Acquired brain injuries (ABIs) encompass all brain injuries that are not genetic or congenital. ABIs include any brain injuries acquired after birth, although the term also specifically excludes birth injuries.

ABIs fall into two broad categories: traumatic and non-traumatic. But since most people are already familiar with traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs, many people use “ABI” to refer to non-traumatic brain injuries.

TBIs result from severe, sudden, and discrete physical injuries to the brain that are caused by force, pressure, or penetration. A car accident or fall can result in a TBI.

In contrast, non-traumatic ABIs usually result from something besides a physical injury.

Here are some of the causes and symptoms of non-traumatic ABIs, as well as an overview of ways that you can seek compensation for an ABI through an injury claim.

Symptoms of Non-Traumatic ABIs

The symptoms of non-traumatic ABIs can vary widely. They can be separated into the categories below.

Sensory Symptoms

Brain damage can cause the brain to lose communication with the sensory organs or misinterpret sensory signals. 

Some sensory symptoms of ABIs include:

  • Strange smells
  • Blurred vision
  • Tinnitus or ringing in the ears
  • Numbness in the limbs

Some sensory symptoms manifest through something apart from the senses. For example, ears help you maintain your equilibrium. Brain damage to the areas that process signals from the ears can lead to dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and loss of balance.

Motor Symptoms

The brain controls movement by sending signals down the nerves to the body. Brain damage can kill the motor control centers, cut them off from the body, or cause them to send mixed signals. 

Some of the motor symptoms of ABIs include:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Paralysis
  • Muscle spasms
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Speech difficulties
  • Loss of coordination

These symptoms can affect your ability to control any of your muscles. As a result, brain damage can rob you of the means to control your arms and legs, but also your bladder and bowels.

Involuntary Body Control Symptoms

Your brain controls many involuntary bodily functions, including:

  • Temperature control
  • Heartbeat
  • Digestion
  • Breathing
  • Blood pressure

As a result, an ABI can cause chronic health problems. In serious cases, an ABI can result in coma or death.

Cognitive Symptoms

ABIs can cause cognitive problems, such as:

  • Memory loss
  • Confusion and difficulty concentrating
  • Sleep disorders, including fatigue or insomnia
  • Chronic pain
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Language difficulty

These problems may affect you so severely that you lose the ability to work or are forced to change jobs.

Behavioral Symptoms

The brain manages behavioral controls. After an ABI, your mood and behavior may change. For example, you might become irritable or aggressive.

Causes of Non-Traumatic ABIs

Some examples of the events that can lead to non-traumatic ABIs include:

Chemical Exposure

Toxic chemicals, such as pesticides, plastics, and industrial waste, can affect the nervous system, including the brain. For example, some chemicals cause brain inflammation. Brain inflammation can trigger neurological symptoms, including fatigue, confusion, memory problems, and chronic pain. Brain inflammation from chemical exposure is one possible explanation for Gulf War Syndrome.

Pharmaceuticals

Drugs, even those that are not intended to treat neurological disorders, can affect the brain. For example, antispasmodics used to reduce muscle spasms in the digestive system can affect the brain. Likewise, blood thinners can cause a brain hemorrhage.

Asphyxiation

Brain cells can die when they are deprived of oxygen. 

Oxygen deprivation can occur in a few different ways, including:

  • Drowning
  • Getting trapped inside an airtight chamber
  • Carbon monoxide exposure
  • Pressure on the brain from brain swelling
  • Suffocation

Any event that either deprives the body of oxygen or prevents blood from circulating to the brain can result in an asphyxiation-induced brain injury.

Stroke

Two conditions can cause a stroke:

  1. A blood clot blocks the blood vessels in the brain
  2. A hemorrhage deprives the brain of blood

Strokes can occur naturally. Strokes can also result from exposure to prescription drugs, illegal drugs, tobacco, alcohol, and toxic chemicals.

Repeated Impacts

A minor impact might not have the severity to cause a TBI, but repeated impacts can induce an ABI. For example, soccer players and football players have an increased risk of brain injury, due to repeated impacts to the head.

Tumors

Tumors can press on the brain. This pressure can damage brain cells. Additionally, tumors can press on blood vessels in the brain, which starves the brain cells of oxygen. Tumors can occur naturally or result from exposure to carcinogens.

Injury Claims and Non-Traumatic ABIs

Non-traumatic ABIs can occur naturally. For example, doctors ascribe many strokes to natural causes, including stress and a lifetime of poor eating habits.

But occasionally, non-traumatic ABIs have a specific and identifiable cause. When a person or business’s negligence causes an ABI, you can pursue an injury claim through the court system.

Some scenarios in which an injured person might claim damages include:

At Swimming Pools and Beaches

The operator of a swimming pool or beach might be liable for ABIs that result from near-drownings. If the operator knows or reasonably should know of a hazard and fails to remedy it or warn swimmers, the operator might be liable to the people harmed by the hazard. 

For example, if a swimming pool includes a waterfall with slippery rocks, a person injured on the rocks might have a premises liability claim for a failure to place a warning sign to “keep off of the rocks.”

Machinery and Appliances

Machines and appliances that burn fuel can cause ABIs if they are used without sufficient ventilation. For example, an improperly vented water heater or furnace can release carbon monoxide, leading to asphyxiation-induced ABIs. Someone injured by these devices might have an injury claim against the manufacturer and installer.

Toxic Chemicals

Toxic chemicals can cause ABIs after exposure. Suppose a product had no safe use or the manufacturer failed to explain how to use the product safely. In that case, anyone injured by the chemicals might have a product liability claim against the manufacturer.

Proving Liability for ABIs

Proving liability for an ABI will require facts that show:

  • Someone owed you a duty to keep you safe
  • They failed to take reasonable measures to keep you safe
  • This failure caused your foreseeable injuries
  • You experienced damages from your injuries

If you can prove liability, then the person or business responsible for your injuries will need to pay for your economic and non-economic losses from the ABI, including your medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering.