Head and Brain Injuries After a Car Accident

It is common for people to have head and brain injuries after a car accident. Although these injuries vary in severity, when it comes to your brain, they are never minor and should not be ignored. The brain is your body’s control center. You need it to move, to think, and to breathe. And a traumatic brain injury can be severely debilitating and lead to a coma, lifetime paralysis, or even death.

More than half of all traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are caused by vehicle accidents. They can occur in one of two ways. Some injuries occur from blunt force trauma, when the person’s head strikes something, usually the steering wheel or door. When people don’t buckle up, they are at a greater risk of striking their head during an accident.

The second way that people get TBIs from car accidents is from the force of the impact. If the impact is strong enough, it can cause the brain to move around inside the skull. When the brain hits against the bones of the skull, it can cause bruising and bleeding that often isn’t visible at the time. The jolt can cause the brain to pull loose from connective tissue that holds it inside the skull. This results in an injury to that area as well.

We have a huge number of vehicle crashes each year in Texas which cause injuries to over 250,000 people. A car or truck accident is a prime event for head and brain injuries to occur.  I recently discussed injuries to the back.

Almost every accident occurs when the vehicle collides with another vehicle, a pedestrian, bicycle, or another object. No matter what that other object is, there will be an impact and it will create some degree of force. There is also the risk of blunt impact within the cabin of the vehicle. Unrestrained objects can turn into dangerous missiles during a crash. It’s no real surprise that the TV you placed in the back or the new computer you bought could end up hurting you when you’re in a crash. But even seemingly innocent cargo can quickly turn into a serious hazard.

If you frequently take your dog along for the ride, it might sound crazy but he needs to buckle up. Many areas have laws requiring dogs to be restricted while riding in a car. It isn’t just for your fur baby’s protection, either.  During an accident, your dog can be projected through the air and strike you or another person. At 32 MPH, an impact can cause an 18-pound dog to strike you with a force that is equal to about 882 pounds. If that isn’t enough to convince you, there’s also the problem of distracted driving. Pet owners are notorious for paying attention to their pets instead of where they’re going.

The Physics Behind Car Crashes

Like most people, you probably have a basic understanding of how force is generated during a car crash. The faster the speed, the heavier the vehicle, the greater the impact and the resulting force. But the laws of physics aren’t quite as simple as that. The increase in speed isn’t directly proportional to the resulting force. Instead, it increases with the square of the speed increase.

What does that mean? It means if you double your driving speed from 20 MPH to 40 MPH, the impact is four — not two — times greater. If you triple your speed to 60 MPH, the impact is nine times greater. If you hit the same object going at 60 MPH, the impact is nine times greater than if you hit it going 20 MPH!

There’s also the issue of weight to factor in. When an impact occurs between a larger vehicle and one that is smaller, the one that weighs the least will get more of the impact and the force. That means if you hit a pedestrian or a bicycle while driving, you’re likely to cause injuries to the other person. It also means if you are one of the thousands of drivers involved in an accident with a large truck each year, the injured party is more likely to be you.

The Most Common Brain Injuries After a Car Accident

Traumatic brain injury often occurs from car accidents, but all types of TBI aren’t the same. Some are immediately apparent while others aren’t. They also range in severity and outcome. Even those you aren’t aware of can become problematic or dangerous. That’s why you need to know the different types of head and brain injuries, and what to look out for.

Concussion – Concussions are injuries to your brain that affect its function. They result from impacts to the head as well as violently shaking the head. Symptoms include headaches, difficulty concentrating, memory problems, and a loss of balance and coordination. Symptoms may occur immediately after the accident or days later. You might lose consciousness with a concussion, but this isn’t always the case.

Contusion – Contusions are bruises to the brain. Some are more serious than those that you get on your body. If the contusion is serious enough, it may require surgical removal. Although people often assume concussion and contusion to mean the same thing, concussions generally involve a greater area of the brain. However, contusions can also affect large regions and be dangerous. Contusions often present no symptoms other than soreness or swelling in the area of the impact to your head. When symptoms do occur, they range from memory problems and problems paying attention to changes in personality or a loss of intelligence.

Diffuse Axonal – This type of TBI often occurs when the head is strongly rotated or severely shaken, causing the brain tissue to tear. Diffuse axonal is a more extreme version of a concussion. Once this type of injury occurs, it usually accelerates quickly, spreading across the brain tissue. Many people with the injury end up in a coma. Initial symptoms include disorientation, confusion, headache, nausea, and vomiting. Recognizing the symptoms of diffuse axonal is essential for getting immediate treatment. Doctors will work to reduce swelling in the brain to prevent further damage from occurring.

