The Chinese Curse: “May You Have a Mild Closed Head Injury” – And What if it Happens to You?


“Mild Closed Head Injury” It sounds pretty benign, as does the classic “Chinese curse”, “May you live in ‘interesting times’ “.

But, what is a “mild closed head injury”? Sadly, it can be a life changing event leading to permanent impairment, job loss, fractured relationships, depression, and even suicide.

As I write this, Baltimore police officers have been arrested for the death of Freddie Grey. Lost in the hub-bub was the officer who was hit by a rock thrown by a rioter who was “unresponsive”. The next day, the police spokesman was asked how the officer was, and the response was, “He was unconscious for awhile, but he is conscience and doing much better.”

We may never hear from him again. It is likely his diagnosis is “concussion syndrome” and mild closed head injury. We have been hearing a lot about the serious consequences for pro athletes who suffer repeated concussions on the field. That makes sense, several serious blows to the head so that “Iron Mike” Webster of the Pittsburgh Steelers eventually became totally incapacited and died, And, there is Teddy Bruschi,,  and so many others.

But, what about a person who was in just one auto accident, perhaps a rear-ender without an apparent strong impact with a solid object? The truth is that a closed head injury can occur with not strong impact direct , as a head is whipped back and forth; thus “whiplash”. At first there are headaches, nausea, confusion, short term memory lost, sleeplessness, nightmares, and anxiety.

“But he’ll be OK, right?” Not necessarily, and perhaps not without expensive and sophisticated diagnosis and treatment.

Once, a client of mine took a glancing blow from a large object that fell off of a trailer. He awoke and was embarrassed to see a circle of heads above him. He apologized that he had been “standing in the wrong place”, which he had not, and may even have declined medical treatment. The eventual monetary settlement took a long time and much work But, even with financial relief, he eventually took his own life, with a handgun.

Another client, upon receiving a large check, thanked us profusely, but voiced his opinion that it was the specialized treatment and evaluation we had obtained for him that had restored his life. Money was secondary to being relieved of the agony of short-term memory loss, lack of focus and concentration, and an unhappy and worried wife. This man had been a leader of men and a skilled worker. He kept his job, but his productivity dropped nearly in half. He was just happy to get back to “near normal”. The level of professionalism of the firm I found to associate with was superlative.

These are the people who our former President George W. Bush called malingerers, and their claims “junk lawsuits”. If you agree with him for this kind of injury, pray, pray, that you never get to learn how wrong you are. Living it is hell.

So, if you or a family member or friend is injured by the fault of another, and just cannot seem to bounce back, or better yet, before you get to that stage, talk to an experienced lawyer and let him or her help you put together a plan for legal, medical, and personal rejuvenation.

Remember, unless the other party has large insurance limits, or you have protected yourself with underinsured coverage and/or a “personal umbrella”, there may be little or nothing to recover. Here is what I recently said about that:

Do I do these cases by myself?  Nope: these cases need $30,000 – $100,000 of out-of-pocket investment by the lawyers, and 30 years in the WVAJ (Trial Lawyers) has taught me which WV firms do the best for such clients. I associate with one of them, for no greater fee than if the clients hired only one firm. So, the client has the benefit of local and “big city” trial counsel, and a chance, a chance, for a fresh start and renewed life.

So, hope for an injury free future, but call if you need us. jbh

This post was written by Burton Hunter

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