- Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms After a Car Accident – What You Need to Know
Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms After a Car Accident – What You Need to Know
In recognition of Brain Injury Awareness Month, we thought we’d take the opportunity to discuss this important topic, including sharing basic information about traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), what to do if you experience a concussion or an even more severe TBI, and how to deal with lingering and sometimes debilitating TBI consequences.
Brain Trauma Foundation reports that about 2.5 million Americans suffer from traumatic brain injuries annually but, until recently, there hasn’t been a lot of media attention given to TBIs. However, over the last few years, the sports world has increasingly witnessed stories concerning brain injuries related to professional and amateur athletics – including tragic and violent episodes following concussions suffered by NFL players, and a high incidence of brain trauma occurring in high school football, hockey, and girls’ soccer games (so much so that the CDC has even published a pamphlet offering guidance on concussions for high school coaches). There have also been significant increases in head injuries caused by carelessly riding on those ubiquitous electric scooters that seem to be popping up everywhere (a subject we discussed in a previous blog post). And, of course, vast numbers of TBIs result from motor vehicle accidents.
As you can probably imagine, there are so many potential causes of TBIs because just about any kind of powerful contact to the head can result in significant cranial bleeding, not to mention the very dangerous and sometimes fatal aftereffects of brain damage. As personal injury attorneys, we are intimately familiar with legal cases involving TBI victims who were hurt in car crashes, pedestrian accidents, slips and falls, motorcycle collisions, as well as dozens of other harmful events.
Although recent news coverage has made many Americans more familiar with possible causes of TBIs and ways to help prevent these injuries, the news isn’t all good. Fortunately, professional football players suffered from fewer concussions this year thanks to rules changes designed to make the game less dangerous, but everyday concussions happening elsewhere appear to be on the rise, especially among female athletes. That could be especially dangerous, because diagnosing and treating brain injuries can sometimes be difficult, even for trained medical professionals. Fortunately, that might be about to change. New research shows that a simple concussion blood test being developed in Canada can determine whether a high school athlete has suffered a brain injury as few as 20 minutes after the incident. It could be possible this technology will find wider use in other circumstances where people have suffered from head injuries, too. We certainly hope so.
How Are TBIs Categorized?
Of course, concussions and TBIs related to athletics are just the tip of the iceberg. As we’ve noted, TBIs can be caused by a wide variety of incidents and accidents. And there are many types of TBI, ranging from those with mild effects where victims recover with minimal treatment, to severe injuries that can be devastatingly life-changing. As Johns Hopkins Medicine points out, obvious kinds of head trauma (for instance, broken or penetrated skull bones caused by bullet impacts or severe collisions) are easily identified, but closed-head injuries (those resulting from car crashes, slips and falls, being hit with blunt objects, or sadly abusive head trauma found in children) are much less evident. But regardless of their cause, all TBIs have one thing in common: significant and serious damage to brain tissue. And, as numerous studies have shown, damaged brain cells are unlikely, if ever, able to fully regenerate after major trauma.
What Are Some Common TBI Symptoms?
Mild brain injuries, including slight concussions, often result in symptoms that individuals may be tempted to ignore – headaches, confusion, forgetfulness, and loss of balance, among other seemingly minor annoyances. Nevertheless, you’d be unwise to assume these issues will go away by themselves — always best to be checked by a healthcare professional to rule out more serious issues. For example, one of the most common indications someone has experienced a concussion can be a difference in pupillary diameter from one eye to the other. If you notice one pupil is much larger than the other, or that it fails to contract when exposed to a bright light, that’s a sign that immediate emergency medical help is needed.
The Mayo Clinic offers a list of other symptoms indicating whether someone has suffered from a mild TBI, including convulsions, speech difficulties, vomiting, sleep issues, and brief loss of consciousness. The U.S. Department of Defense provides a helpful acronym that can aid in remembering some of the more common TBI symptoms, using the initials H.E.A.D.S, to stand for Headaches, Ears Ringing, Amnesia, Double Vision, and Something Feeling Not Quite Right.
Symptoms of more severe TBIs range from difficulty awakening from deep sleep and feeling extreme nausea, to falling into long-term comas, fluid drainage from the ears or nose, or even displaying aggressive, combative behaviors.
Of course, the best way to avoid experiencing a traumatic brain injury is to follow common-sense safety guidelines like wearing your seatbelt, using appropriate athletic, bicycle or motorcycle helmets, driving defensively, installing safety devices like grab bars in showers or bathtubs, and limiting the use of drugs or alcohol that can contribute to accidents. The CDC offers a number of additional tips that can help you stay safe and protect yourself.
How Long After an Accident Do TBI Symptoms Appear?
Even the best precautions can’t prevent every brain injury. So, if you’ve hit your head, here is some advice to keep in mind. First, remember that some brain injuries are immediately apparent. Skull fractures and brain damage from major head trauma can be quickly identified and treated by emergency medical technicians and ER doctors. However, other more subtle damage (and injuries related to closed-head impacts) could potentially take weeks or even months to become apparent, even to highly trained medical personnel. These are called “delayed presentation” injuries, and headaches resulting from brain trauma are listed as one of the six most common afflictions of this type.
As the Mayo Clinic notes, physical symptoms including facial paralysis, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), double vision, vertigo, and more can emerge and linger for weeks, months, or even longer after a brain injury. And cognitive issues – ranging from difficulties with short-term memory, amnesia, problem-solving, organization, speech, anxiety, and more – can plague some TBI victims permanently.
If you’re experiencing one or more of the symptoms we’ve mentioned (or any other unexplained physical or mental issues) following an accident, it’s entirely possible you’ve experienced a TBI. We urge you to seek a medical evaluation as soon as you can, so you can access the treatment needed to recover. The Brain Injury Association of Michigan (BIAMI) might be a good place to start if you’re seeking medical care, a local support group, or additional information about symptoms you may be exhibiting. They also have a directory of brain injury specialists and resources offering CRT and MRI scans to help identify and quantify possible damage. (We also applaud the BIAMI’s stance on safeguarding our state’s no-fault automobile insurance coverage, which is considered some of the best protection against the exorbitant costs associated with recovering from a TBI.)
Speaking of insurance, you may be wondering how quickly you should make your insurance company aware of your brain injury. The answer: As soon as you find yourself in need of any medical care. The Brain Injury Association of the United States guidebook titled “Navigating the Insurance Maze after Brain Injury” offers advice on how to best address your health insurance needs regardless of how recently your life was altered by a TBI.
Can You Recover From a TBI?
That’s a challenging question to answer. As we previously mentioned, studies cited by Johns Hopkins Medicine amongst others indicate that brain cells are notoriously difficult to recover once they’ve been damaged. But fortunately there are ways the brain can learn to work around damaged areas through an adaptive process called neuroplasticity, where different cells adopt tasks formerly handled by those that were injured or destroyed.
Unfortunately, recovering from TBIs can require costly, long-term medical care and painstaking rehabilitation services — that’s where we can come to your assistance. Our brain injury legal specialists are well versed in the law as it relates to recovering costs you might incur for medical treatment, rehabilitation, long-term nursing care, cognitive therapy, and even the pain and suffering you’ve experienced as a result of your TBI. If you or someone you love has experienced a TBI, the best thing to do (after seeking medical attention) is to give us a call at 855-MIKE-WINS (855-645-3946), or contact us through our website. We’ll work our hardest to get you all the help, care and compensation you deserve.