How a Car Accident Can Cause a Concussion
What Is a Concussion?
When the brain undergoes a sudden jolt within the skull from an impact, it can sustain injuries that adversely affect its function. This condition is commonly referred to as a concussion and is categorized as a traumatic brain injury. With the head being jolted in a car accident, the chances of sustaining a concussion in a car accident are high.
Car Accidents Cause Concussions Often
Car accidents result in concussions fairly often because within the confines of a car accident, the brain can be subjected to forces that shake the head in multiple ways. Direct impacts, such as when a person’s head collides with the steering wheel or window, can cause immediate trauma. Additionally, even without direct head trauma, rapid deceleration or changes in direction, like in rear-end collisions, can result in whiplash. This whiplash effect leads to the brain moving swiftly within the skull, potentially causing injury.
Secondary impacts following the primary collision pose another risk. If a car strikes another object and halts abruptly, unsecured items, including passengers, can be propelled forward. Such subsequent impacts can exacerbate the risk of concussions. Furthermore, the brain’s position within cerebrospinal fluid allows it to be jolted against the skull’s inner walls during sudden accelerations or decelerations.
Concussion Signs or Symptoms to Check After a Car Crash
How to Check for a Concussion at Home
We strongly recommend that anyone involved in a car accident seek evaluation from a skilled medical professional. They are best equipped to detect and diagnose potential hidden injuries, such as concussions. If you’re at home and suspect you might have sustained a concussion, here are some key signs and symptoms to watch for:
- Headache or Pressure in the Head: This is one of the most common symptoms of a concussion.
- Dizziness or Balance Problems: Feeling unsteady on your feet or having difficulty walking straight.
- Nausea or Vomiting: This can be a result of the brain being jolted during the accident.
- Blurred Vision or Double Vision: Changes in vision can be an indicator of a concussion.
- Sensitivity to Light and Noise: You might find bright lights or loud noises more bothersome than usual.
- Feeling Sluggish or Fatigued: A sudden onset of fatigue or feeling like you’re “in a fog” can be a symptom.
- Confusion or Disorientation: Trouble remembering the accident or events leading up to it, or feeling generally confused.
- Memory Problems: Difficulty remembering new information or asking the same questions repeatedly.
- Difficulty Concentrating: Struggling to focus on tasks or conversations.
- Mood Changes: Increased irritability, sadness, or becoming more emotional than usual.
- Sleep Disturbances: Sleeping more or less than usual, or having trouble falling asleep.
- Ringing in the Ears: This is also known as tinnitus.
Symptoms following a car accident can manifest at different times. While some may appear immediately, others might surface hours or even days later.
How Medical Professionals Will Check for a Concussion
Not all tests will be performed, but here are some methods that doctors and nurses will perform to test for a concussion:
- Patient History and Symptom Checklist: The doctor will ask about the details of the injury, the events leading up to it, and any symptoms the patient is experiencing. This can include questions about headaches, vision problems, dizziness, and memory issues.
- Neurological Examination: This involves checking vision, hearing, strength, balance, coordination, and reflexes.
- Cognitive Testing: The doctor might assess memory, concentration, and the ability to recall information.
- Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS): This is a 15-point test that assesses a person’s level of consciousness. It evaluates eye, verbal, and motor responses.
- Balance Testing: This can include the Romberg test, where the patient stands with feet together and eyes closed to check for swaying, or more advanced tests like the Balance Error Scoring System (BESS).
- Imaging Tests:
- CT (Computed Tomography) Scan: This can help detect bleeding, tumors, structural abnormalities, and certain brain injuries.
- MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging): While not commonly used immediately after an injury, an MRI can identify changes in the brain or more detailed images after the acute phase.
- Observation: Some patients may be observed in a hospital or clinic setting, especially if symptoms are worsening.
- Symptom Severity Scales: Tools like the Post-Concussion Symptom Scale (PCSS) can help quantify and track the number and severity of post-concussion symptoms over time.
