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A woman who suffered a traumatic brain injury when a large piece of iron came crashing through her car windshield was awarded $11.5 million last week in a personal injury lawsuit.

The woman has no memory of the September 2010 accident, nor does she remember anything from the month before it and six weeks afterward. She continues to experience seizures and other problems from the injury, causing her to lose her driver's license and her job as a special assignment teacher with Fresno Unified School District. She also suffers from short-term memory loss and severe headaches. For these reasons, her attorney has said that while the $11.5 million verdict is the largest he's seen in his nearly 40 years of practicing law, every penny is warranted in her case.

The woman was driving alone on Highway 99 through Bakersfield on Sept. 17, 2010. She was following a tractor-trailer owned by Lion Raisins that was stacked with empty wooden raisin bins held together by cables. The cables wrapped around large iron corner pieces that were about 4 feet long. When the truck's load shifted, one of the iron corners flew off the truck, crashed through the woman's car windshield and into her "right skull and brain," her attorney explained. The car came to rest against the highway median divider after she lost control of it.

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Veterans receiving treatment for traumatic brain injuries at a new health and wellness center in Martinez, California, are helping researchers develop new ways to treat both military and civilian patients who suffer from them.

About 1.7 million Americans per year suffer brain injuries from car crashes, falls and other accidents, and about three-fourths of those injuries come with a concussion. Doctors at the brain health center are hopeful their work with military veterans, who more likely suffered injuries from roadside bombs or combat, will improve overall treatment of brain injuries. Advanced research could also benefit those suffering from neurological diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease.

Some researchers at the brain health center are focusing on a more accurate way to spot abnormalities in brain tissue that can't always be seen in an MRI. They're also developing a computer-based test to better measure cognitive ability, another way to diagnose a TBI.

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If you break an arm or a leg in an accident, it takes little more than an X-ray to determine that injury before you're fitted for a cast and sent on your way out the hospital doors. Your bill may be high, but your injury is easily sized up and itemized.

This is almost never the case with a brain injury. It usually takes a lot of time and a battery of tests to even begin to pinpoint how your brain is affected by a collision with a windshield or a sidewalk. Our brains are so complex that almost no two injuries are alike, which can also make treatment a guessing game.

But a new tool aims to change that. Scientists are researching whether this MRI-based test can accurately diagnose a head injury and improve rehabilitation.

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Cycling in California has become increasingly popular in recent years, and with good reason. It's great exercise and better for the planet than driving a car. But biking on the state's roads can also be dangerous if car and truck drivers aren't paying attention or willing to share the road. A bicycle rider has very little protection in the event of an accident with a motor vehicle.

If an accident does happen, a car's driver is required to stop and call for help or render aid. That didn't happen in a crash three years ago, in which a BMW hit two cyclists, one of whom suffered a brain injury. The man suspected of driving the car is on trial this week in Saratoga, California.

Prosecutors say the 72-year-old man sped away after hitting the two cyclists, a married couple in their 20s, on Highway 9. He pleaded not guilty to three counts of hit-and-run driving. He did plead no contest to driving with a suspended license, which had been taken away because of a drunk-driving conviction. Although there were no other witnesses to the crash, a mechanic testified that about two weeks after the accident, the man told him his girlfriend had crashed his BMW but didn't report the incident to police. As a result, the man wanted the mechanic to order a replacement for the broken passenger-side mirror from outside the area.

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Accidents that result in brain injuries can be debilitating for people of any age, but two new studies suggest they are especially harmful to the development of young children.

One of the studies compared 53 children who had suffered a traumatic brain injury before the age of 3 with 27 healthy children. In examining their social, intellectual and behavioral functions, researchers found that the children with early TBIs had impaired cognitive development and intellectual ability. They also found that the socioeconomic status of the children had a significant effect on their recovery. Although it's still unclear why, high parental stress and low parental involvement seem to negatively affect the development of a young child with TBI.

The other study focused on 40 children who had suffered a TBI between the ages of 2 and 7. Most of the injuries were from car or pedestrian accidents, and were more severe than those in the first study. The children were studied right after the accident, and again at 12 months, 30 months and 10 years later. As with the first study, the children with severe TBIs lagged behind their peers in intellectual, social and behavioral development even three years later. Both studies found that children who suffered milder brain injuries had no significant effects in their development.

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