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Brain Injuries Caused by Car Accidents

Millions of people in the U.S. are injured in motor vehicle crashes each year. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), 4.8 million people suffered traffic-related injuries that required medical consultation in 2020 alone. Among the various types of injuries people can suffer in traffic collisions, brain injuries can be particularly devastating. Both passengers and drivers can suffer serious brain injuries in car accidents that might permanently alter the course of their lives. People who have sustained traumatic brain injuries in motor vehicle crashes might be entitled to compensation for their losses.

What Is a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?

A traumatic brain injury (TBI)occurs when a person's brain is damaged by a sudden, external force applied to the head. Johns Hopkins reports that traumatic brain injuries are among the primary causes of death and disability in adults. Traumatic brain injuries include a variety of different types of injuries that can happen to the brain. The damage occurring because of a TBI can be limited to a specific area or diffuse and spread across multiple brain regions. The severity of a TBI can range from mild concussions to severe injuries that result in permanent disabilities, coma, or death. A TBI can include primary and secondary injuries. The primary injury is the initial injury that is caused at the time of impact. In a car crash, the force of the collision and/or a blow to the head can cause the brain to slosh inside of the skull and strike the bony interior surface of the skull. In some cases, a person might initially appear fine following the primary injury. However, once the brain is damaged, it can swell and continue to push against the interior of the skull. This can reduce the flow of oxygenated blood to different areas of the brain and lead to a secondary injury.

Symptoms of a TBI Following a Car Crash

Since the primary injury can continue to worsen without prompt medical intervention, people must seek immediate medical attention following a crash whenever a potential brain injury is suspected. The appearance of any of the following symptoms should prompt immediate medical care:

  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Memory loss
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Seizures

Since every TBI is different, the symptoms can vary. A focal injury might result in varying symptoms based on the affected brain region, while a diffuse injury will typically result in a reduced level of consciousness. Immediate medical attention can help to prevent the damage from spreading and worsening.

Types of TBIs from Car Accidents

The Cleveland Clinic reports that TBIs can be open or closed injuries. A closed TBI occurs when a person suffers a traumatic blow or jolt to the head that doesn't penetrate the skull. An open brain injury occurs when a foreign object penetrates the skull and causes direct damage to the brain's tissues. People can suffer a variety of traumatic brain injuries based on the severity of their primary injuries. Some people who suffer TBIs in car accidents might suffer from more than one type. The common types of TBIs are discussed below.


Concussions are mild to moderate TBIs that might cause temporary confusion and problems with balance, vision, speech, or memory. A concussion is among the most common types of TBIs. People who suffer concussions still require treatment because an untreated concussion might lead to lasting damage.


Contusions are bruises that can result because of bleeding from a blow to the head. In many cases, people who suffer concussions might also suffer contusions. Surgery might be required to stop the bleeding and reduce the resulting pressure on the brain. The severity of a contusion and its potential damage depends on where it is located in the brain, how long it lasts, and its size.

Coup-Contrecoup Brain Injury

Coup-contrecoup brain injuries occur when the brain impacts the opposite side of the skull because of the impact. This type of TBI often has immediate symptoms and generally causes more severe injury. Because of this, extensive treatment might be required for recovery.

Diffuse Axonal Injury (DAI)

Diffuse axonal injuries occur when the brain is violently jostled back and forth inside of the skull, resulting in the tearing of the axons of the nerves. The axons connect the nerve cells throughout the brain. Extensive tearing of the axons of the brain can cause varying degrees of damage and can be fatal.


Hematomas can happen when blood vessels rupture. The blood can then begin to clot, and large hematomas can place a significant amount of pressure on the brain. Large hematomas might require surgical removal to relieve pressure on the brain and prevent further damage from spreading.

Traumatic Subarachnoid Hemorrhage (TSAH)

A traumatic subarachnoid hemorrhage involves bleeding in the space between the brain and the skull. Typically, this area is filled with cerebrospinal fluid to cushion the brain. This type of injury can happen when small blood vessels tear, causing blood to flow. The brain's tissues can be irritated by the blood, and the pressure on the brain can increase and damage the brain's cells. At the same time, the area of the brain that is typically supplied with blood from the torn vessels will also be deprived of oxygenated blood, which can cause widespread damage.

