Traumatic Brain Injuries, Especially from Car Accidents

tbi resulting from car accident

What you will learn from reading this article:

  • What are traumatic brain injuries?
  • What are common causes of TBIs?
  • How do motor vehicle accidents cause TBIs?
  • What are the symptoms of TBIs?
  • What are the long-term effects of TBIs?
  • How are TBIs diagnosed?

A traumatic brain injury is exactly what it sounds like: a traumatic knock, blow, or jolt to the head that causes damage to the brain.

Mild traumatic brain injuries are also called concussions and usually have temporary effects, although they can be dangerous, especially when someone has more than one concussion.

More serious brain injuries can cause actual physical damage to the brain, like bruising, torn tissues, bleeding, and the tearing of the brain’s long connecting nerve fibers (axons).

As you probably know from experience or from raising a teen athlete of your own, concussions are extremely common. Mild traumatic brain injuries typically occur when the head is jolted, and the brain shakes quickly back and forth, events that happen frequently in sports. At least 3.8 million sports-related concussions occur in the U.S. each year, and as many as 50% more go undiagnosed and unreported.

TBIs can occur in a variety of ways, but the most common are:

  • Falls: Falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries, accounting for 40% of all TBI hospitalizations or emergency room visits.
  • Car accidents: Motor vehicle crashes account for 20% of hospitalizations for TBI each year, according to the CDC. In addition, in 2014 (the most recent year with detailed statistics) motor vehicle accidents were the leading cause of TBI-related deaths in children and young adults aged 5-24.
  • ATV accidents: All-Terrain Vehicles can weigh up to 600 pounds and achieve speeds up to 75 mph. Drivers should follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for use and should always wear helmets.
  • Sports: 10% of all contact sport athletes sustain concussions or traumatic brain injuries each year.
  • Assaults: About 10% of all TBIs are the result of assaults.
  • Workplace accidents: Obviously, accidents causing injuries to the head can occur in just about any workplace. One particularly dangerous area is construction. From 2003 to 2010, 2,210 construction workers in the U.S. died because of a TBI.

Car Accident Brain Injuries:

Car accidents, the second leading cause of TBIs, can injure brains in several different ways. Clearly, any time a vehicle weighing thousands of pounds hits the car you are riding in, you are going to be (at the very least) jolted severely. 

Closed Brain Injuries:

  • You could hit your head on the steering wheel, dashboard, or window. This could cause a “coup-contrecoup” effect, where the brain is injured at the site of the blow but also at the opposite side where the brain slams into your skull.
  • You could also sustain whiplash when your head is violently snapped back and forth. This could also propel your brain against the inside of your skull, causing a TBI.
  • Any type of collision, whether it comes from the rear, front, or side of your vehicle, is likely to jerk your head forward and back or from side to side. All of these movements could tear the internal lining of your brain and damage tissues and blood vessels.

Penetrating Brain Injuries:

  • Another type of injury occurs when an object or piece of glass penetrates the skull during a motor vehicle accident. This can severely injure the brain.

It is not always easy to diagnose a TBI, which is why it is important to see a medical professional as soon as possible after an injury occurs.

Possible symptoms of a traumatic brain injury include:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Headache that does not go away or that gets worse
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Dilation of one or both pupils
  • Fluids draining from nose or ears
  • Weakness or numbness in fingers or toes
  • Clumsiness or loss of coordination
  • Confusion
  • Aggressive behavior or personality changes
  • Loss of memory or concentration
  • Slurred speech

At the hospital, there are several ways that you may be tested to see if you have a TBI.

  • CT or “Cat” Scan: A computerized tomography scan can determine if there is bleeding or bruising in the brain.
  • MRI: Magnetic resonance imaging gives more detailed pictures of the brain than CT scans but takes longer.
  • Glasglow Coma Scale: A health care provider assigns a score from 1-15 by rating a person’s ability to speak, ability to open their eyes, and ability to move. They diagnose mild TBI if the score is 13-15, moderate TBI if the score is 9-12, and severe TBI if the score is 8 or under.
  • Cognitive or neuropsychological assessments
  • Blood tests: these are fairly new, but two proteins, UCH-L1 and GFAP, are released into the blood when a mild concussion occurs (one which may not show up on a brain scan).

Traumatic brain injuries are serious and long-lasting. They can affect a person’s ability to function in day-to-day life since they manifest themselves in behavioral changes, physical changes, cognitive changes, and emotional changes.

The CDC five year outcomes for people with moderate to severeTBIs are frightening:

  • 26% improved.
  • 22% stayed the same.
  • 30% became worse.
  • 22% died.

Of those still alive five years after their accident:

  • 57% are moderately or severely disabled.
  • 55% do not have a job (but had one before their injury).
  • 29% are not satisfied with life.
  • 29% use illicit drugs or abuse alcohol.
  • 12% reside in nursing homes or other institutions.

People with moderate or severe TBI face a lifetime of problems that are unpleasant but also expensive. This is why it is crucial to retain an experienced team of attorneys to fight for the compensation you or a loved one deserve and need if another party is responsible for your injuries or accident.

The pain of being involved in an accident that results in an injury can range from mild to severe and may last anywhere from days to years after the incident. Don’t let a personal injury disrupt your life without speaking to a qualified attorney like those at PBAR to help you seek compensation for your discomfort.

Call today for a free case review at 1-800-265-9881, or contact us online.

Video Transcript
Hi, I’m Rich Bucheri from Poynter and Bucheri and today I want to talk about traumatic brain injury and concussions.
So if you’re in a car accident and you hit your head, or you have some type of severe whiplash and you maybe don’t even remember that you hit your head against the back of the car seat or something of that nature, but you start to have headaches, you start to have dizziness, nausea, fatigue then you may have a traumatic brain injury as a result of your car accident. It doesn’t take a necessarily huge impact in order to be able to sustain this type of injury. Headaches is kind of the number one thing that you usually feel sooner rather than later, but the dizziness, the mood swings, the fatigue, the drowsiness loss of balance. These are all things that if you didn’t have those before the accident, and now you do suffer from these things after the accident, these are all things that need to be checked out right away.
So you need to go talk to your primary care provider, maybe get a neuro consult. So that they can start looking at these things to determine if you are suffering from some type of post-concussion type syndrome, or you have a traumatic brain injury. And these things are often kind of swept under the rug and if you don’t identify them in your case, that you are certainly losing out on what should be a major component of your compensation. Things like soft tissue injuries, broken bones, those things heal usually over time with some physical therapy, but something like a traumatic brain injury that is going to affect your daily ability to do anything, even if you’re just sitting at your desk doing work or trying to enjoy time with their children, that type of pain and mental anguish is something that certainly needs to be addressed in your claim.
If you have any questions about concussions and traumatic brain injury, please give us a call at Poynter and Bucheri. Thank you.