Imagine your life without the ability to smell or taste. Would Thanksgiving be the same without the aroma and taste of roasted turkey? How about Christmas and the comforting smell of apple cider and freshly baked cookies? Would a hike through the forest or mountains be the same without the ability to inhale the scent of fresh pine and summer lilacs? Would you be able to hold onto your job at a bakery, restaurant kitchen, perfume counter, or other position where smell is critical to the job?
For accident victims in Maine who have suffered an injury that impacts their sense of smell (traumatic anosmia), these losses are a daily reality and can lead to employment challenges, safety risks, and reduced enjoyment of life.
Losing Your Sense of Smell Explained
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year approximately 1.7 million Americans suffer from traumatic brain injury (TBI). Out of this total, an estimated 50,000 people die and 85,000 experience long-term disabilities. A traumatic brain injury resource website estimated that more than 5.3 million people in the United States are presently living with a disability caused by TBI.
One such disability is traumatic anosmia or loss of the sense of smell. Traumatic anosmia occurs when a facial or head injury affects:
- The areas of the brain that detect odors
- The olfactory nerve, or first cranial nerve, which transmits sensory information related to smell from the nose to the brain.
If you lose your sense of smell due to a bruising of the sensory cortex in your brain, you may eventually experience a partial or even full recovery. If your loss is due to olfactory nerve damage, recovery from traumatic anosmia may be less likely.
Olfactory nerve trauma normally results when a fracture occurs in the ethmoid bone separating the top of the nasal cavity from the bottom of the eye sockets. These fractures can happen when:
- Your face strikes the dashboard or steering wheel in a motor vehicle accident, or
- Your face is injured during a slip and fall accident.
The Effects of Traumatic Anosmia
Losing the sense of smell is not regarded as life-threatening or severely debilitating, but it has a major detrimental impact on one’s life. For example, the ability to smell is closely connected to the ability to taste, which is why a bad cold seems to rob food of its flavor. Other lifestyle impacts include:
- Inability to work in some professions or establishments.
- Extreme weight loss or malnutrition due to lack of interest in food.
- Safety issues due to the inability to smell smoke, chemicals, toxic fumes, or a natural gas leak.
- Loss of connection with emotional memories because the ability to smell and the ability to access deeply held emotions are both controlled by the limbic system of the brain.
- Inability to maintain personal hygiene due to inability to notice bodily odors.
- Difficulty as a parent or caretaker in determining when a child or incontinent adult needs to be cleaned or needs a diaper change.
Traumatic anosmia is sometimes not discovered right after an accident, especially if there were life-threatening or other serious injuries that involved a lengthy recovery. Once you realize you may have lost your sense of smell after an accident, it is important to contact a medical professional who specializes in olfactory dysfunction for a proper examination and diagnosis.
What’s the Bottom Line?
Smell and taste play a role in how we experience joy and pleasure, so an injury that alters the sense of smell and limits the ability to taste results in a significant loss. That loss is a component of damages in a personal injury claim.
At Fales & Fales, P.A., we understand how losing your ability to smell can impact your life on multiple levels. Insurance companies and opposing counsel may attempt to downplay the significance of this type of injury. Medical evidence and demonstrative evidence are important factors in proving these damages.
If you have experienced traumatic anosmia after a motor vehicle accident, slip and fall accident, or other incident involving someone else’s negligent conduct, contact Fales & Fales, P.A. for supportive, strong, and experienced legal representation.