Understand your legal options for compensation after a brain bleed at work in North Carolina
North Carolina has a thriving and diverse workforce that, unfortunately, exposes workers to a wide range of hazards that can lead to serious workplace injuries. One of the most life-altering is a brain bleed.
Also known as a brain hemorrhage or intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH), this injury occurs when a blood vessel within the brain ruptures and leaks blood into the surrounding brain tissue. This can cause significant damage by increasing pressure on the brain and leading to swelling that can disrupt the normal flow of blood and nutrients to brain cells.
The condition poses immediate life-threatening risks and often leads to long-term disabilities, so early detection and emergency medical intervention are critical. While the immediate medical needs of injured workers are paramount, the financial implications associated with brain bleeds can also be daunting.
Thankfully, workers who suffer from brain bleeds due to work-related incidents in North Carolina may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits can assist with both short- and long-term medical needs and wage replacement, making them a crucial lifeline for workers navigating the aftermath of this serious injury.
How common are brain bleeds?
According to a study published in the National Library of Medicine, brain bleeds occur at a rate of about 24.6 cases per 100,000 people globally, with about 40,000 to 67,000 cases annually in the U.S. alone.
Unfortunately, those suffering from brain bleeds have a high risk of death. In fact, the 30-day mortality rate for brain bleeds is between 35% and 52%, with about half of all deaths caused by brain bleeds occurring within the first 24 hours. Additionally, only about 20% of those who survive make a full recovery within 6 months.
Is a brain bleed considered a traumatic brain injury?
Yes, a brain bleed can be considered a form of traumatic brain injury (TBI) if it’s caused by an external force, such as a blow to the head or a fall. In such cases, the impact can cause a blood vessel in the brain to rupture, leading to bleeding within the brain tissue.
However, it’s important to note that not all brain bleeds are the result of trauma. Some may occur spontaneously due to medical conditions like high blood pressure, aneurysms or blood clotting disorders. These are generally not classified as traumatic brain injuries but are still serious medical emergencies that require prompt treatment.
Whether traumatic or not, a brain bleed can lead to significant complications, such as increased intracranial pressure, brain damage, and even death, if not properly managed. And, unfortunately, these deaths are all too common.
In fact, in 2021 alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that there were more than 69,000 TBI-related deaths in the U.S. This equates to about 190 TBI-related deaths every single day, with falls causing nearly half of all TBI-related hospitalizations.
How do I know if I have a brain bleed?
If you experience any of the following symptoms of a brain bleed, it’s crucial to get emergency medical attention immediately. Symptoms can range from sudden, intense headaches to nausea, vomiting and confusion.
More specific signs may include:
- Abrupt weakness or numbness, particularly if it affects only one side of the face or body
- A severe, sudden-onset headache
- Disorientation or confusion
- Feeling dizzy or experiencing loss of balance and coordination
- Unexpected seizures
- Fluctuations in consciousness or alertness, ranging from lack of energy to sleepiness or even coma
- Abnormal or slurred speech, or difficulties with reading, writing or understanding speech
- Vision problems or loss of vision
- Neck stiffness
- Light sensitivity
- Trouble with swallowing
- Breathing difficulties or irregular heart rate, particularly if the bleed is in the brainstem
If you or someone you know is displaying these symptoms, call 911 or go to an emergency room right away. A prompt medical evaluation, often including imaging tests like CT scans or MRIs, is essential for diagnosis and treatment.
What are the top causes of brain bleeds at work?
Brain bleeds at work can occur due to a variety of reasons, although the leading causes generally involve some form of head trauma. Here are some of the top causes of brain bleeds in the workplace:
- Slip-and-fall accidents. Even a fall on a level surface can lead to head trauma if the person lands awkwardly or hits their head on a hard surface.
- Vehicle accidents. Workers who operate or work near heavy machinery, forklifts and vehicles are at risk of traumatic brain injuries, including brain bleeds, in the event of an accident.
- Struck by equipment. Being struck by machinery or equipment can result in severe head injuries that lead to brain bleeds.
- Explosions and blasts. Industries that deal with volatile materials face the risk of explosions that can cause traumatic brain injuries.
- High-pressure accidents. In certain industries like mining or underwater construction, workers face the risk of high-pressure-related head injuries.
- Falls from heights. Workers who fall from elevated surfaces like ladders or scaffolding are at high risk for head injuries that could result in a brain bleed.
- Falling objects. In construction sites, warehouses or other areas where items are stored above ground level, falling objects can cause significant head injuries.
- Violent assaults. Physical altercations at the workplace can lead to head injuries, including brain bleeds.
- Electrical shock. While not as common, electrical shocks can cause various types of head and brain injuries.
- Sports and training. Some professions require physical training exercises or sports activities that come with a risk of head injuries.
If you experience a head injury at work that leads to symptoms consistent with a brain bleed, it’s crucial to seek emergency medical attention.
How long is the recovery time for a brain bleed?
The recovery time for a brain bleed varies widely depending on factors such as the severity of the bleed, its location, and the patient’s overall health.
Mild cases might require a few weeks to a couple of months for recovery, while moderate cases can take several months to a year. Severe cases can have long-lasting or even permanent effects, extending the recovery period to years or indefinitely. Age, overall health, and the presence of complications can also influence recovery time.