How TBIs are Diagnosed After Car Crashes

Since the symptoms of a TBI can vary, doctors typically must conduct tests to make an accurate diagnosis. The following tests are typically used to diagnose TBIs:

Computerized Tomography (CT) Scans

CT scans involve multiple x-rays that provide a detailed image of the brain's structures. Doctors might conduct CT scans to detect bleeding, fractures, and hematomas. They might also be performed throughout the patient's treatment to guide the doctor's treatment decisions.

Magentic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

MRIs are performed by using radiofrequency waves and magnetic fields to produce a detailed image of the brain's tissues. An MRI can show subtle details that won't be revealed by a CT scan. Doctors might inject a contrast dye before the MRI to provide more detail.

Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS)

MRS is a test that uses an MRI machine to conduct a series of tests to provide information about the brain's metabolism. An MRS can give the doctor some information about the patient's prognosis and ability to recover.

Intracranial Pressure Monitoring

Doctors might insert a probe to monitor pressure caused by brain swelling. This type of procedure is typically only performed when the swelling has occurred. The pressure might be relieved by the surgical placement of a shunt.

Glasgow Coma Scale

The severity of a TBI is commonly assessed by using the Glasgow Coma Scale, which ranges from three to 15 based on the severity of the injury. Patients are scored by doctors based on the following factors:

  • Ability to open the eyes
  • Ability to correctly respond to questions
  • Ability to follow simple commands

The severity of the patient's TBI will be classified as follows:

  • Severe TBI - 8 and below
  • Moderate TBI - 9 to 12
  • Mild TBI - 13 to 15
How Are TBIs From Car Crashes Treated?

The treatments used for a TBI after a car crash will vary based on the type of injury and its severity. If a car crash victim has suffered a mild concussion, they might be told to rest. It's important for someone who suffers a mild TBI to follow their doctor's instructions and not try to return to work too soon. Doing so could cause the injury to worsen and slow recovery. Other types of treatment that might be necessary for more severe TBIs include the following:

  • Surgery to remove hematomas or pooled blood
  • Placement of a shunt to reduce pressure
  • Surgical repair of a skull fracture
  • Anticonvulsant drugs to prevent seizures
  • Anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications
  • Anticoagulants to prevent the formation of blood clots
  • Diuretics to prevent the buildup of fluids on the brain
  • Ongoing rehabilitation, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech-language therapy, and others

In some cases, people who sustain TBIs in car accidents might require ongoing care for the rest of their lives.

Consult an Experienced Motor Vehicle Accident Lawyer

Traumatic brain injuries can be life-altering and result in permanent disabilities. When someone suffers a TBI in a collision because of the negligent actions of another person, the victim should talk to an experienced car accident attorney at the law firm of Steven M. Sweat, Personal Injury Lawyers, APC. Call us today to request a free case evaluation at 1-866-966-5240.

Client Reviews
I have known Steven for some time now and when his services were required he jumped in and took control of my cases. I had two and they were handled with the utmost professionalism and courtesy. He went the extra mile regardless of the bumps in the road. I can not see me using any other attorney and I would recommend him to any of my family and friends. Josie A.
Steven was vital during our most trying time. He was referred by a friend after an accident that involved a family member. While he was critical and lying in the hospital, Steven was kind, patient and knowledgeable about what we were going through. Following our loss, Steven became a tough and aggressive negotiator and made sure that we receive a huge compensation. I would refer Steven in fact, this happened 2 years ago and I still speak highly of his service. Cheryl S.
Mr. Sweat is a pitbull in the courtroom as well as settlement negotiations - You can't have a better equipped attorney in your corner! It is a pleasure working as colleagues together on numerous cases. He can get the job done. Jonathan K.
Because of Steven Sweat, my medical support was taken care of. Plus, I had more money to spare for my other bills. Steven is not only an excellent personal injury lawyer, providing the best legal advice, but also a professional lawyer who goes beyond his call of duty just to help his clients! He stood up for me and helped me get through the process. I would definitely recommend. I couldn't think of any better lawyer than him. MiraJane C.
I must tell anyone, if you need a great attorney, Steve sweat is the guy! I had an awful car accident and had no idea where to turn. He had so much to deal with because my accident was a 4 car pile up. Not to mention all the other cars were behind me and they were not wanting to settle in any way! He never stopped working for me and had my best interest at heart! Audra W.
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I have to say that Steve has been exemplary! I met Steve at a point with my case that I was ready to give up. He took the time and dealt with all of my concerns. Most importantly, he was present and listened to what I was going through. He was able to turn things around, put me and my case on the right track! The results were better that expected! Highly recommend!! Cody A.