Untangling the Web: Addressing Common Defense Tactics in TBI Cases

Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are notoriously complex and can be devastating. Yet, when seeking justice for TBI victims, lawyers frequently face resistance from various defense tactics. One such strategy is attributing the plaintiff’s symptoms to pre-existing conditions. Let’s delve deeper into this.

The Defense of Pre-existing Psychiatric Disorders

Defense Medical Examiners (DMEs) may assert that symptoms exhibited post-incident mirror those of a pre-existing psychiatric disorder, especially depression. However, this strategy often overlooks the unique symptoms attributable solely to TBIs.

Common symptoms of TBIs might include:

  1. Diminished sensation on one side.
  2. Reduced ability to detect smells.
  3. Irritability.
  4. Proprioception issues (knowing the body’s position in space).
  5. Confusion and challenges with reading and concentration.

While depression can manifest in various ways, it is essential to distinguish its symptoms from those caused by TBIs. For instance, depression does not result in:

  • Reduced ability to detect smells.
  • Diminished sensation on one side.
  • Proprioception issues.

DMEs would be hard-pressed to find legitimate medical literature supporting any claim that depression causes such physical symptoms.

Leveraging the Odds in Your Favor

Emphasize the coincidence that symptoms magically appear immediately after a traumatic event. Suppose a plaintiff has lived for approximately 20,000 days without these symptoms. Is it mere coincidence that these symptoms start manifesting immediately after an event known to cause such symptoms, like a TBI? The probability is highly unlikely.

Maximizing Pre-existing Conditions to Benefit Your Case

Should your client indeed have pre-existing psychiatric issues, this can work to your advantage. An individual already battling psychiatric disorders will be more vulnerable when hit with the additional challenges a TBI poses. This compounded effect can result in exacerbated symptoms and increased difficulty in managing daily activities.

Questions to Put Forward to the DME

  1. Considering pre-existing psychiatric conditions, would you agree that such individuals might lack the same coping mechanisms as those without such conditions when confronted with a TBI?
  2. Does a combination of a pre-existing condition and a new TBI not aggravate the individual’s ability to control behavior, especially if the TBI introduces impulsivity, irrationality, or irritability?
  3. Would you concur that administering narcotics to a TBI patient already in chronic pain might further deteriorate the cognitive symptoms?
  4. Can chronic pain and sleep disturbances not intensify the symptoms of a TBI?


In TBIs, the line between pre-existing conditions and new symptoms can be thin. However, with a thorough understanding and a well-structured argument, this common defense can be effectively countered.

For expert legal advice related to traumatic brain injuries or any other personal injury concerns, OTT Law Firm is here to guide.


  • The unique symptoms of traumatic brain injuries.
  • The misalignment between TBI symptoms and those of depression.
  • Leveraging pre-existing conditions to amplify the case’s strength.

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