- Neuropsychological Tests: These are more detailed tests that can evaluate learning, memory, and problem-solving skills. They might be used in more prolonged cases or when symptoms don’t resolve as expected.
- Pupil Light Reflex Test: Checking the pupils’ response to light can help identify abnormal brain function.
What Different Types of Concussions Are There
Mild (Grade 1):
- Loss of consciousness for a few seconds to a few minutes (if at all).
- Temporary confusion and disorientation.
- Symptoms resolve within 15-30 minutes.
- Rest: Both physical and cognitive rest is crucial. Avoiding activities that require concentration and attention can help the brain heal.
- Over-the-counter pain relievers: To manage headaches, though it’s important to consult with a doctor before taking any medication.
- Gradual Return to Activities: Resuming normal activities should be gradual to prevent symptom recurrence.
- Recovery Timeline: Most people recover within 7-10 days, though some symptoms might persist longer.
- Cost to treat: A few hundred to a couple of thousand dollars, covering doctor visits, over-the-counter pain relievers, and potential follow-ups.
Moderate (Grade 2)
- Loss of consciousness lasting a few minutes to a few hours.
- Confusion that may persist for days or weeks.
- Physical, cognitive, and/or behavioral impairments may last for days to weeks.
- Extended Rest: Longer periods of both cognitive and physical rest might be necessary.
- Medication: Over-the-counter or prescribed pain relievers for headaches or other symptoms.
- Supervised Return to Activities: A healthcare provider might provide guidelines or a step-by-step plan.
- Physical Therapy: Might be helpful if there are balance issues or dizziness.
- Recovery Timeline: Recovery can range from a couple of weeks to a few months.
- Cost to treat: A couple of thousand to several thousand dollars. This can include extended medical consultations, prescribed medications, potential imaging tests, and physical therapy sessions.
Severe (Grade 3):
- Prolonged loss of consciousness or coma.
- Extended period of confusion.
- Symptoms can last for weeks to months, with potential for long-term complications.
- Hospitalization: For monitoring and to ensure there aren’t more severe brain injuries.
- Rehabilitation Therapies: Physical, occupational, or speech therapy might be necessary depending on the symptoms.
- Medication: To manage symptoms or prevent complications.
- Extended Rest and Monitoring: Long-term follow-up with a healthcare provider for symptom management.
- Recovery Timeline: Several months to a year or more, with some facing long-term or permanent issues.
- Cost to treat: Several thousand to tens of thousands of dollars. Hospitalization, multiple imaging tests, rehabilitation therapies, and long-term medications can significantly drive up costs.
Additionally, while not specific “types” of concussions, there are particular patterns or clusters of symptoms that can be observed:
Symptoms stem from the neck and may include headaches, dizziness, and neck pain.
- Physical therapy focusing on the neck.
- Pain management strategies.
- Recovery Timeline: Weeks to months, depending on the extent of neck issues.
- Cost: Physical therapy sessions can range from $50 to $350 per session, depending on location and facility.
Relating to balance and spatial orientation, symptoms can include dizziness, nausea, and issues with coordination.
- Vestibular therapy with exercises to improve balance and spatial orientation.
- Medication for dizziness or nausea.
- Recovery Timeline: Weeks to months.
- Cost: Vestibular therapy can be similar in cost to physical therapy. Medications for dizziness or nausea can range from $10 to several hundred dollars per month.
Affecting vision and eye movement, symptoms might involve difficulty tracking objects, blurred vision, or sensitivity to light.
- Vision therapy to address tracking issues or other vision problems.
- Adjustments to lighting or screen usage.
- Recovery Timeline: Several weeks to a few months.
- Cost to treat: Vision therapy can cost between $100 to $200 per session, with additional costs for specialized equipment or glasses.
Post-Traumatic Migraine Concussion
Intense headaches, sensitivity to light and sound, and nausea.
- Medications specifically for migraines.
- Lifestyle adjustments to avoid migraine triggers.
