An Overlooked Injury: Loss of Smell (Anosmia)

People who sustain traumatic injuries display the more obvious signs of trauma, such as broken bones and wounds, but often their more significant injuries may be overlooked or undiagnosed. Particularly with head trauma, damage to the olfactory system (the sense of smell) can result. Damage to the olfactory nerve and bulb (anatomical components of how a person can sense smell) can result in anosmia, the total loss of one’s olfactory function. Most people don’t appreciate how devastating the loss sense of smell can be. Not only does such a loss mean that the person cannot smell fragrances or odors (the smell of flowers, a newborn baby’s smell, the aroma of food), it means that the person cannot detect the smell of smoke (burning food in a pan, smoke from a fire in another room). Further, loss of one’s smell sense means that one cannot distinguish the flavors in food; everything tastes like cardboard. The human olfactory system is also intricately entwined with the formation, retention and recall of memories. Most people can recall a smell or odor from childhood with a rush of memory if exposed to that smell many years later.

Janssen Malloy LLP has handled a number of cases for clients who have suffered total anosmia (complete loss of the sense of smell), and presented expert testimony regarding the serious effects of such an olfactory loss. One case involved a woman who suffered traumatic head injury when struck by a flat bed truck while riding a bicycle, which resulted in total anosmia. Formerly a chef, she could no longer smell, season or distinguish flavors in food, smell her granddaughter’s new baby smell, or smell smoke from an adjoining room (bacon frying on a pan in the kitchen caught fire). Her matter resolved for the $500,000 policy limits of the defendant truck carrier. Janssen Malloy LLP is currently handling another case involving a woman who suffered traumatic injuries to her head and shoulder, which also resulted in her loss of smell. Presentation of such a case at trial requires expert testimony to fully demonstrate the consequences of effectively losing two of one’s five senses. Those consequences are permanent and devastating, particularly the impact on one’s recall and formation of new memories.

Early diagnosis of a person’s anosmia in the context of traumatic injury is often overlooked, since the person is usually dealing with the acute injuries, such as broken bones and need for emergency surgery. It is only later that they come to realize that they can no longer smell fragrances, odors or distinguish flavors in food. Specific olfactory testing in the form of a smell identification test is needed to confirm the total loss of smell. Handling a case with such issues is challenging and requires attorneys who know how to identify the issue and properly present the damages that accompany such a loss. Janssen Malloy LLP’s attorneys are experienced in litigating such cases, and stand ready to assist you or your loved ones if such a need arises.

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