What Is Traumatic Brain Injury, and How to Seek Compensation After an Accident

Key Points:

  • If you suffered a traumatic brain injury due to an accident, any related costs or lifestyle changes should be considered within your settlement compensation.
  • Traumatic brain injury can cause permanent, life-altering changes that affect physical, cognitive, and sensory functions.
  • A car accident lawyer who specializes in personal injury may help you get full and fair compensation for the harm caused by your accident.
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Understanding Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) in Car Accidents

If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident, it’s essential to be aware of the potential for Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs). These injuries can result from various mechanisms during a vehicular collision. Here’s a breakdown of the primary causes:

  1. Direct Impact: During a collision, the head might collide with objects within the car, such as the dashboard, steering wheel, or side windows. Such impacts can cause brain contusions or bruises.
  2. Acceleration and Deceleration Injuries: A sudden halt or thrust can cause the brain to shift within the cerebrospinal fluid in the skull. This can lead to a “coup-contrecoup” injury where the brain impacts both the point of collision and its opposite side within the skull.
  3. Penetrating Injuries: Though less frequent, these injuries can be particularly severe. They occur when an external object, like shattered glass or accident debris, penetrates the skull and affects the brain tissue.
  4. Diffuse Axonal Injury (DAI): Caused by intense rotational forces, DAIs result from varying movement speeds of different brain parts during the accident. This can lead to the tearing of the brain’s internal structures, including axons.
  5. Complications from Increased Intracranial Pressure: Post-traumatic responses, such as brain swelling or internal bleeding, can elevate the pressure within the skull, contributing to further brain damage.
  6. Secondary Injuries: These injuries manifest over time following the primary trauma. Examples include blood clots, cerebral edema (swelling), and ischemia (reduced blood flow to the brain).

Safety innovations like seat belts, airbags, and advanced vehicular design have significantly reduced TBI severity in car accidents. Nonetheless, it’s of paramount importance to consult a medical professional if there’s any suspicion of a head injury after an accident, even if symptoms are not immediately apparent. Early intervention can make a significant difference in prognosis and recovery.

What Is Classified as a Traumatic Brain Injury?

A Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) refers to an injury to the brain caused by an external force. It’s not the result of a congenital or degenerative condition but comes about due to a sudden trauma. Here’s a breakdown of what classifies as a TBI:

  1. Mechanism of Injury: The injury typically results from a violent blow or jolt to the head or body. An object penetrating the skull, such as a bullet or shattered bone fragment, can also cause TBI.
  2. Severity:
    • Mild TBI (often referred to as a concussion): This is the most common form of TBI. Symptoms might be temporary and can include headaches, confusion, dizziness, and temporary loss of consciousness.
    • Moderate TBI: Symptoms are similar to those of a mild TBI but are more prolonged or intense. There may be physical, cognitive, or behavioral impairments which might be permanent or resolve over time.
    • Severe TBI: This can result from a prolonged period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury. It has a high risk of leading to long-term complications or death.
  3. Types of Injuries:
    • Contusion: A bruise on the brain caused by an impact.
    • Coup-Contrecoup: An injury that occurs both at the site of impact and on the opposite side of the brain due to the force of impact.
    • Diffuse Axonal Injury: Caused by shaking or strong rotation of the head, leading to tearing of the brain’s internal structures.
    • Penetration Injury: When an object like a bullet or bone fragment pierces the brain.
    • Hematoma: Clotting of blood outside blood vessels, which can put pressure on the brain.
  4. Secondary Changes: These are not immediate injuries but changes that evolve over hours to days after the primary injury. They can include brain swelling, increased intracranial pressure, seizures, or infections.

It’s important to note that the brain is complex, and TBIs can result in a wide range of physical, cognitive, and emotional symptoms. The outcome and recovery can vary greatly depending on the severity and location of the injury, as well as the individual’s overall health and the timeliness of medical intervention. Even mild TBIs, like concussions, should be taken seriously and monitored closely to ensure optimal recovery. If there’s any suspicion of a TBI, it’s crucial to seek medical attention immediately.

Symptoms of a Traumatic Brain Injury

A TBI can have a full range of physical and sensory symptoms, which depend on the severity of the injury. Symptoms can sometimes develop immediately after the traumatic event, while others may appear as time passes, showing days or even weeks later.

If you’ve suffered a blow to the head, be on the lookout for common symptoms of TBI.

What is a Mild Brain Injury?

If a brain injury is less severe than what is typically classified as a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), it’s often referred to as a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). The most common type of mTBI is a concussion.

However, the term “mild” can be misleading. It only refers to the initial presentation and immediate aftermath of the injury, not necessarily the potential long-term effects or seriousness. While some people with concussions recover fully within a few days or weeks, others might experience symptoms that persist for months or longer, a condition sometimes referred to as post-concussion syndrome.

Symptoms of a concussion can include:

  • Brief loss of consciousness after the injury
  • Memory problems or amnesia surrounding the traumatic event
  • Dizziness or “seeing stars”
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue

There can also be cognitive, physical, and emotional symptoms like confusion, sensitivity to light or noise, mood changes, and sleep disturbances.

Any suspected brain injury, even if it seems mild at first, should be evaluated by a medical professional. Early diagnosis and proper management are essential for optimal recovery.

Symptoms of moderate-to-severe traumatic brain injury:

In more severe traumatic brain injuries, the above symptoms may develop along with more dramatic signs of damage, including:

  • Loss of consciousness for several minutes to hours
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • One or both eye pupils may appear expanded or dilated
  • Clear fluid drainage from the nose or ears
  • Numbness or unresponsiveness in the fingers and toes
  • Physical coordination impairments
  • Profound confusion
  • Agitation or combativeness
  • Slurred speech

TBI Can Alter a Victim’s State of Consciousness

Head trauma can vary from minor bumps to severe brain damage, resulting in extended or even permanent changes in a person’s state of consciousness, responsiveness, and awareness.

