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Understanding Brain Injuries after a car accident

Understanding Brain Injuries After a Car Accident 

Car crashes can cause serious harm, and one of the biggest concerns is brain injury. Each year in the US, many people experience brain injuries from car accidents, resulting in permanent difficulties. In this blog, we will explore the impact of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) on victims and their families.

What is a brain Injury? 

A brain injury from a car accident, often referred to as a traumatic brain injury (TBI), occurs when there is damage to the brain because of a sudden and forceful impact during a motor vehicle collision. These injuries can vary widely in severity, ranging from mild concussions to severe, life-altering trauma.  

How are brain injuries caused by car accidents?  

Car accidents can cause brain injuries through a combination of physical forces and trauma to the head. Here’s how a car accident can lead to a brain injury: 

Sudden Deceleration 

When a car comes to a sudden stop or changes speed rapidly during a collision, the occupants inside the vehicle continue moving at their original speed due to inertia. This can result in the head striking a hard surface, such as the steering wheel, dashboard, windshield, or side window, causing a traumatic impact to the head. 

Whiplash 

Rear-end collisions are particularly associated with whiplash injuries. In a rear-end accident, the force of the impact can jerk the head backward and then forward rapidly, leading to a whipping motion. This sudden motion can strain and injure the neck and head, potentially causing a brain injury. 

Objects Within the Vehicle 

Loose objects inside the vehicle can become projectiles during a collision, striking occupants in the head and causing head injuries. 

 Vehicle Rollovers 

Rollover accidents can subject occupants to multiple impacts as the vehicle rolls and collides with various surfaces. These multiple impacts increase the risk of head injuries. 

Airbag Deployment 

Airbags provide protection for individuals in cars. However, if someone is too close when the airbag deploys, it can also cause head injuries. 

Ejection from the Vehicle 

If a person is ejected from a car during a crash, their risk of sustaining a severe brain injury significantly increases. This is because of the impact of hitting the ground or other objects with great force. 

Secondary Injuries 

In some cases, the primary impact during a car accident may not directly injure the head, but secondary injuries can occur. When you jerk your head quickly, it can cause the brain to move in the skull, resulting in contusions, concussions, or other brain injuries. 

Seat Belt Injuries 

Seat belts prevent injuries, but during a collision, they can also cause chest or shoulder injuries due to the force exerted. In certain situations, the seat belt’s restraining force can indirectly contribute to head injuries. 

Crushing Injuries 

In severe accidents, especially those involving large vehicles, pose a risk of collapsing or crushing the roof. This can directly impact the head and cause severe injuries. 

Recognizing that the severity of brain injuries resulting from car accidents can vary widely is important. Some people have small head injuries, while others have more severe brain injuries like DAI or hematomas. 

Several factors determine the extent of injuries in a car accident. Several factors influence the outcome of a car accident. These factors include the crash type, force, safety features, and the person’s seating position. 

 What are common types of brain injuries caused by a car accident?  

Concussion

Concussions are the most common type of mild TBI resulting from car accidents. The brain experiences concussions when it jolts within the skull because of the sudden stop or impact of the accident. Symptoms may include confusion, dizziness, and memory problems. While most concussions resolve with rest, they still require medical evaluation. 

Contusion

A contusion is a bruise on the brain’s surface caused by the brain hitting the interior of the skull during the accident. Contusions can vary in severity and may require monitoring or surgical intervention. 

Coup-Contrecoup Injury

The brain sustains this injury when it is injured in two places. The first is where it was hit, known as coup. The second is on the opposite side, known as contrecoup. This happens because the brain bounces inside the skull. 

Diffuse Axonal Injury (DAI)

DAI causes severe damage or tearing to the brain’s long connecting fibers (axons). It often results from high-speed accidents and can lead to profound neurological deficits. 

Penetrating Injury

Car accidents can cause brain injuries when sharp objects or debris penetrate the skull and harm the brain. 

What are signs to know if you suffered a brain injury? 

Recognizing the signs of a brain injury is crucial for seeking timely medical attention and intervention. Brain injuries can vary widely in severity, and their symptoms may manifest differently in each case. Here are some common signs and symptoms that may indicate a brain injury: 

Loss of Consciousness:  

  • One of the most obvious signs is a loss of consciousness, even if it’s brief. However, it’s important to note that not all brain injuries involve loss of consciousness. 

Confusion and Disorientation: 

  • Difficulty Remembering: The individual may have difficulty remembering events leading up to or following the injury. 
  • Confusion About Time or Place: They may not know where they are, what day it is, or how they got there. 

