The car accident happened in the blink of an eye, and now you’re standing at the accident scene trying to make sense of it all. Will your car be totaled? How about the other car? And what’s that headache and dizziness you’re experiencing?
While cars can be replaced, your brain can’t, and brain injuries are very real risks with car accidents. While brain injuries may initially manifest with something as small as a headache, they can ultimately cause far more significant, long-term symptoms.
Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) and Car Accidents: What’s the Connection?
According to the most recent data from the CDC, motor vehicle crashes account for 17% of TBI-related deaths. These deaths were highest among people ages 15-34.
Traumatic brain injuries are caused by a sudden blow or jolt to the head. This can happen when flying debris in the car hits your head or when your head is thrown against some part of the car (steering wheel, dashboard, side of car, etc.) Even if your head doesn’t make direct contact with any part of your car, the force from the car crash can cause your brain to hit your skull bone, damaging your brain and nerve tissues.
How do I Know if I Have a Traumatic Brain Injury?
Mild TBIs are referred to as concussions. If you have a concussion, you may experience:
- Headache or a feeling of pressure in your head
- Confusion, grogginess, or brain fog
- Nausea, possibly accompanied by vomiting
- Blurred vision
- Intolerance for light or noise
- Slurred speech
- Trouble concentrating
- Feelings of sadness
- Memory problems (can’t recall what happened before or after the head injury)
- Loss of consciousness
What are the Most Common Types of Brain Injuries?
● Concussion. We’ve discussed concussions, which result from impact or sudden movement to the head that causes the brain to move back and forth in the skull.
● Contusion. Another common type of brain injury caused by a car accident is a contusion, which is caused by impact to the brain that results in the brain being bruised.
● Hematoma. A hematoma is caused when a blood vessel in the head breaks and starts to bleed. The body will stop the bleeding with a clotting response, and the resulting clot may put pressure on the brain.
● Diffuse axonal injury. DIA is yet another type of TBI and one of the most devastating. This occurs when the brain is jolted back and forth so violently that it damages the nerves at the cellular level. These cells are needed to transmit information within the brain, so when they are compromised, a person may fall into a coma.
What Should I do if I Suspect I Have a Brain Injury After a Vehicle Crash?
It’s always best to see a doctor as soon as possible after a vehicle accident. While many TBIs show up soon after the car crash, others may not show up until later. Your doctor can examine you, ask key screening questions, and order tests such as a CT scan that can identify brain swelling and bleeding.
If you can identify and intervene early with traumatic brain injuries, you can reduce risks for long-term symptoms. Play it safe by seeing a doctor as quickly as possible.
How Long Until my Concussion is Better?
Approximately 90% of concussion symptoms heal within 10 to 14 days. However, a small percentage of people continue to experience what is known as post-concussion syndrome, with symptoms that last for a few months and even beyond a year. The more concussions you have, the more likely you are to experience long-term problems, especially if a repeat concussion occurs while the former one is still healing.
What Can be Done for TBIs?
Your doctor will likely tell you to take a cognitive rest or “brain rest” early on. This may involve staying off of screens, eliminating activities that require heavy brain activity (driving, paying bills, playing a strategy game, doing math problems, etc.) It also helps to focus on one task at a time (rather than multi-tasking). Simple is best. Activities like listening to a podcast or relaxing music are appropriate for brain rest.
Stay in touch with your doctor. Resting your brain for the days following the injury has been shown to be helpful in the healing process, but resting for too long can be harmful. Under your doctor’s direction, you can gradually start adding activities back in. Pay attention to how you feel as you increase your activity. If your head hurts or you feel foggy or agitated, you may need to dial it back.
Rehabilitation can also help with TBI recovery. Doctors may recommend vision therapy and vestibular rehabilitation to help with dizziness and headaches. If you have lost speech or movement, speech and occupational therapy may be needed. For more severe TBIs, surgery can help treat brain bleeds and reduce pressure if your brain is swelling.
And finally, counseling can help with some of the mental effects associated with concussion (agitation, mood swings, etc.)
What if Someone Else Caused my TBI?
If your TBI resulted from an injury accident where someone else was at fault, you could be paying a steep price for their negligence. Not only are you out of work or school while you heal, you may be footing hefty bills for medical tests, medications, doctors appointments, therapy, and more.
As Utah personal injury lawyers who specialize in TBIs, we understand how stressful it is to try to heal while also shouldering heavy financial burdens. Fortunately, the legal system is designed to help you recover financial losses for TBIs that result from the faults of others. You may be entitled to compensation for missed work, medical expenses, and pain and suffering. Contact our traumatic brain injury attorneys for more information.