Over the past 20 years, I have represented a number of people who have suffered from a traumatic brain injury. One of the worst parts of this injury is the fact that the condition is not readily recognizable to others. A broken arm, a torn rotator cuff, or even a back injury can be found through medical imaging. Not so with a TBI. Even physicians miss this condition. Often, it is not until family members begin to see some very strange behavior before something is done. Here is one of those stories.
Ron and his wife worked on a ranch near Big Timber. Ron had always dreamed of working on a ranch and the opportunity to enjoy the lifestyle of a ranch hand was something he truly appreciated. Ranch work is not easy and it can be dangerous. However, most days, it beat an office job. Most days, except one.
One day while separating cows, Ron found himself in a pen, so far as Ron remembers. Apparently, Ron was thrown into one of the cattle gates. We know this because the metal gate was bent in a manner that fit his head perfectly. Ron was unconscious and found by others hours after the incident.
After he was found, Ron was taken to the local hospital in Big Timber. He was taken to the emergency room and checked out by staff. Ron would only spend a single night in the hospital and sent home. No follow-up appointment, nothing.
Ron came to the office after his wife encouraged him to speak with an attorney. One of the problems she was noticing was the fact that Ron could not remember anything. He would get lost easily, not know where he was and was easily confused. The most apparent problem came when Ron would speak. Ron had trouble finding words, his speech was slurred and he would stutter. All of this was very troubling for Ron and his wife.
Ron was no longer able to finish chores that were part of his daily routine on the ranch. Within one week, it became apparent that Ron was no longer the same. It became apparent that he could no longer do this job. Not only was this their paycheck, Ron and his wife lived on the property and they had no other place to live. The ranch needed someone to take care of things and had to hire someone else. Ron and his wife were in a real jam.
The traumatic brain injury Ron suffered was misdiagnosed at the Big Timber hospital. They just flat missed it. It was not until a physician in Bozeman saw Ron that he would end up on the right track for treatment. It would be a long road to recover as much as possible. The first two years following a traumatic brain injury are critical. There was no time to waste.
In addition to setting Ron’s treatment back, the misdiagnosis caused real problems for any claim for worker’s compensation. To say that the insurance carrier was skeptical would be a huge understatement. Under Montana law, the insurance carrier is allowed to request as many “independent” medical evaluations as they see fit. Fortunately, it is the treating physician’s opinion that is the standard. Ron had a treating physician who really went to bat for him.
In the end Ron was able to obtain a significant amount of money through a workers compensation claim. In light of his condition, Ron was not capable of managing these funds and he hired a conservator to take care of the funds he received from his annuity and from Social Security. Ron was able to move on with his life with enough resources to take care of himself, even after this terrible incident.