Invisible but Horrible Injuries: Brain Injuries from Car Accidents

brain injury

Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) can be caused by a variety of events, mostly those that involve a sudden impact that causes the brain to be jostled and hit the inside of the skull. It may be no surprise that car accidents are among one of the most common causes of brain injuries. How commonly do car accidents cause brain injuries, though? Exact statistics are difficult to know due to differences in accident and injury reports nationwide, but it is assumed that tens of thousands of brain injuries are caused by car accidents each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Mayo Clinic, and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke all report car accidents as a leading cause of brain injuries in the United States, but none track exact numbers.

How Do Car Accidents Cause Brain Injuries?

Brain injury types take several forms, such as concussions (which are considered mild traumatic brain injuries [mTBIs], which is a misleading title because they can be severe), hemorrhaging (where the brain bleeds after the force of an impact), skull fractures, hypoxic (low blood-oxygen levels), penetrating (a foreign object pierces the skull and harms the brain), non-penetrating (a forceful impact causes the brain to slam into the inside of the skull), and many other forms.

Concussions After a Car Accident

Concussions are the most common type of brain injuries suffered by car accident survivors. When the head suffers a severe blow, such as what happens in many car crashes, the brain can hit the inside walls of the skull, resulting in a concussion. Even though concussions are medically classified as “mild traumatic brain injuries,” there is no guarantee that the immediate and long-term symptoms of a concussion will be “mild.”

Symptoms of a concussion suffered in a car accident or another similar incident can include:

  • Strong or persistent headache
  • Tinnitus or ringing in the ears
  • Blurred vision
  • Slurred speech
  • Difficulty comprehending words or questions
  • Delayed reactions
  • Nausea, dizziness, and/or vomiting
  • Fatigue or sudden drowsiness
  • Confusion or acting as if “in a fog”
  • Sudden or short-term memory loss

Importantly, concussions may cause unconsciousness, but some do not. If someone hit their head in a car accident but didn’t fall unconscious, don’t assume they are fine because they might have a concussion. Furthermore, some concussions don’t show symptoms until hours or days after the blow to the head, so seeing a medical provider shortly after a car accident to test for concussion symptoms should be a priority.

Once seen by a medical provider and diagnosed with a concussion, you can learn how to treat it based on your condition. Ensure you follow your medical provider’s instructions. Many providers will want to perform a diagnostic of the brain if the symptoms are severe enough to rule out hemorrhage or other dire possibilities. However, most concussions are treated through ample rest, including typical nightly hours of sleep and daytime naps. Physical activities and anything that requires mental exertion should be avoided. In severe cases or when symptoms do not improve within a few days, a concussion patient may require hospitalization and specialized treatment from a neurologist.

Factors Contributing to TBIs in Car Accidents

Why do some car accidents cause brain injuries, but others do not? Every crash is unique, as is every person’s physiology, so the injuries that are caused will be unique, too. However, different factors within a crash – and in the moments leading up to it – can make it more likely that a serious brain injury will occur.

Factors that contribute to the risk of a brain injury in a car accident are:

  • Speed: The faster a vehicle is in motion, the greater the force if it crashes. As force increases, the risk of a brain injury does, too, so the risk of a TBI increases with a vehicle’s speed.
  • Use of safety features: Airbags and seatbelts can significantly mitigate the risk of a head injury in a crash. On the other hand, not using these important safety features can increase the risk just as much.
  • Vehicle type: The type of vehicle you are in when it crashes can increase or decrease the risk of a TBI. A vehicle’s crashworthiness or crash test rating may indicate how well it protects a motorist from injuries, including brain injuries.
  • Driver behavior: Just before an impact, a driver may be able to position or brace themselves in such a way as to reduce the risk of hitting their head on the interior of the car. If a driver is distracted or drunk, though, they likely won’t notice the crash about to happen, and therefore can’t brace or maneuver themselves.

How Can Drivers Reduce Their Risk of TBI in a Crash?

If you want to reduce your risk of suffering a TBI in a car accident, you should:

  • Pay attention to the road and traffic conditions at all times.
  • Never speed or break the speed limit.
  • Ensure airbags are working properly (check for airbag indicator lights).
  • Always wear a seatbelt.
  • Consider purchasing a car with a high crash test safety rating.

Remember to also see a medical provider soon after being in a car accident, especially if you have suffered any injuries or if your vehicle is badly damaged. Even if you feel fine but “just have a headache,” it could indicate the first symptoms of a brain injury. By letting a medical expert assess your overall health after a traffic collision, you may allow them to diagnose and treat a head injury sooner, which could be crucial for your long-term recovery chances.

Legal Help for Car Accident-TBI Claims

If you’re ever in a car accident and hurt your head, you should consider taking legal action right away if another driver or party caused or contributed to it. You may have a long and expensive road to recovery ahead of you, and it isn’t right to have to pay for everything yourself if you didn’t do anything wrong. Through a claim or lawsuit, you may be able to demand that the liable party pay for your losses and damages.

In Georgia, people know that they can trust The Law Office of Joshua W. Branch, LLC for reliable and compassionate legal counsel after a car accident. Our attorneys focus on claims that involve catastrophic injuries, like brain injuries, especially cases that are too complex or difficult for many other law firms. To see if we can help you after you or a loved one suffered a TBI in a car accident, call (706) 760-9220 and ask for your free initial case consultation.

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