Coup-Contrecoup – Coup injuries are those that occur in the area where an impact took place. Contrecoup injuries occur on the opposite side of impact. Both types of injuries are associated with contusions of the brain.

Penetrating Injuries – In addition to blunt force trauma and injuries caused by the impact of force, there are also those in which objects penetrate through the skull and into the brain. There’s no mystery involving these types of TBIs. No matter how severe, penetrating injuries require immediate medical attention.

People differ in the types and degree of symptoms they experience with brain injuries after a car accident. Any time you experience any of these symptoms, see a doctor or hospital immediately:

  • Difficulty thinking
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Slowed response
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Sensitivity to light or sound
  • Problems with coordination
  • Low levels of alertness
  • Confusion
  • Emotional issues
  • Dilated Pupils
  • Seizures
  • Numbness in the extremities
  • Any period of unconsciousness

Car Crashes and Fatal Head Trauma in Teens

Fatalities have always been higher among teen drivers. Their lack of driving experience increases their risk of being in crashes. Although the number of teen driving fatalities has been declining over the past decade, that number is once again spiking.

Today, distracted driving from cell phone use is causing the number of teen fatalities to grow even higher.

There’s also a growing number of teens experiencing debilitating and fatal brain injuries from car accidents. Studies have shown that two factors help reduce the number of teen fatalities from head injuries. One is graduated driver licensing laws (GDL), which increase the number of hours of adult supervision young drivers must have. These laws also limit the conditions under which teens can drive and they prohibit cell phone use.

The second factor is wearing seat belts. Some states’ GDL laws also mandate seat belt use. Wearing seat belts all the time is absolutely essential for protecting yourself from head and brain injuries after a car accident. Without the restraint, you have no ability to protect yourself against the force of impact.

While seat belts help to reduce the risk of head and brain injuries after a car accident, the best approach is crash prevention. Teens are especially vulnerable to injuries and fatalities from car crashes because they are more likely to drive distracted.

Preventing Head and Brain Injuries from Car Accidents

Short of making everyone in a vehicle wear a helmet, preventing head and brain injuries from accidents might seem impossible. Although there’s little you can do to stop an impact from injuring your head, drivers can do more to prevent crashes altogether.

There’s a lot of technology today that is designed to prevent crashes. But relying on it too much or not knowing how to use it correctly can increase your chances of having a wreck. Always take the time to learn about your car’s features and use them correctly.

Texting while driving has become one of the most common forms of distracted driving. Even though people know the dangers, they still use their cell phone regularly. If you have teens, consider getting an app that prevents them from texting while they drive. Set a good example and keep your cell phone turned off while you are driving. Teens might be more vulnerable, but they aren’t the only ones at risk of crashing.

Don’t drive while you are tired. The number of collisions caused by fatigued drivers has surged. Even when you think you are well-rested, being on the road can lull you to sleep. If you begin to feel fatigued or sleepy, pull off the road. Driving tired is just as dangerous as driving while intoxicated.

Practice Defensive Driving

Many drivers think of traffic school as something they go to as punishment for getting a ticket. It never occurs to them that a course in defensive driving could improve their driving skills. In a way, driving school reinforces all the behaviors and habits that we’ve already discussed here. It teaches you awareness of the road, the drivers around you, and the conditions that can lead to a crash. Check with your car insurance company. You could get a deduction on your premiums, too!

What to Do If You Think You Have Brain Injuries After a Car Accident

There are different kinds of head and brain injuries, some of which don’t show any initial symptoms. Any time you take a blow to the head, go get it checked out. Don’t wait to see if you have symptoms after a day or two. The sooner you know what you’re dealing with, the more effective treatment will be.

Even if the impact seems minor and you weren’t struck in the head, don’t ignore symptoms. Sometimes you don’t feel anything for days. If you have a headache or feel nausea, it might be the stress you feel from the wreck. Get it checked out anyway. If it’s a concussion or worse, you need to know before it gets worse.

If the accident involves another driver, try to collect as much information as possible. Find out if there are any witnesses who saw what happened. If the other driver caused the accident, they are liable for your medical treatment for your injuries.

Once you get the medical treatment you need, contact a personal injury attorney for an evaluation of your case. Some brain injuries have long-lasting physical and mental impacts. A personal injury attorney can help you get compensation for your current and future medical costs.

If you suffered head or brain injuries after a car accident, contact Bill Berenson for a free consultation.  He offers compassionate legal representation to his clients and helpsthem get the justice they deserve. He only represents motor vehicle accident victims and fights to get the largest recoveries possible for his clients. If someone else caused your brain or head injury, you have the legal right to pursue compensation.

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