Headache: 

  • Persistent or Severe Headache: A persistent and severe headache that worsens over time may be a sign of a brain injury. 

Nausea and Vomiting: 

  • Persistent Nausea: The person may experience persistent nausea or vomiting, especially if it occurs repeatedly. 

Sensory Changes: 

  • Vision Problems: Blurred vision, double vision, or sensitivity to light can be indicators of a brain injury. 
  • Hearing Issues: Ringing in the ears (tinnitus) or hearing loss.
  • Altered Taste or Smell: Changes in the perception of taste or smell. 

Cognitive and Emotional Changes: 

  • Memory Problems: Difficulty with short-term or long-term memory. 
  • Mood Swings: Sudden changes in mood, including irritability, anxiety, or depression. 
  • Difficulty Concentrating: Inability to focus or maintain attention. 
  • Impaired Judgment: Making poor decisions or displaying risky behaviors. 
  • Personality Changes: Alterations in personality traits or behavior. 

Motor and Coordination Issues: 

  • Difficulty Walking: Unsteady gait or difficulty maintaining balance. 
  • Weakness or Numbness: Weakness or numbness in the limbs, often on one side of the body. 
  • Coordination Problems: Difficulty with fine motor skills, such as buttoning a shirt or holding a pen. 

Seizures: 

  • Seizures: Seizures may occur immediately after the injury or later as a result of the brain injury. 

Loss of Consciousness: 

  • Loss of Consciousness: One of the most obvious signs is a loss of consciousness, even if it’s brief. However, it’s important to note that not all brain injuries involve loss of consciousness. 

Coma: 

  • Coma: In severe cases, the person may fall into a coma or a persistent vegetative state. 

Brain injuries can have different signs and symptoms based on the type, location, and severity of the injury. In some cases, symptoms may not appear immediately and could develop hours or days after the injury 

How are brain injuries diagnosed? 

 Diagnosing a brain injury typically involves a combination of medical evaluation, neuroimaging, and clinical assessment. Here’s how doctors diagnose a brain injury, using scans and other diagnostic methods. 

Clinical Assessment: 

  • Medical History: The process often begins with a detailed medical history, where the patient or witnesses describe the circumstances of the injury, any loss of consciousness, and the presence of symptoms. 
  • Physical Examination: The medical team conducts a thorough physical examination to assess the patient’s neurological function. 

Neuroimaging: 

  • CT Scan (Computed Tomography): Doctors commonly use CT scans to assess brain injuries, especially immediately after a car accident. They provide detailed cross-sectional images of the brain and are useful for detecting fractures, bleeding, and swelling. 
  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging): MRIs provide clearer images compared to CT scans. Medical professionals often use them to examine injuries in soft tissues, such as bruises and diffuse axonal injuries. 

Blood Tests: 

  • Blood tests: Doctors may conduct blood tests to check for signs of infection, inflammation, or metabolic abnormalities. 

Additional Tests: 

  • EEG (Electroencephalogram): An EEG measures brain activity and can diagnose seizures or abnormal brain activity linked to specific brain injuries.
  • Intracranial Pressure Monitoring: Doctors may put a monitor in the skull to measure pressure inside the brain in serious brain injuries. This pressure can increase because of bleeding or swelling. 

Clinical Assessment: 

  • Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS): The GCS is a standardized assessment used to evaluate a patient’s level of consciousness and neurological function. It helps gauge the severity of brain injury. 

Observation: 

  • Patients with mild brain injuries, such as concussions, may be observed for a period to monitor their condition and assess for any worsening of symptoms. 

 The diagnostic approach can vary depending on the severity and type of brain injury. For mild cases, a thorough clinical assessment, including neurological evaluation, may be sufficient. For serious injuries, brain scans like CT scans and MRIs are important for finding brain damage and deciding on treatment. 

Diagnosing and managing brain injuries is a specialized area of medicine that is important to note. Neurologists and neurosurgeons, as healthcare providers, receive training to effectively evaluate and treat these injuries. If you suspect a brain injury following a car crash or another accident, it is crucial to promptly seek medical attention. Seeing a doctor promptly is important for obtaining an accurate diagnosis and receiving appropriate treatment. 

It’s important to note that the specific treatment and recovery process will vary depending on the individual’s condition. Mild brain injuries may require rest and symptom management, while severe injuries may necessitate extensive medical and rehabilitative care. 

If you were in a car accident and are suffering any of the symptoms above, call the attorneys at Favret Carriere Cronvich for a free consultation regarding your matter.  We may be able to help you secure treatment and recover money from the at fault parties due to your injuries.   

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