Open vs. Closed Head Injuries | How They Affect Settlement Amounts [2024] Staff Profile Picture
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A significant medical difference exists between an open head injury and a closed head injury.  A closed head injury means that there is no damage to the skull. All injury was sustained internally. An open head injury, however, means that the victim’s skull was fractured, depressed, or otherwise damaged. Due to this, open head injuries are considered the most severe type of head injuries and are often fatal or permanently disabling. However, this does not mean that a closed head injury is not without risk. Many victims suffer severe injury to the brain without any outward damage to the skull. 

While there are exceptions, closed head injuries are generally sustained in accidents, while open head injuries are often the result of an assault with a weapon. As a result, closed head injuries are far more common. In many cases, closed head injuries result in traumatic brain injury. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that individuals who are 75 years old and above are susceptible to experiencing a traumatic brain injury and represent approximately a third of all traumatic brain injury-related hospitalizations and deaths.

Average Personal Injury Settlement Amounts

Because traumatic brain injuries impact the lives of victims and their families, the settlements for these injury claims are often relatively large. An average brain injury lawsuit typically is settled for approximately $100,000. However, as many of the examples below demonstrate, these claims can result in much larger settlements depending on the severity of the injury and the strength of the claim.

Slip-and-Fall Accident Lawsuits

Slip-and-fall accidents are among the leading causes of brain injury in the United States, especially among older individuals. Slip-and-fall injuries are usually caused by dangerous obstructions or hazardous surfaces. For example, the city of New York was sued in 2008 for negligence after a man fell into an open manhole. The city had failed to put up any warning signs or barricades to obstruct passing pedestrians. The victim was awarded $18 million to compensate for his head, neck, and spine injuries.

Product Liability Lawsuits

Faulty, malfunctioning, or defective products can cause severe brain trauma due to no fault of the consumer. Manufacturers and property owners alike have a responsibility to prevent head injury by vigorously testing their products and adhering to state and federal safety guidelines. For example, when an improperly serviced asphalt truck in Culver City caused a chain collision on the freeway, two victims were killed, and one was left with severe brain injury. The sole survivor of the accident was awarded $14.4 million.

Car Accident Injury Lawsuits

Car accidents are the primary cause of severe brain injury in the United States. Because of the sheer size of a motor vehicle combined with the high speeds on roads and highways, any collision is likely to result in at least minor damage to drivers, passengers, and property. Unfortunately, this damage is often quite significant, resulting in long-term brain injury or death. For example, a Florida motorcyclist suffered a severe brain injury when he was hit by a vehicle in 2015. In his trial against the driver, the jury awarded him $25 million in damages to cover the cost of his damages. However, since it was determined that the cyclist shared some blame for this collision according to the state’s comparative negligence laws, his final financial compensation amounted to just over $12 million.

Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

Medical malpractice is a serious violation of the trust between a patient and their care provider. While the laws vary according to your state, no matter where you live, you have the right to legal resources if you or a loved one suffered a traumatic brain injury due to the negligence of a doctor, surgeon, nurse, or other healthcare professional. As an example, the children of a woman in Baltimore City who died after cardiac arrest and severe brain injury following a heart valve replacement operation sued hospital staff in 2020 for medical malpractice. The jury ruled in the children’s favor, and they were awarded $5,800,000 in damages.  

Factors That Influence Personal Injury Settlement Amounts

In most brain injury claims, the case does not make it to court. Instead, these injury lawsuits are typically negotiated outside of court between the two parties’ legal representatives. In most cases, the representatives will negotiate a fair financial settlement to compensate the victims for their losses. No two personal injury claims are identical. However, there are certain factors that reliably influence the total settlement amount a brain injury victim can expect. While there are various examples of recent personal injury settlement amounts included here, it is important to note that various factors of your brain injury could mean you will receive much more or much less than what is described here.

Severity of Injuries

First and foremost, the severity of your injury will need to be considered. The severity of a brain injury will impact all of the factors listed below and will largely determine the quality of the victim’s life after the accident. Both open and closed head injuries can result in life-altering injuries that will affect the lives of victims and their families for years to come. 

Medical Bills

Medical bills are one of the simplest things to claim in a brain injury settlement because these are tangible financial losses. Victims may require prolonged hospitalization, rehabilitation, or specialty care depending on the type and severity of brain injury. These costs can quickly escalate, presenting a significant financial burden to victims and their families.

Surgical Intervention

Many brain injuries require multiple surgeries in order to treat or alleviate any cognitive damage or impediments to ability. For example, victims may need to undergo a craniotomy or craniectomy to alleviate swelling or blood clotting in the brain. Aside from more routine medical costs, these surgeries and others can create debilitating medical debt. 

Lost Wages

The effects of a traumatic brain injury may make it difficult or impossible for a victim to return to work. This leave of absence is temporary for some; for others, it represents a permanent shift in the options available to the victim to provide for themselves and their families. While victims may be able to receive compensation in the form of disability benefits, they may still be eligible to file for additional compensation from those responsible for their injury.

Pain and Suffering

The effects of a severe brain injury can last for the rest of a person’s life. They may experience permanent memory loss, loss of mobility, or a lessened quality of life. While these effects may be harder to quantify in the eyes of the law, victims of severe brain injury have the right to sue the responsible parties for compensation for non-economic damages. Additionally, if you have lost a loved one due to a brain injury, those responsible can be sued for pain and suffering damages. 

Comparative Negligence Laws

Finally, a major factor that will affect your total settlement amount will be your state’s comparative negligence laws (or lack thereof). Each state’s negligence laws will fall under the category of either contributory or comparative negligence law. Contributory negligence law means that if the victim was in any way responsible for their injuries, they are ineligible to seek compensation. However, if your state follows comparative negligence law, accident victims are eligible to seek compensation even if they are partly responsible for their accident. Some states will operate under pure comparative negligence or modified comparative negligence. The majority (33 out of 50) of states follow some form of comparative negligence law.

How a Personal Injury Attorney Can Help Recover Compensation for Head Injuries

Hiring an experienced brain injury lawyer is the first step towards receiving the compensation you deserve. While some victims may balk at the idea of hiring legal representation due to the costs of paying their legal fees, the reality is that victims who are unrepresented in settlement negotiations are far less likely to receive the compensation they need to cover their losses. To find qualified personal injury attorneys near you, visit’s free-to-use database of injury lawyers.

Filing Your Brain Injury Lawsuit

Before your claim makes it anywhere near settlement negotiations, it must make its way through various bureaucratic channels and a fair amount of paperwork. Your attorney’s office will ensure that your claim is filed promptly, accurately, and before any relevant statute of limitations expires.

Negotiating Your Settlement

A brain injury lawyer’s experience negotiating settlements is the most important skill they can offer injury victims and their families. It takes an attorney with sufficient knowledge of the intricacies of your state’s personal injury laws, as well as familiarity with effective negotiation tactics, to make a real difference in the success of your brain injury settlement. 

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