Cruise Line Hit Big for “mild” Head Injury
A major cruise line was hit with a $21 million dollar verdict after a passenger was struck in the head by an automatic sliding door. As reported by a local Seattle television station and shown on security video, the passenger was struck on the right side of his head as the door attempted to close as he walked through the doorway.
In the video, the passenger is seen grabbing his head and seemingly shaking off the blow. Unfortunately, the passenger suffered what is known as a “mild” traumatic brain injury, a “closed head” injury more commonly called a concussion.
As reported in the story, the injured passenger developed post concussive syndrome which caused a cascade of symptoms, including fatigue, dizziness and social withdrawal. A successful businessman’s career and family life was forever changed by what appears to be an undramatic blow to the head. So what actually happened?
According the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):
A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury—or TBI—caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. This sudden movement can cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, stretching and damaging the brain cells and creating chemical changes in the brain.
A “mild” brain injury can be a misnomer. The CDC stresses that concussions need to be taken seriously as the damage can be life altering.
According to the CDC, there are generally four categories of symptoms of a mild traumatic brain injury, including:
Mild traumatic brain injuries are oftentimes overlooked and difficult to diagnose because the injured person looks otherwise healthy and the brain damage does not show up on standard imaging such as CT scans and conventional MRIs. Notes the CDC,
Diagnosing MTBIs can be challenging as symptoms of MTBI are common to those of other medical conditions (such as post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD], depression, and headache syndromes), and the onset and/or recognition of symptoms may occur days or weeks after the initial injury.
Although most people recover in a matter of days or weeks, a concussion can have long-term complications, “affecting thinking, sensation, language or emotions. These changes may lead to problems with memory, communication, personality changes, as well as depression and the early onset of dementia.”
According to the television report, the injured cruise ship passenger suffered from one of the potential complications of concussion known as post-concussion syndrome or PCS. PCS is typified by attention and memory problems with symptoms of fatigue, sleep disturbance, headache, dizziness, irritability, affective disturbance, apathy, or personality change lasting more than three months (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV). A small minority never recover and are known as the “miserable minority” or “walking wounded.”
The tragedy with the cruise ship passenger is that his injury was preventable. According to the report, the cruise line had known about the malfunctioning door which had struck other passengers but it failed to take reasonable steps to correct it. A $21 million dollar damage award undoubtedly provides the incentive to protect its passengers more carefully.