Rehabilitation therapies like physical and occupational therapy often play a crucial role in the recovery process. Ongoing medical care may also be necessary, affecting the length of the recovery period.
Can you go back to work after a brain bleed?
Returning to work after a brain bleed is a complex decision that depends on numerous factors, such as the severity of the hemorrhage, the type of work you do, and your overall health. While some individuals with minor brain bleeds might be able to go back to work within a few weeks or months, those with moderate or severe cases may require extended time off or may not be able to return to their previous roles at all.
Usually, a team of health care providers, including neurologists, physical therapists and occupational therapists, will assess your ability to perform work-related tasks. If your job involves heavy lifting, driving or other physically demanding activities, additional evaluations and accommodations may be needed. Some individuals might need to consider a job role change or part-time work as they ease back into their responsibilities.
Before making any decision, it’s crucial to consult with your health care team for personalized recommendations. Your return to work will likely be a phased process, requiring regular medical check-ups to monitor your condition and adapt your workload and tasks accordingly.
Can I claim compensation for a brain injury?
In North Carolina, most workers are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if they suffer from a brain bleed that’s work-related. Generally speaking, businesses in the state that have 3 or more employees are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance.
However, there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, agricultural businesses with fewer than 10 employees, certain sawmill and logging operations, and all domestic employees are exempt from this requirement.
Additionally, for a brain bleed to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, it must be directly related to your work activities or work environment. This means that the accident that caused your brain bleed must have occurred while you were performing your job duties or as a result of conditions in your workplace.
It’s important to note that not every brain bleed is work-related. For example, if you suffered a brain bleed from a burst aneurysm at work because of uncontrolled blood pressure that’s unrelated to any type of work accident, you likely won’t qualify for benefits.
An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can be an essential resource in helping you establish the cause of your brain bleed so you can get the benefits you deserve.
What types of workers’ comp benefits am I entitled to after a brain bleed?
After experiencing a work-related brain bleed, you may be entitled to various types of workers’ compensation benefits. These could include any of the following:
- Medical benefits. This includes coverage for all necessary medical treatment, such as hospital stays, surgeries, medications and rehabilitative services.
- Wage replacement benefits. This is compensation for the time you’re unable to work or can only work at a reduced capacity, typically two-thirds of your average weekly wage. If the brain bleed leads to permanent impairments that prevent you from ever returning to work, you may be eligible for permanent disability payments.
- Vocational rehabilitation benefits. If the brain bleed prevents you from returning to your previous line of work but you’re still capable of working in a different capacity, you might qualify for job training or educational programs to help you transition to a new type of employment.
- Death benefits. In the unfortunate event that a brain bleed results in death, your dependents may be eligible for death benefits, including funeral expenses and financial support.
Each case is unique, so the benefits you may receive can vary depending on the severity of the injury, your work history, and other factors. It’s essential to consult with an attorney experienced in workers’ compensation laws in your area to get tailored advice.
How do I file a workers’ comp claim in North Carolina?
If you’ve suffered a brain bleed or another serious injury while at work in North Carolina, it’s crucial to take specific steps to file a workers’ compensation claim. Here’s a detailed guide on how to proceed:
- First and foremost, seek immediate medical attention. It’s essential to get your injury documented by a health care provider as soon as possible. The medical record will also serve as crucial evidence for your claim.
- Next, notify your employer about your injury. It’s required by law in North Carolina that you inform your employer in writing about the incident within 30 days. Make sure to keep a copy of this notification for your records.
- After notifying your employer, initiate your claim by submitting Form 18 to the North Carolina Industrial Commission. It’s vital to do this as soon as you can, but you have up to 2 years from the date of the injury to file your claim. Completing this form is the formal way to start the workers’ compensation process.
- To ensure you’re getting the maximum benefits and to navigate any complexities or challenges, think about hiring a workers’ compensation attorney, especially if your claim is denied or disputed. An experienced attorney can guide you through the process, handle any appeals, and negotiate on your behalf.
By following these steps, you’ll be well on your way to securing the workers’ compensation benefits you’re entitled to in North Carolina.
Contact an experienced North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney
If you’ve suffered a brain bleed at work in the Charlotte area, it’s crucial that you consult with an experienced work injury attorney before accepting a settlement offer from your employer’s workers’ comp insurer.
These initial offers are often insufficient for covering a worker’s long-term medical and financial needs after these types of catastrophic injuries, and you won’t be able to go back and request additional funds later if you realize your medical needs are more substantial than you initially realized.
At Wilder Pantazis Law Group, we’re dedicated to securing the highest possible compensation for injured workers across North and South Carolina. We provide initial consultations at no charge and operate on a contingency basis, meaning you won’t owe us any fees unless we successfully win your case.
Reach out to us today for a free, no-commitment consultation to explore your legal options and learn how we can assist you in getting maximum compensation.
Caceres, J. A., & Goldstein, J. N. (2012). Intracranial Hemorrhage. Emergency Medicine Clinics of North America, 30(3), 771–794. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.emc.2012.06.003
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, March 21). TBI: Get the Facts. CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/get_the_facts.html