How to Detect a Concussion After a Car Accident

Key Points:

  • If you’ve been in an accident, you should see a doctor as soon as possible because head injuries may not always be visibly apparent.
  • Even if you did not suffer a major blow to the head, the severe shaking and movements caused by an accident could lead to brain injuries.
  • Brain injuries can change your life forever. An attorney can help you take the steps necessary to obtain compensation for current and future treatment.
Graphic summarizing the signs and symptoms of a concussion

If you’ve been in an accident, it is imperative that you see a doctor as soon as possible. Although you may feel and look unscathed, there could be damage that’s not apparent immediately. In fact, many brain injuries can take hours or even days to appear. While not all brain trauma events are fatal or severe, some can lead to permanent, life-altering damage when left untreated.

Doctors have the experience to recognize potential brain injuries and the tools necessary to diagnose and treat them. In addition, a doctor’s report and diagnosis can be crucial in proving your damages if you decide to pursue a legal claim for these potentially life-altering injuries. A doctor’s expert, non-biased reports can also make for reliable evidence and witness testimony if necessary. 

While some victims may choose to avoid medical assistance because they’re worried about the cost of medical care, these expenses can be presented as part of your insurance claim and included in your settlement. In the interim, doctors and hospitals will usually accept regular payments until your claim is settled.

Questions That Can Help Your Doctor Detect a Concussion

Medical resources, including the Mayo Clinic and the Centers for Disease Control, list the following questions as reliable means to determine whether a concussion occurred.

  • Did you lose consciousness? (It is a common misconception that loss of consciousness always happens in brain injury. It does not and should not be considered a reliable diagnostic tool on its own.)
  • Was your head forcibly shaken as a result of the impact? A direct blow to the head can cause a concussion; however, violent shaking of the head can cause the brain, which floats in fluid inside the skull, to bang against the inside of the skull, causing damage.
  • Did your head make contact with anything? A violent impact to the head can cause brain bruising.
  • Did the airbags deploy and hit your head? Airbags are manufactured to open explosively. While the deployment of airbags can help save lives, the violent force at which they come out often causes injury, as well.
  • Was the impact with the other vehicle significant? The degree of force of the collision can help law enforcement assess the speed at which the cars were traveling and measure how much force was inflicted upon victims.
  • Do you feel pain along the neck, upper back, face, or head? Such pain could indicate that muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues were stretched or strained or that other damage occurred during the impact.
  • Are you experiencing any nausea or dizziness? Head trauma can lead to loss of balance and make it feel like the world around you is spinning. Nausea, dizziness, or ringing in the ears can indicate a brain injury.
  • Do you remember everything? In brain trauma, it is not uncommon to experience some loss of memory. If you cannot recall names or other specifics about the accident, your doctor may suspect head trauma.
  • Are you having any sensitivity to noise or light? When your brain is shaken or collides with the inside of the skull, it is not uncommon to experience pain or discomfort when exposed to bright light or noises.
  • Do you or did you have a headache following the accident? Lingering headaches following a head injury can vary in severity and go on for long periods. Your physician will be able to evaluate these symptoms along with the others you may display.

Common Signs or Symptoms of a Concussion

The signs and symptoms of brain trauma and concussions can be subtle, and they don’t always show up immediately after an accident.

The following list includes some of the physical signs and symptoms of a concussion or traumatic brain injury:

  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Fatigue or drowsiness
  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion or feeling dazed and “disconnected”
  • Appearing to be dazed or confused
  • Foggy recollection or no memory of the traumatic event
  • Dizziness, ” seeing stars,” or having sparkling lights in your vision
  • Temporary loss of consciousness following the event
  • Slurred speech
  • Slow response to questions
  • Forgetfulness or repetition of questions or comments

Some of the slower-manifesting symptoms that may not appear until hours, days, or even weeks later are:

  • Inability to concentrate
  • Memory complaints
  • Personality changes, such as unusual irritability
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Psychological changes, such as depression
  • Changes in taste and smell

Concussion Symptoms in Children

Head trauma often happens in young children but can be challenging to diagnose because youngsters can’t describe how they feel.

Watch for the following:

  • Appearing dazed or confused
  • Lethargy or tiring easily
  • Irritability and crankiness
  • Loss of balance or staggering while walking
  • Crying more than usual
  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Lack of interest in favorite toys
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting

How Medical Professionals Detect Concussions

When you see your physician, they will ask about many of the symptoms above to determine whether a brain injury is likely. In addition, the doctor will examine you and check the pupils of your eyes to see if they are dilated differently or unevenly, as this can be one of several tell-tale neurological signs of a concussion or other brain injury.

Your doctor may also order a computerized tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain to check medical problems that could be causing your symptoms. Both can be used to identify brain abnormalities, such as swelling, bruising, or bleeding, that might explain your symptoms.

If You Have Any of the Symptoms Above, You Should Seek Immediate Medical Help

An undiagnosed and untreated brain injury can change your life forever. It is wise to seek medical care immediately to begin necessary treatment and avoid complications that could include lifelong disabilities.

Once you seek the care you need, consider connecting with an attorney who can help you decide whether you should pursue a legal case for compensation from the at-fault party for your injuries.

- D. Lo
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