When severe TBI occurs, it can result in the following impaired states of brain function, including:

  •  When a victim has minimal consciousness, they may show some signs of self and environmental awareness. Victims may be able to establish eye contact, hold objects, respond to commands, and have minimal verbal responses.
  • Vegetative state: Extensive damage to the brain can result in a victim entering a vegetative state. In this state, the victim shows no self or environmental awareness. However, they may have eye twitching or movements, make sounds, respond to reflexes, or move. It’s possible that a vegetative state can become permanent, but sometimes individuals progress to a minimally conscious state.
  • Coma: When a victim is in a coma, they are unconscious, unaware of their surroundings, and unable to respond to any stimulus. Comas occur due to widespread damage to the brain. Depending on the severity, victims may remain in a coma for days, weeks, or even months. A comatose patient may emerge from a coma or enter a vegetative state.
  • Brain death: When a victim is declared brain dead, there is no measurable activity in the brain and brainstem. In this state, removing breathing devices will cause their breathing to cease and heart failure to follow. Brain death is considered irreversible.

Accidents That Can Cause a Traumatic Brain Injury

Any accidents that result in an impact to the head or skull can result in a TBI. Some common accidents where this damage is likely may include:

  • Slips and falls – Falls from a ladder, stairs, in the bath, and at public places are the most common causes of traumatic brain injury. Older adults and young children are often the victims of these types of accidents.
  • Vehicular accidents – Car, motorcycle, and bicycle collisions are a common culprit of TBI. Pedestrians who are hit by motor vehicles can also suffer head trauma.  
  • Sports injuries – Traumatic brain injuries may be caused by accidents from sports, including soccer, boxing, football, baseball, lacrosse, skateboarding, hockey, and other high-impact or extreme activities. These are particularly common when youth are unsupervised, not wearing proper protective gear, or when protective equipment is defective.
  • Work-related injuries – Workplaces where hazardous or slippery conditions occur may have a high likelihood of accidents that result in TBI. Careers where combat may occur or where explosives are used may also be a significant hazard.
  • Other incidents – TBI can also be the result of criminal behavior, such as gunshot wounds, domestic violence, child abuse, and other assaults. Shaken baby syndrome is also a traumatic brain injury that is caused by the violent shaking of infants.
symptoms of a concussion

Treating Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs)

When someone has a brain injury, doctors first ensure the person is stable, meaning they have enough oxygen and good blood pressure. For mild injuries, like concussions, patients usually need rest and might take pain relievers for headaches. They should be watched closely to make sure symptoms don’t get worse. If symptoms last or are bad, they might need more tests or treatments.

For more severe brain injuries, patients often stay in the hospital. Some might need surgery to remove blood clots in the brain or fix broken parts of the skull. Medicine might be given to reduce brain swelling, prevent seizures, or even put the patient into a deep sleep to help the brain heal.

After the initial treatments, rehabilitation becomes important. This is like training to help the brain and body get back to normal or learn new ways to do things. This can include physical therapy for movement, speech therapy to help with talking, and other therapies to assist with daily tasks and thinking.

Some people might need long-term care, depending on how severe the injury is. This could involve continued therapy, counseling, or joining support groups. It’s all about helping the person live their best life after the injury.

TBI Can Be a Permanent Condition

The workings of the human brain are not fully understood. This makes it challenging to predict how permanent TBI will be and how it may impact a victim’s life.

Sometimes, TBI can heal completely, and the victim will regain full function as if the accident never happened. In these cases, the victim’s brain will find ways to re-route information, skills, and memories, so there are no permanent effects. Other times, the injuries will not fully heal, and the damage will hinder certain functions for the rest of the victim’s life.

Seeking Compensation for Your Injuries

If someone else’s negligence caused your traumatic brain injury, you might be able to recover compensation for those injuries and the effects they’ve had on your life. The recoverable costs should include the following:

  • All related medical expenses and treatments since the accident happened, and if the injuries are long-term or permanent, for the remainder of your life.
  • Financial losses due to missed work. This should also include future lost wages if you cannot return to your job because of your injuries.
  • Your pain and suffering, including a loss of your usual quality of life. If you are no longer able to do everyday activities, from mowing the lawn to coaching a sports team to interacting with family and friends, then these lifestyle changes should be considered in your compensation.

While it can be difficult to quantify many losses a TBI victim experiences, these circumstances should all be factored into a full and fair settlement and can affect the time it takes to settle the case.

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Consult With a Personal Injury Lawyer for Answers

Negotiating a TBI settlement can be challenging. Many of the actual losses a victim will experience involve long-lasting care and the growing expenses that come from permanent disability. Therefore, it’s crucial to look for a law firm that handles these matters regularly.

Being able to successfully protect victims from the costs and losses now and in the future comes from experience. An attorney who specializes in personal injury law will know how to gather proof of your injury and its impact on your life using medical records, work history, as well as witness statements.

The pain of learning to live with a permanent injury or disability is difficult enough, but doubly so when you are also struggling financially because of your injuries.

At The Millar Law Firm, we encourage accident victims to take advantage of our free first consultation. Sitting down with one of our lawyers can help you learn the full picture of what your future expenses may look like and can help you understand what your options are to protect yourself and your family.

Call us today to set up an appointment to speak with one of our experienced injury specialists. Let us advocate for you in this critical time. 770-400-0000.

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