Find out when you can get workers’ comp benefits after a brain bleed at work
A brain bleed, also known as a cerebral hemorrhage, is a serious and potentially life-threatening injury that can occur after certain work accidents. Brain bleeds can range in severity from mild to severe, and they can have a significant impact on your health and quality of life.
It’s important to understand the causes, symptoms and treatment options for brain bleeds, as well as how to file a claim for workers’ comp to get medical benefits and lost wage replacement while you recover from your injuries.
However, if your brain injury was not work-related, it is crucial to speak with an experienced brain injury attorney who can help you explore your legal options and determine the best course of action to seek compensation.
With the right representation, you can ensure that your rights and interests are protected, and that you are able to obtain the financial support you need to recover from your injury.
What is a brain bleed?
Your brain is a bundle of tissue, nerves and blood vessels encased in and protected by an inflexible skull bone. That bundle is densely packed, with little room for moving around or swelling.
A brain bleed is distinguished by its location in the brain.
Some brain bleeds occur in 1 of the 3 membranes (or layers) that surround and protect the brain:
- Epidural hemorrhage. This bleeding occurs between the dura mater (the outermost membrane) and the skull.
- Subdural hemorrhage. This bleeding occurs between the dura mater and the arachnoid membrane (membrane beneath the dura mater).
- Subarachnoid hemorrhage. This bleeding occurs between the arachnoid membrane and the pia mater (membrane beneath the arachnoid membrane).
Brain hemorrhages can also come from inside the brain matter, and these can be more difficult to diagnose or treat. There are 2 possible sources of internal bleeding:
- Intraventricular hemorrhaging comes from within cavities containing cerebrospinal fluid.
- Intracerebral hemorrhaging comes from blood vessels within the brain tissue.
Blood vessels feed, nourish and bring oxygen to the brain tissues. If the vessels burst or are blocked, the brain tissue dies. They can be blocked or compressed by brain swelling, and there is scant room for swelling.
Your brain can swell as a result of a concussion or other trauma to your head, and the accumulation of leaking blood can further compress all the blood vessels and impede the nourishment of your brain tissue.
Also, brain swelling can compress nerves that send and receive messages between your brain and different parts of your body. Compression of nerves can cause pain and interfere with the functioning of organs, skeletal and muscular systems, and senses.
Did you know?
A brain bleed is the 2nd leading cause of strokes in the U.S., accounting for about 13%.
Symptoms of a brain bleed
There are numerous symptoms or signs of a brain bleed. They include:
- Persistent and severe headaches
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sensitivity to light
- Drowsiness and dizziness
- Disparate pupil sizes
- Slurred speech
- Difficulty swallowing
- Loss of consciousness
Common causes of a brain bleed at work
Brain bleed causes include:
- Head trauma or brain injury, including car accidents and contact sports
- High blood pressure
- Aneurysms (spontaneous rupture of a blood vessel)
- Brain tumors
In a workplace, the most likely cause of a brain bleed is trauma to the head or neck. This trauma can be caused by accidents, including:
- Falls from heights
- Falling equipment, tools, raised forklift loads or debris
- Slips, trips and falls
- Vehicle accidents
Other common causes of a brain bleed at work include:
- Exposure to toxins
Brain bleeds from vehicle accidents
Many workers have jobs that require them to drive or ride as passengers in trucks, cars or other vehicles, which can result in head trauma and other serious injuries in a collision.
The physical trauma to the brain in a car accident is similar to that of a concussion in a contact sport. Most brain trauma is caused by the brain smashing against the inside of the skull in response to an external force.
For example, a passenger wearing a seatbelt might be protected against their head striking the dashboard. But when the seatbelt suddenly stops their body from being thrown forward, their brain is not stopped from a violent collision by inertia against the inside of their skull. Typically, that would cause some degree of cerebral hemorrhaging.
Avoiding brain bleed accidents in the workplace
Workplace hazards endanger workers and cause worker absences and other burdens on the employer’s operation.
Employers should provide workers with all necessary safety equipment and establish and enforce strict safety protocols consistent with those published by OSHA and post them prominently in the workplace. They should also be prepared for catastrophic injuries with the necessary equipment and trained emergency personnel available on-site.
Treatment of a brain bleed
If a brain bleed is suspected from apparent symptoms, a doctor will run diagnostic tests, including:
- A CT scan (computed tomography)
- An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
- An MRA (magnetic resonance angiogram)
These tests show the location of the hemorrhaging and the extent of the damage.
Cerebral hemorrhaging is always treated as a medical emergency. Undue delay in diagnosis and treatment can be fatal.
Most often, surgery is needed to stop and release the pooling blood and reduce brain swelling. If a cerebral aneurysm has not ruptured, it may need to be sealed off and repaired. Some brain hemorrhages that are not surgically repaired might be treated medicinally.
Medicinal treatment might include:
- Medicines that manage blood pressure
- Drugs that prevent seizures
- Pain killers
- Nutrients and fluids administered intravenously (through an IV)
Long-term effects of a brain bleed
Cerebral hemorrhaging and brain swelling often kill brain cells. Such brain damage will cause varying degrees and duration of disability. Long-term effects may include:
- Speech impairment
- Cognitive deterioration (difficulty thinking)
Following a brain bleed, the patient may have to deal with long-term treatments such as:
- Physical therapy
- Speech therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Adjustment to lifestyle and habits to reduce the risk of another brain bleed
South Carolina workers’ compensation benefits
Trauma to the brain is often caused by workplace accidents or hazards. Affected workers may be entitled to benefits under a state’s workers’ compensation law. All states have such laws, and South Carolina’s system is governed by South Carolina Code Section 42-1-10 et seq.
A South Carolina employee who is injured while performing their job may be entitled to the following workers’ comp benefits:
- Medical care, including doctor services, medication, surgeries, hospital stays, medical equipment and rehabilitation
- Recovery of lost wages equal to two-thirds of your average weekly income. These disability benefits are monthly payments for a length of time that depends on whether the disability is temporary or permanent.
- Death benefits
Steps to file a South Carolina workers’ comp claim
Most employers will look for reasons to deny your claim. Strict adherence to the law and your employer’s protocols is necessary for a successful claim.
The following steps are necessary for a successful workers’ compensation claim in South Carolina:
- Seek emergency care immediately after your injury.
- File a written accident report with your employer within 90 days of your injury.
- Your employer must then file a claim with their insurance company.
- You must see a doctor selected from a list approved by your employer.
- An employer’s negative decision may be appealed to the Workers’ Compensation Commission.
- If the Commission renders an unfavorable decision, you may appeal to the courts.
If your employer refuses to file your workers’ comp claim or your claim is denied, you should contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to ensure your rights are protected.
Contact a South Carolina workers’ comp attorney
Workers’ compensation claims can be complicated. That is especially true of brain injuries—where the medical issues can often be as challenging as the legal issues.
The claims process is governed by rules as well as practices established by employers. Failure to comply with those rules and procedures may compromise your claim. That’s why an experienced workers’ compensation attorney with a working knowledge of brain injuries is essential.
If you’ve suffered a brain bleed while working in South Carolina, contact the experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at Chappell, Smith & Arden, P.A. Our attorneys have recovered millions of dollars for injured workers across the state of South Carolina, and we’d love the opportunity to help you, too.
Contact us today for your free consultation.