- Recovery Timeline: Several weeks to months, with some requiring long-term therapy or medication.
- Cost: Migraine medications can range from $10 to $700 per month, depending on the medication and dosage.
It’s important to note that while the above categorizations offer a framework, each individual’s experience with a concussion is unique. Factors like the direction of impact, speed of the vehicles involved, and whether or not seat belts or airbags were used can influence the nature and severity of a concussion resulting from a car accident. Always seek medical attention if a concussion is suspected.
What Evidence Proves a Concussion Resulted from a Car Accident?
Proving a concussion, an injury that isn’t visibly apparent, can be challenging. Simply informing an auto insurance company about your concussion doesn’t guarantee compensation for medical bills. You must first establish that you sustained a concussion and then demonstrate that the car accident caused it. This is because a concussion could result from incidents unrelated to the accident. Insurance companies recognize that concussions are common and might not always be due to the reported accident, suspecting that some claimants might be attributing unrelated concussions to their car accidents for compensation.
Evidence for Proving a Concussion
To prove the actual injury, we would encourage pulling together the following:
Medical Imaging Tests
Medical imaging, such as CT scans, MRIs, fMRIs, MEG, SPECT, and PET, can serve as evidence for concussion injuries. CT scans primarily identify severe injuries like bleeding or fractures, while advanced MRI sequences can detect subtle brain changes. fMRIs track variations in brain activity, MEG measures the magnetic fields of neural activity, and both SPECT and PET provide insights into the brain’s blood flow and metabolic activity. However, even with these tools, the primary diagnosis of concussions is clinical, relying on symptoms, physical examinations, and neuropsychological assessments since many concussions don’t show visible changes on standard scans.
Medical reports for a concussion injury can be used as evidence in a car accident legal claim. For proving an injury in a car accident, medical documentation is crucial. These reports provide objective evidence of the injury, its severity, the treatment received, and the prognosis. They can help establish a direct link between the accident and the injury, especially if the concussion was diagnosed shortly after the incident. It’s essential for the injured party to seek medical attention promptly and follow any recommended treatment plans to strengthen their legal claim. An attorney can use these medical reports to demonstrate the extent of the injury and its impact on the claimant’s life, potentially supporting claims for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, and other damages.
Actual medical bills can be used as evidence in legal claims to support the existence and treatment of a concussion injury. These bills provide tangible proof of the medical expenses incurred due to the injury. They detail the specific medical services provided, dates of treatment, and costs associated with each service. While the bills themselves don’t prove the nature of the injury, they corroborate other evidence like medical reports and records. In a legal context, presenting actual medical bills can help substantiate claims for reimbursement of medical expenses and demonstrate the financial impact of the injury on the claimant. However, to establish the nature and cause of the concussion, it’s essential to complement the bills with comprehensive medical records and possibly expert testimonies.
In Georgia, and likely in many other states, the value of a concussion case must take into consideration the ease of your diagnosis, how quickly you recover, the medical bills, and whether the injury is permanent. So, while there is no specific formula for calculating settlement values in concussion cases, those factors can be used as a guide.
A concussion resulting from a car accident can, in rare instances, lead to severe and potentially fatal complications if left untreated. Some of the most concerning outcomes include Second Impact Syndrome, where a subsequent concussion occurs before the first has healed, leading to dangerous brain swelling. Additionally, intracranial hemorrhage or brain bleeding, brain swelling (edema), and herniation can increase pressure inside the skull, posing life-threatening risks. Seizures post-trauma can also result in secondary injuries and compromised breathing.
While the direct complications of a concussion can be grave, there are indirect repercussions as well. Impaired judgment or delayed reaction times post-concussion can lead to hazardous situations, such as another more severe accident if the affected individual drives. Given the inherent risks, anyone suspecting a concussion, especially after a car accident, should urgently seek medical evaluation and care.
He negotiated with the insurance company for more than the original settlement and with my doctors office for lowered medical payments.