Nearly 15% of all traumatic brain injuries (TBI) result from car accidents. In fact, 30% of all motorists involved in car accidents suffer head injuries including concussions, skull fractures, and acute brain damage. In fact, the numbers are higher for drivers in the age group of 20-24 years. Although there has been a significant reduction in fatalities involving teen drivers over the last 6 years, the majority of traumatic brain injuries resulting in death among adolescents are still attributed to auto accidents.
What makes car accidents so dangerous for the brain?
When you are in a moving vehicle, your whole body is travelling at the same speed and in the same direction as the car. A crash, depending on the direction of impact, may cause your body to suddenly come to a standstill, to move in a different direction with great force, or to increase the forward momentum at a rapid pace.
In all three situations, your brain ricochets against your bony skull from the abrupt forward, backward or sideways movement. Any rotational motion of the neck or head twists and tears the nerves, causing long term or even permanent damage.
Types of head injuries sustained in a car wreck:
- Open head injuries: Crashes that occur at high speed and involve multiple vehicles or significant damage to the car can cause your head to bang against the windshield or the steering wheel or send objects flying towards your head at high speed.
There is a high risk of deep cuts, skull fractures and even crushing injuries in such crashes. These are known as open head injuries and they are not as common. When they do occur, they are often life threatening. Open head injuries usually call for surgery and frequently, ventilator support.
- Closed head injuries: Even if your brain takes a serious hit, you may not always have external signs of damage. Often the brain gets badly jostled, but there is no bleeding or cuts and sometimes not even a direct blow to the head that would account for the damage on the inside. In fact, given their insidious nature, closed head injuries are the most deceptive of all types of physical damage that you can sustain in a car crash.
Unfortunately, these are the most common form of traumatic brain injuries that result from car accidents. The symptoms can vary and can take weeks to present themselves in all their intensity. In some cases, regular imaging tests, such as a MRI or CT SCAN, cannot pinpoint the nerve injuries, and it’s only after weeks of accrued damage that a person realizes that he/she may be dealing with a traumatic brain injury.
Early signs of head injuries are often ignored
It does not take a major crash to cause brain damage nor are visible injuries always an indication for the presence or absence of a traumatic brain injury. In fact, these misconceptions about head injuries are what make people ignore the early signs and symptoms of the damage.
The reality is that of the nearly 300,000 auto accidents that lead to head trauma, the majority occur at low speeds and do not involve a direct impact to the head with an object. In fact, most of these cause a mild to moderate traumatic brain injury.
The severity of such injuries is gauged primarily on the length of unconsciousness and post-traumatic amnesia, if any. There are four basic sub-types of TBIs:
|Severity of Injury||Period of Unconsciousness||Period of Post Traumatic Amnesia|
|Mild||No unconsciousness or up to 15 minutes||Less than 1 hour|
|Moderate||Up to 6 hours||Less than 24 hours|
|Severe||Up to 48 hours||Less than 7 days|
|Very severe||More than 2 days||More than 7 days|
Even low speed crashes often result in mild to moderate TBIs. These may feel like minor bumps and most motorists tend to shake off the initial symptoms as signs of being shook up after the trauma. But it’s hard to know what has happened on the inside. For instance, you could have suffered from one or more of these four types of TBI:
- Concussion: This is the type of brain injury that is often suffered by sports players. There are no outward signs but the force of the impact makes the brain collide with the skull. Make no mistake, if the force is significant enough, a concussion can cause significant internal bleeding, wide spread trauma in the brain, and permanent physical, psychological or mental damage.
- Contusions: This is another word for bruising in a particular spot. In this case, it refers to a bruise on/in the brain caused by severe impact. Contusions can cause significant swelling, internal bleeding, large clots and anoxia (death of cells due to lack of oxygen).
- Coup-contrecoup: This term is used for bruising that occurs on the side of impact as well as on the opposite side. The first hit comes from the blow at the point of contact, which pushes the brain violently to the opposite side and against the skull, resulting in the contrecoup contusion.
- Diffuse axonal: These are injuries caused by the shearing and tearing of the brain tissue and the nerves. This happens when the head is moved violently in different directions. These injuries can cause severe and wide spread brain damage.
Have you suffered from a traumatic brain injury?
Although you may not experience these immediately, the symptoms of a TBI generally include:
- • Lethargy
- • Headache
- • Nausea
- • Confusion
- • Memory problems
- • Dilated pupils and vision problems
- • Droopy eyelids
- • Confusion
- • Dizziness
- • Ringing in the ears or hearing problems
- • Breathing problems
- • Numbness and tingling in the body
- • Slow pulse
- • Cognitive deficits
- • Motor deficits
- • Difficulty swallowing
- • Speech problems
- • Emotional problems
- • Facial paralysis, weakness
- • Urinary or fecal incontinence
TBIs often take weeks or months before reaching recovery
Those who survive such injuries, including a mild TBI, often suffer from the repercussions of the damage for years to come, sometimes even the rest of their lives. The effects of a TBI are often life altering, since they can impact your ability to work and live normally.
Unfortunately, brain injuries and bruises are different from other forms of physical injury in the sense that they are not just difficult, but often are impossible to treat and cure completely.
Hence, even those with mild TBIs often experience many of the symptoms listed above for weeks and even months after the accident. Nearly 25% of people who suffer from a moderate TBI are left with some degree of permanent mental and/or physical disability.
What if you have sustained traumatic brain injury in a car accident?
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, seek medical help immediately. Even when the brain injury is mild, other combined conditions such as blood pressure fluctuations or lack of oxygen can increase the severity of the damage.
The most distressing aspect of suffering from a TBI is that the treatment is both expensive and long term. In fact, the medical bills may seem as devastating for the aggrieved motorist and his/her family as the injury itself.
We can help you get justice and seek compensation from the “at-fault” parties and their insurance companies. At DeVaughn James Injury Lawyers, we have years of experience handling accident cases that involve traumatic brain injuries. Contact us today, so that we can take over your fight while you focus on recovering.