Brain injury and death can happen rapidly when the brain is deprived of oxygen. Brain damage begins to occur within a few minutes, causing permanent cell death and potentially severe brain damage in as little as five minutes. After only ten minutes without oxygen, catastrophic brain damage or death become likely outcomes.
Regarding oxygen deprivation in the brain, there are two classifications: hypoxic and anoxic injuries. Hypoxia occurs when oxygen is restricted and causes brain cells' gradual impairment and eventual death. On the other hand, anoxia occurs when the brain's oxygen supply is completely shut off, which can cause permanent injury after only four to five minutes. Regardless of the underlying cause, the resulting brain damage can range from mild, with the potential for a full recovery, to catastrophic.
In the United States, heart attacks and strokes are the most common cause of adult hypoxic/anoxic brain injuries. Other causes include drowning, choking, suffocation, strangulation, smoke inhalation, carbon monoxide poisoning, severe blood loss, and drug overdose.
When an anoxic or hypoxic brain injury occurs, it's difficult to determine initially whether a full recovery will be possible. Unfortunately, it can take a very long time for the brain to recover from this type of injury, and some injuries are severe enough that the damage is, in effect, permanent.
Patients with mild brain injuries are usually capable of making a full or partial recovery, but a full recovery is rare in cases of severe injury. The most rapid recovery usually occurs within the first six months, and the ultimate prognosis can usually be determined after about a year. Additional recovery can continue to be made for several years after a brain injury occurs with extensive therapy, though the progress is often modest and very gradual after the first few months. In addition, the injury's symptoms and effects depend upon the area of the brain that was affected. For instance, a person whose injury occurred in the language center of their brain will have different challenges than someone whose injury affected their brain's memory or movement areas.
Often, anoxic or hypoxic brain injuries cannot be foreseen or prevented. However, there are ways to reduce the risk of severe brain damage. We rely on medical professionals to quickly identify the problem and provide treatment for the most common causes of hypoxic and anoxic brain injuries -- heart attacks and stroke. When blood flow and oxygen are not restored as soon as possible, the resulting brain damage may be permanent.
Because every minute counts when it comes to the brain, it's becoming increasingly common to find automated external defibrillators (AEDs) throughout the community. These devices can help restart the heart after a heart attack and are designed to be used by the public so that valuable minutes aren't wasted while waiting for help to arrive. In Pennsylvania, certain facilities are legally required to have an AED on-site, along with employees who know how to use it and are trained in CPR. Owners of AEDs are also required to properly maintain and routinely test their AED machine according to the manufacturer's directions and can be held liable if their AED machine does not work properly due to neglect.
For other causes of brain injury, if another person or organization can be shown to have caused the injury (or prevented timely medical intervention), they can be held liable for the damages caused by their action or inaction. Some examples may include manufacturers of faulty carbon monoxide detectors, perpetrators of violence, toy manufacturers that don't warn of a choking hazard, and landlords who don't install or properly maintain smoke detectors.
After a severe injury, it's natural to wonder if it could have been prevented. When another person or organization is fully or partially responsible for a brain injury, they can be held liable for any medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering caused. These types of medical malpractice cases can often be challenging to prove, and it can be hard to win your case without the skill of an experienced legal team. Because of this, make sure that you find an attorney with a track record of success. Generally, Pennsylvania only allows two years to file your claim for these types of cases, so don't delay.
Ross Feller Casey is a recognized leader in brain injury lawsuits throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey and has a history of record-breaking verdicts and settlements for the catastrophically injured. We have Ivy League-trained doctor-lawyers on staff, so we understand how complex and prolonged the recovery from a brain injury can be. Our brain injury attorneys work on a contingency basis, so you will never have to pay unless there is a financial recovery in your case. And consultations are always free of charge. If you or a loved one has been the victim of an anoxic or hypoxic brain injury, our attorneys are standing by and ready to help. Contact us today.
Disclaimer: Ross Feller Casey, LLP provides legal advice only after an attorney-client relationship is formed. Our website is an introduction to the firm and does not create a relationship between our attorneys and clients. An attorney-client relationship is formed only after a written agreement is signed by the client and the firm. Because every case is unique, the description of awards and summary of cases successfully handled are not intended to imply or guarantee that same success in other cases. Ross Feller Casey, LLP represents catastrophically injured persons and their families in injury and wrongful death cases, providing legal representation in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.