Posted on February 5, 2008 · Posted in Brain Injury

Is it really so unreasonable to expect someone who is working in an Emergency Room, to know a few simple things about concussion and amnesia.

Here is what it says in the medical record I am reviewing now, a record from an emergency room, three days post accident:

“This patient was involved in an accident in a different state. She was evaluated at an ED (emergency department) near the scene of the accident, that is not as full service as our facility. Because of ongoing complaints, she and her husband present here for evaluation.”

OK, so what were the complaints? Did you ask her about her memory? Did you make any attempt to document whether she had amnesia?

I have a series of videos on amnesia and concussion, which I call the Concussion Clinics. Everything in those videos is based upon clear cut medical theory and common sense. Yet, no one invites me to speak at medical schools. I don’t do in-services at hospitals. Why would they? I am only a lawyer. What do I know about medicine? Sadly, infinitely more than the doctor who wrote that report. The only impact I can hope to have on medical professionals is asking tough questions of doctors in depositions and the words I write on blogs and web pages like this.

DAMN IT ALL DOCTORS. LEARN SOMETHING ABOUT HOW TO DOCUMENT AMNESIA. Ask the patient (or the person who brought them back to the ER) about what they remember between 5 minutes after the accident, and the NOW. Almost everyone will remember the accident – it is called adrenaline. It helps with memory. But do they remember the ambulance ride? The intake person? Describe one other person in the waiting room?

And when you are done, don’t refer the concussed to some indefinite family physician for a follow-up. Give them the same care you would if they were quarterbacking your football team. Have the patient come back to see you tomorrow and see if there is any change, and every day until it is clear that they are better. If they aren’t better, continue to document the specific complaints and then the referral to the next doctor will carry with it the presumption that there really is something wrong, not that this is a person with some fundamental psychological flaw. One simple example of amnesia would make justice so much easier to obtain.

About the Author

Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice :: 800-992-9447