Traumatic Brain Injuries

30.05.2024 General

Traumatic Brain Injuries in Motor Vehicle Crashes   

          Auto accidents cause many different types of bodily injuries. Most people are familiar with neck injuries, back injuries, and other musculoskeletal injuries. However, many people are unfamiliar with brain injuries as the symptoms are much less obvious, sometimes develop slowly, and are referred to as an “invisible” injury.       

          A traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs when the head receives a sudden assault to the brain from blunt force trauma. There are two types of brain injuries: one is referred to as a closed head injury (e.g. rapid shaking/movement of the brain); the other is referred to as a penetrating brain injury (e.g. skull fracture or penetration by projectile). The force, direction, intensity, and duration of trauma all contribute to the severity and characteristics of the TBI. The injury can be isolated to one part of the brain or can be considered diffuse and damage multiple brain functions. The severity of a TBI ranges from a mild concussion to severe injury leading to coma or death. 

Signs and Symptoms of a TBI

          Experiencing loss of consciousness immediately after the vehicle impact is a major factor in medically assessing a patient for a TBI. The longer the period of unconsciousness lasts the more severe the brain damage and related symptoms. In some cases, however, the car crash victim may not know if they lost consciousness and describe the event as foggy or black out with no memory. Other common symptoms include:  

  • Headache;
  • Nausea or vomiting;
  • Confusion;
  • Blurry or double vision;
  • Ringing in the ears;
  • Sensitivity to light and noise; and
  • Feeling tried or drowsy.

          The symptoms listed above occur in nearly all TBI cases both mild and severe. In mild TBI cases the patient should expect the symptoms to last between a few weeks to a few months. If the symptoms have not resolved within six months the TBI could be more serious. In more severe cases the patient’s headache may become semi-permanent or similar to an everlasting migraine. Other symptoms associated with a more severe TBI include:

  • Difficulty in balance or off kilter gait;
  • Unequal pupil size;
  • Slurred speech or aphasia (difficulties finding words);
  • Loss of coordination;
  • Develop unusual mood swings or emotional;
  • Weakness or numbness in limbs;
  • Agitation or restlessness;
  • Unusual social behavior or social judgment;
  • Inability to concentrate or decline in executive function; and
  • Altered social and cognitive behaviors.  

How is a TBI Diagnosed in an Auto Accident Case? 

          When emergency personnel arrive to a trucking crash they begin to assess the condition of the crash victim by asking about loss of consciousness, checking the pupils for dilation, and verbal responses. This process is referred to as the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS). The GCS measures three aspects of functioning: eye opening, movement, and verbal response. Individuals in a deep coma score very low on all these aspects of functioning, while those less severely injured or recovering from coma score higher. A GCS score of 3 indicates the deepest level of coma, describing a person who is totally unresponsive. A score of 9 or more indicates that the person is no longer in a coma but is not fully alert. The highest score 15 refers to a person who is fully conscious. The GCS is done in intervals once the patient reaches the hospital to document a person’s recovery.

          Soon after the crash victim arrives at the hospital, she would receive a Computed Tomography (CT) scan of the head area to check for skull fracture or a brain hematoma. A brain hematoma is brain bleeding that can be life threatening and may require emergency surgery. The hospital will then monitor the crash victim and may repeat a CT scan over the next 24 hours.

          After hospital care, the crash victim will be monitored by one or more neurologists to assess how the symptoms are progressing. Based on the severity of the TBI the patient may receive a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or a neuropsychological assessment. Many times, the crash victim’s family is asked to monitor the patient at home as the crash victim may not recall or recognize the TBI symptoms to report to the treating physician. In litigation, the family members are often critical fact witnesses and can describe many examples in which the TBI has negatively impacted the crash victim’s daily life.  

Conclusion

          One of the most common causes of TBIs are motor vehicle collisions because of the velocity and forces involved. Even minor crashes have sufficient forces to damage the brain. However, many lawyers do not know how to identify these injuries or work with medical professionals to set up an appropriate treatment plan for the patient. In order to maximize any TBI settlement recovery the trial lawyer must understand the medical condition. TBI lawyer Holland DeKeyzer has handled dozens of TBI cases, knows how to identify this type of injury, and can advocate on behalf of these victims. Brain injuries can have devastating consequences on families. Contact a personal injury lawyer that has the skill and experience to successfully provide the help you need after a TBI.

          Contact DeKeyzer Law at (713) 904-4004 for a FREE consultation about your rights and options.