Domestic violence (DV) – also known as intimate partner violence (IPV) — is a common cause of traumatic brain injury in the U.S. Although a disproportionate amount of these individuals are adult women, both men and children can be victims of the violent physical aggressions that cause these injuries in a domestic setting.
Research reveals that between 75% and 90% percent of people experiencing IPV sustain brain injuries of some kind. According to the CDC, about 2.8 million traumatic brain injuries occur each year in the U.S. — enough to be the leading cause of death and disability.
A recent UK study of female offenders at Drake Hall Prison showed that 64% of women screened had a history of TBI and 62% of those sustained the TBI due to domestic violence. This correlation highlights a disturbing association — domestic violence leading to a TBI is a likely cause of incarceration for women.
Because an estimated one in three women experiences abuse in this country — possibly more during the pandemic — likely millions of Americans suffer from these injuries. However, few of them know what legal actions they can take, or even that they can potentially file a lawsuit for damages.
What is traumatic brain injury?
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is any forceful strike or trauma to the head, disrupting the brain’s normal functioning. Depending on the brain injury area and the severity, a TBI can range from mild (e.g., concussion) to moderate and severe, with side effects that can impact its victim’s life forever. Common causes of TBI include:
- A blow to the head
- Hitting one’s head on the ground
- A penetrating skull injury
- Other forms of physical trauma
A traumatic brain injury can dramatically change your life. You may be suffering from painful and debilitating symptoms and side effects as a result of your TBI, including but not limited to:
- Intense headaches
- Memory problems
- Speech difficulties
- Cognitive issues
- Sleep disturbances
The injury may have necessitated expensive medical care. TBI symptoms may even prevent you from working and earning an income, which can create a heavy financial burden.
If you incurred a traumatic brain injury due to domestic violence, know that you have certain rights.
What types of damages can you seek?
If you have suffered a TBI as a result of domestic violence, a personal injury claim can be used to recover financial compensation as a result of your injuries. You may be able to bring a personal injury claim against an abusive person even if he or she is a blood relative, spouse, or someone else to whom you were very close.
Through civil legal action, you could receive compensation for your past medical expenses such as emergency room bills in addition to future medical care, including follow-up appointments and psychological treatment. You may also recover compensation for past and future lost wages from time off work. Financial compensation for your physical pain and suffering and mental distress may also be available.
Victims can also pursue matters through the criminal courts. When you file a police report and indicate that you wish to file charges, a criminal matter may be initiated. In a criminal case, a victim can seek restitution, forcing a criminal defendant who is found guilty to pay for the damages they caused. Generally, these are in the form of actual damages, meaning hospital bills, lost wages, and destroyed physical property.
What steps do you take to initiate a claim?
Before you seek legal action, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself and help substantiate your claim. If you are in an abusive relationship and thinking about taking legal action against your abuser, documenting the abusive behaviors can be a vital component of your case. Identifying witnesses or providing photographs can go a long way.
It is imperative to call the police after being physically attacked. Doing so enables you to create a record of the abuse and hold the alleged abuser criminally accountable for the harm he or she caused.
According to WomensLaw, other evidence that helps create strong cases include (but is not limited to):
- Verbal testimony from you or your witness(es)
- Medical reports of injuries from the abuse
- Dated pictures of sustained injuries
- Police reports
- Household objects damaged by the abuser
- Pictures of your disarrayed household after a violent episode
- Pictures of weapons the abuser used against you
- A personal diary or calendar documenting the abuse as it occurred
It’s worth noting here, however, that each state has different laws about what evidence and documentation is admissible in court. Consulting with a lawyer licensed in Virginia will better prepare you for your unique situation.
It is important to note that in Virginia, the statute of limitations on a misdemeanor assault (and other injuries) is two years. That means that a person has two years from the date of the assault to file a claim in a Virginia court. Felony crimes have no statutes of limitations — meaning you can file a felony assault case at any time. Knowing these timelines can help you take the appropriate next steps.
How can a lawyer help?
A Virginia lawyer can help ensure that your legal rights are protected in the immediate and long-term.
In the short-term, your lawyer can help you secure a protective order before initiating a claim. This is a court order that requires a person to stop a particular behavior against the person who requested the order (e.g., contacting, harassing, stalking, or abusing). If the court-ordered protection order is violated, new charges often result.
Protective orders successfully stop violence in almost half of TBI cases. Even when protective orders are not successful at preventing the abuse totally, women report feeling safer and more secure after obtaining this legal protection. Furthermore, while not guaranteed to stop abuse, protective orders help many victims get relief.
A lawyer will help you assess your long-term legal options and determine what steps are best for you. Most domestic violence criminal cases do not go to trial; depending on the evidence, the lawyers discuss the facts and make a plea bargain. However, you may be able to file a number of different types of civil claims against your abuser, including intentional assault (and/or battery) and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
If you suffered a TBI after being physically attacked, it could lead to lasting physical and psychological consequences. Contact a Virginia personal injury lawyer to determine your best options for seeking compensation for your pain and suffering, whether that involves a civil or criminal lawsuit.