Automobile Accident - Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) has been called the “silent epidemic.” If you were in an automobile accident and sustained a brain injury, you should hire an attorney who has experience with the mechanism of brain injuries. A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is an insult to the brain, not of a degenerative or congenital nature but caused by an external physical force, that may produce a diminished or altered state of consciousness, which results in an impairment of cognitive abilities or physical functioning.

Brain injuries sustained during an automobile accident can have devastating, lifelong effects on the physical and mental functioning of the victim of an automobile accident. Depending on the location and severity of the injury, the brain injury can affect the body and mind in numerous ways. When the injury results from head trauma, damage to the brain may occur at the time of impact or may develop later due to swelling (cerebral edema) and bleeding into the brain (intracerebral hemorrhage) or bleeding around the brain (epidural or subdural hemorrhage). Most traumatic brain injuries result in widespread damage to the brain because the brain ricochets inside the skull during the impact of an accident.

Review Traumatic Brain Injury Quick Facts

Brain injuries are classified according to mild (80%), moderate (10-30%) and severe (5-25%). 

Mild traumatic brain injury is characterized by one or more of the following symptoms:

  1. Loss of consciousness for less than 30 minutes (possibly no loss of consciousness);
  2. Glasgow Coma Scale of 13-15;
  3. Posttraumatic amnesia for less than 24 hours (loss of memory immediately before or after the injury)
  4. Temporary or permanently altered mental or neurological state.

Post concussion symptoms that may or may not persist include: headache, dizziness, vomiting, sleep disturbance, irritability, changes in personality, memory problems, depression, difficulty problem solving, diminished attention span.

Moderate brain injury is characterized by one or more of the following symptoms:

  1. Coma more than 20-30 minutes, but less than 24 hours;
  2. Glasgow Coma Scale of 9-12;
  3. Possible skull fracture with bruising and bleeding;
  4. Signs on EEG, CAT or MRI scans;
  5. Some long term problems in one or more area of life (i.e. home, work, community).

Severe brain injury is characterized by one or more of the following:

  1. Coma longer than 24 hours, often lasting days or weeks;
  2. Glasgow Coma Scale of 8 or less;
  3. Bruising, bleeding in brain;
  4. Signs on EEG, CAT or MRI scans;
  5. Long term impairments in one or more areas of life (i.e. home, work, community).

Brain injuries can be very difficult to diagnose, especially mild brain injuries. Mild brain injuries may even go unnoticed by treating doctors. Oftentimes, mild brain injuries do not even require a hospital stay, yet they result in changes so severe that lives are impacted for many years (or permanently). In many mild brain injuries, the person seems fine on the surface, yet continues to endure chronic functional problems.

Mild and traumatic brain injuries can cause physical, cognitive, social, and vocational changes and, in many cases, recovery becomes a lifelong process of adjustments and accommodations for the individual and the family.

Depending on the extent and location of the injury, impairments caused by a head injury can vary widely. Some common side effects include difficulties with memory, decreased attention, short-term memory, mood changes, disorientation, dizziness, frustration, anger, emotional changes, sexual disorders, and decreased concentration. The frontal lobe of the brain is involved in may cognitive functions (such as language and memory) and is considered our emotional and personality control center. Damage to this area can result in decreased judgment and increased impulsivity. Other damage can be made to our organizational and reasoning skills and executive functions. Changes in memory, social and organizational skills after a brain injury makes it difficult to function in complex environments. For example, it may be difficult to walk down a grocery isle because the shelves are complex – they are filled with food and items. Only individuals and families who live with brain injury can truly understand the experience.  Beyond the obvious physical effects of brain injury, survivors frequently have to deal with depression, anxiety, loss of self esteem, altered personality, and in some cases, a lack of self-awareness by the injury survivor of any existing deficits. Oftentimes, it is the parent or spouse of the victim that notices the changes, even when the victim does not.