Brain Injury (Memory and Speech Issues)
This isn’t my case. In Kroeger v. Bevis and C & G Homes, Inc., a 50-year-old male air conditioner repairman had an accident.
After the accident, he lost 110 pounds. Often, he couldn’t “remember or recognize his wife or young child.”
Further, his speech was severely impaired and, for example, if asked what his wife name was, he would respond with a number. As a result of his injuries, he claimed that he would never be able to return to work.
A jury awarded him $3,000,000 in past pain and suffering. I don’t know if the jury awarded compensation for future pain and suffering.
Do Different Insurance Companies Pay Different Amounts to Settle Brain and Injury Cases?
Of the major insurers, Progressive and Farmers will likely offer the least to settle a brain injury case. Unfortunately, Progressive insures Uber in Florida.
Both Progressive and Farmers have funny ads. But that’s where the fun stops. Despite their humorous ads, Farmers and Progressive are terrible.
Windhaven and United Auto are even worse. However, the bigger issue in cases with them is that there won’t be enough bodily injury liability insurance to pay for the full case value.
One grade above them are State Farm, Allstate, Philadelphia Insurance, Infinity, Auto Owner’s. However, these insurance companies are still below average.
GEICO, Travelers, Safeco, Liberty Mutual, CNA are all around average. They typically offer more than the above companies to settle.
Examples of above average insurance companies are USAA, Zurich (Lyft’s insurer), Nationwide. The Hartford has a reputation for paying more than those companies.
Which insurance companies pay the most to settle a head or brain injury claim?
Chubb, Crum & Forster, The Hanover Insurance Group and Scottsdale. These companies are the best at paying for a case involving a brain injury. They are the least likely to require a lawsuit if liability is clear.
But make no mistake about it. Even the “best” insurance companies still put up a fight. After all, their business model is to make a profit.
The less they pay someone with a head or brain injury, the more money they keep as profit.
You should hire a lawyer to make sure that your case has a solid foundation.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Settlement in a Head Injury Case?
The time that it takes to settle a brain or head injury case depends on many factors. It will depend on the severity of the brain or head injury. Another huge factor will be the amount of available insurance coverage.
Also, people over the age of 70 years may be able to get a quicker trial date in state court. Of course, this assumes that a lawsuit is filed.
Sometimes, the best settlement demand is a trial date. Then, the insurance company knows that a possible payout may be coming soon.
How to Estimate Case Value for a Head Injury and Another Injured Body Part?
The injured person (or his/her attorney) can add the value of the head injury, and the other injury. Therefore, the claimant needs to know settlement values of other injuries.
You can check out settlement values of:
- Lower leg (tibia) fracture
- Tibial plateau fracture
- Shoulder joint tear (labrum tear)
- Broken wrist (distal radius fracture)
- Rotator cuff tear
- Fracture of a bone in your face
- Herniated disc
- Thumb fracture
- Broken upper leg bone (femur)
- Hip fracture
- Burst fracture or Compression fracture
- Ankle fracture
It doesn’t stop there…
The injured person needs to know settlement values for these injuries:
- Back pain or neck pain that leads to a spinal fusion
- A brain injury, or depressed or open skull fracture
How Much is a Subdural Hematoma Worth?
A subdural hematoma is a collection of blood between the covering of the brain (dura) and the surface of the brain.
Here is what a subdural hematoma looks like:
A subdural hematoma is most often the result of a severe head injury. Car accidents (and falls from ladders) can cause a subdural hematoma. Other accidents can
Accident victims with a subdural hematoma may be in a coma for months. They may also need a tracheotomy. A tracheotomy is an incision in the windpipe made to relieve an obstruction to breathing.
Here is what a tracheotomy looks like:
You could also get a subdural hematoma from a motorcycle accident or other accident.
Depending on the size of the hematoma and where it presses on the brain, any of the following symptoms may occur:
- Confused or slurred speech
- Problems with balance or walking
- Lack of energy or confusion
- Seizures or loss of consciousness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weakness or numbness
- Vision problems
As with other head injury claims, the settlement amount for a subdural hematoma will be based on the severity of the symptoms. If someone has slurred speech or problems will balance, this can add major value to the case.
Likewise, if a subdural hematoma causes seizures, this can quickly increase settlement value.
A subdural hematoma is an emergency condition. Emergency surgery may be needed to reduce pressure within the brain. If you have surgery to reduce pressure, this increases the full case value. Big time.
Again, as a general rule, surgery increases the full value of a personal injury case.
Basilar Skull Fracture Settlement Amounts
A basilar skull fracture is a break of a bone in the base of the skull. If you get struck in the head, you may get a basilar skull fracture.
Not all basilar skull fractures require surgery. However, people with a basilar skull fracture may be more likely to get an infection. Infections could include meningitis. Meningitis can be fatal if it is not treated quickly.
An infectious disease doctor is the type of doctor who diagnoses an infection.
Believe it or not, the insurance company may hire expert doctors who deny that you have a basilar skull fracture. A CT scan can show a basilar skull fracture.
When you have a lesion on the brain, that is dead brain. The injured person’s doctor should be able to explain this in his report.
Here is another image of a basilar skull fracture as seen on a CT scan:
The diagram below shows bones that may be involved in a basilar skull fracture:
How Does Brain Surgery Affect Settlement Value?
Surgery may involve drilling a small hole in the skull to drain any blood and relieve pressure on the brain. Large hematomas or solid blood clots may need to be removed through a procedure called a craniotomy.
Here is a diagram of a craniotomy:
A craniotomy creates a larger opening in the skull.
If someone is injured in an accident and has a decompressive craniotomy, he or she can hire a company to demonstrate the procedure.
A decompressive craniotomy involves drilling of burr holes, a flap being cut, and decompression. The medical animation will also show doctors putting staples into the head to sew it back up.
The responsible party’s insurance company may not question that you’ve had a craniotomy (a severe brain injury). However, they may argue that you don’t have residual cognitive deficits.
In other words, they may argue that the accident hasn’t affected your mental processes that lead to the acquisition of information and knowledge, and drive how an individual understands and acts in the world.
If you have a chronic subdural hematoma, the insurance company may argue that patients have better outcomes in most cases. They may claim that symptoms often go away after the blood collection is drained. Thus, the insurance company may offer less compensation if you have a chronic subdural hematoma.
Physical therapy is sometimes needed to help the person get back to their usual level of functioning. If you need physical therapy, this adds value to the case.
Because your medical bills increase.
At the same time, your claim for the loss of capacity to enjoy life increases. After all, who wants to spend his or her time driving to and from physical therapy. Not too mention waiting for the physical therapist.
You can find some of my past head injury cases on my injury settlements page.
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