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Expert Witness: Abusive Head Trauma

Abusive head trauma is a serious injury where the brain is impacted through pressure and force. These injuries usually occur through abuse to a child who is still developing, and it is also called shaken baby syndrome.

Because the victim is not old enough to explain what has happened to him or her, an expert witness is often needed to clarify the issue for a judge or jury so that they fully understand how the violence both affects the baby during his or her developing years and later when the skull and tissues have settled. In many circumstances of abusive head trauma, the victim is impaired mentally due to the stress to the brain.

Direct blows to the skull and head, being dropped from any height, being thrown any amount of distance or severe shaking of the child may result in harm to the brain and surrounding body areas. Most victims of these injuries are no older than one year, and the violence directed at them is an extreme risk for development, physical and mental processes and everything the brain connects to within the entire body. When a child has been harmed
in this manner, law enforcement and legal representation should be contacted to assist in dealing with the matter. Hospitalization is almost always an immediate concern.

When and How Injuries Transpire

AHT or shaken baby syndrome most often occurs when the youth is an infant. This is due to the rate of crying that an infant expels in contrast to children up to five years of age that rarely cry or scream in usual circumstances. Abused children are often harmed by a parent or caregiver that is looking after the young person because the adult became angry at him or her due to emotional outbursts. This is usually to stop the crying, misbehaving or similar actions. Though the baby may discontinue his or her eruptions eventually, this is usually only due to his or her brain being damaged in the process.

When the parent that starts these spouts of violence loses control of his or her anger or frustration, the child often takes the brunt of the physical manifestation of these outbursts. It has been observed through study that impaired children, youths that have two or more siblings, unhealthy and similar young persons are all at a higher risk of AHT. While the male counterparts of these children are have a greater chance of suffering this abuse, females are harmed as well. One factor that is more constant is an increased rate of these injuries showing up in families near or at the poverty level.

Perpetrator in AHT Cases

The individual that is over two-thirds likely in most instances of being the abuser is the male of a couple. This could be the actual father of the children, the boyfriend of the mother or someone that has taken the father type role. Many have been found to be in their twenties, but any individual may commit these crimes. Those that cannot deal well with the stresses of young children, persons with low impulse control and men or women with aggressive behavior are most found to be the perpetrators of these violent acts. Another element that may be present is the addition of alcohol.

The force of shaking a child causes the head to move from one side to another in an uncontrolled fashion that rattles the brain. The neck muscles of infants are not developed, and there is not enough support to keep the head from rolling around. The force of these movements causes the brain to hit the skull, blood vessels to rupture and nerves to become damaged throughout the entire brain with possible tears in brain tissue and matter. Additional bleeding may be found when the brain strikes the skull wall. Because these injuries are all possible, an expert witness is needed to explain how these wounds require extensive treatment.

The Expert Witness in AHT Cases

Certain symptoms may be evident in a child that has sustained AHT. The symptoms of this violence may include blindness, loss of hearing, seizures from mild to severe, delays in development of the body or brain, impairments throughout the body, learning difficulties that may include speech, and similar concerns. No matter how mild or extensive the damage is, the child may be affected for the rest of his or her life. An expert witness is capable of explaining the care for current and future needs that is needed. This is clearly defined through compensation needed to resolve the matter as best as possible.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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