Brain injuries are one of the leading causes of death and injury in the United States. Data indicates that motor vehicle crashes are responsible for about a third of all injuries and fatalities each year. What is a brain injury, how does it happen, what is the treatment, and how might one affect your settlement after an auto accident? Keep reading to find out.

Causes of Traumatic Brain Injury

Weighing in at just three to four pounds, the brain is an extremely delicate mass of soft tissue. It sits inside the skull, suspended in fluid, and is surrounded by three membranes – both are meant to protect the brain from injury. Unfortunately, when a blow to the head or severe jarring occurs (such as the forceful movement experienced in a car accident), these protective measures may be inadequate. The brain may violently move inside the skull, causing it to hit the hard bony plates. As a result, the brain may suffer from bruising and swelling. Additionally, blood vessels in the brain may rip, stretch, or tear, and axons (nerve cells) may be damaged.

In the worst of cases, a brain injury may cause so much swelling that the brain becomes too big for the skull. Intracranial pressure may need to be relieved to save the life of the individual. Thankfully, most brain injuries are not that severe, but even minor head injuries should be assessed by a physician to ensure safety and proper recovery.

Signs and Symptoms of a Brain Injury

Concussions from an auto accident can be subtle at first, so the symptoms are often written off by injured victims. They may attribute their symptoms to adrenaline or being “shaken” by their experience. While this may be true in some cases, those that notice symptoms of a brain injury should seek immediate medical assistance. These symptoms include:
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Headache (particularly one that worsens over time)
  • Coordination problems (stumbling, clumsiness, difficulty walking)
  • Changes in mood or behavior
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Slurred speech
  • Visual disturbances (seeing spots or stars)
  • Changes in the pupils (i.e. pupils that appear bigger than normal or are unequally dilated)
  • Recurrent or lasting dizziness
  • Difficulty with memory
  • Large bruises or bumps
  • Seizures

It is important to note that unconsciousness does not have to occur for there to be a car accident concussion. Loss of consciousness is actually less common in head injuries than most people realize.

Treatment of a Brain Injury

While, in the most severe of cases, intracranial pressure or bleeding may need to be relieved through medical or surgical intervention, most head injuries only require time and rest to heal. The victim will likely be instructed to rest until the worst of the symptoms have dissipated – particularly headaches, blurred vision, confusion, and any other symptom that may hinder a person’s ability to think clearly.

For some, the symptoms may only last a few hours or a few days. In others, the symptoms can linger for weeks or months. Factors such as the severity of the injury, area of the brain injured, and individual health can all impact healing time.

During the resting period, it is important that victims avoid any rigorous activity. (This is especially important for children, who often struggle to sit still.) Driving, reading, and any other activity that requires concentration should be avoided as well. For most, this means being unable to work or attend school while healing from their injuries.

Victims should be reassessed by their doctor before returning to their normal activities. If symptoms persist or linger, a more in-depth examination may be required.

Understanding the Risk of Secondary Brain Injuries

The resting phase is important. It allows the swelling and bruising inside the brain to heal. Proper rest can also help the victim avoid the risk of a secondary brain injury, which can be fatal. It occurs when the brain experiences another injury while still healing from the first; in most cases, it simply cannot sustain itself after the second injury.

If resting becomes a struggle for you, try listening to some gentle music. Now could also be a good time to take up meditation. As you start to feel better, allow yourself the chance to do small activities around the house. Just be sure to avoid any that could cause you to fall, hit your head, or force you to bend over.

How a Brain Injury Can Affect Your Auto Accident Settlement

Because a brain injury may keep the victim out of work or school, it often increases the settlement amount of the victim. Its overall impact will depend on a variety of factors, such as the amount of time missed from work or school, the cost of any medical bills, and whether a long-term or permanent disability has occurred.

Of course, it can take a great deal of time to determine the full extent of an injury. Insurance companies often use this time to their advantage by offering a check to the victim, early on. Their hope is that the victim will cash it, thereby satisfying their responsibility. Any outstanding costs related to the injury will then be the responsibility of the injured party. Do not let this happen to you.

Accident victims should never accept a check from an insurance company until after they’ve spoken to a qualified personal injury lawyer. Car insurance companies are a for-profit business; they are not concerned about the well-being or long-term future of the victim.

Unlike the insurance company, the interest of an attorney is not to save money; it is to reduce the chances that a victim and their family will suffer uncompensated losses after an accident. Able to assess the severity of a victim’s injuries and the impact that they may have on their life, long-term, a seasoned car accident attorney can help determine what a “fair settlement” is, based on the evidence at hand. Attorneys are also better equipped to negotiate with the insurance company, as they have a firm grasp on the law and the entitlements of the victim.

Contact Our Compassionate Brain Injury Lawyers

If the insurance company offers you a check or asks you to sign the paperwork, politely decline until you’ve had the chance to speak to a skilled personal injury lawyer about your accident and resulting injuries. This one step can drastically impact the outcome of your case.