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Racecar Drivers And Brain Injuries

NASCAR’s Dale Earnhardt Jr. took himself out of a race in New Hampshire as he recovers from a third concussion, an act that was unheard of a generation ago.

Mr. Earnhardt battled nausea, dizziness, headaches, and other classic concussion symptoms for several days after he crashed in both June and July; he was also diagnosed with concussion in 2002 and 2012. ARCA racecar driver John Wes Townley also took himself out of a race following a July crash. He said he had physical symptoms, and also had difficulty concentrating. “The real danger is when you get another concussion before the first one is healed. That can be serious. You have to let it heal,” he added.

Sitting out a race due to injury was not an option for former NASCAR driver Ricky Rudd, because back in the 1980s and 1990s, drivers typically had to start and finish every race to be eligible for the championship and avoid substantial financial penalties. Mr. Rudd crashed at the Busch Clash, his car rolled over nine times, and he sustained a massive head injury. But rather than get out of the car, he taped his eyelids open with duct tape and finished the race.

“It was one of these deals where you do what you have to do,” he said.

Traumatic Brain Injuries

Motor vehicle crashes are among the most common causes of the estimated 1.7 million TBIs that occur in the United States each year. Most of these injuries occur during the secondary collision, when the driver’s head slams into the steering wheel or the passenger’s head slams into the dashboard. Similarly, during the secondary collision, cell phone and other loose items basically are transformed into high-speed projectiles. Older adults and young children are very susceptible to fall-related TBIs, while construction workers and military service-members often sustain TBIs after being too close to sudden loud noises, like explosive blasts.

TBIs are permanent, because although missing bone and skin tissue eventually regenerate, dead brain cells remain dead. However, after aggressive medical treatment and long-term physical therapy, even the most serious symptoms are more manageable. These symptoms include:

  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears),
  • Chronic severe headaches,
  • Nausea and/or vomiting,
  • Trouble sleeping,
  • Personality changes,
  • Loss of function, and
  • Trouble concentrating.

Eventually, TBI victims will suffer from dementia-like symptoms, and possibly even die, if their injuries are not properly diagnosed and treated.

Damages in a TBI Case

There are two types of damages for negligence cases that involve a “serious” injury, a term that is defined in 627.727(2) of the Florida Statutes. Compensatory damages are sometimes called “special” damages, because they are unique to each case. These damages include:

  • Economic losses, including medical bills, lost wages, and physical rehabilitation expenses, and
  • Noneconomic losses, including pain and suffering, loss of consortium (companionship and contribution to household maintenance), emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment in life.

Punitive damages are also available, if the tortfeasor (negligent party) acted particularly recklessly or wantonly. These damages are normally capped at $500,000 or three times the amount of compensatory damages.

Contact Aggressive Lawyers

TBI victims are often entitled to significant compensation. For a free consultation with an assertive personal injury attorney in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in personal injury matters.

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