The Mechanics of a Brain Injury from a Car Accident
One of the most common injuries received during a car accident is a brain injury. Unless the collision is very minor, any sort of sudden jolt or hit to your head can bring about a severe and possibly lasting injury that can lead to complications and long-term effects. The brain is a complicated organ that is in charge of the rest of the body, and mild to severe injuries can change not only one’s mental state, but also how the entirety of the body functions.
The brain requires oxygen and blood, as well as unfettered access to the rest of the nervous system in order for everything to function properly. The complexities of this system can make certain injuries to diagnose and treat, and that is why it is so important to take injuries to the head extremely seriously, even if the injury seems minor. The brain is delicate, even as it is protected by the skull. If you are ever involved in a car accident where you receive head trauma of any sort, even a mild concussion, it is critical that you seek medical attention as soon as possible.
What is a traumatic brain injury?
A traumatic brain injury (TBI), as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “is caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a penetrating injury (such as from a gunshot) to the head.” Mild TBIs can also be caused by any sort of jolt or hit to the body that causes the brain to rapidly bounce back and forth inside the skull.
When such an action occurs, the brain may bounce around or twist inside the skull, causing contusions and abrasions which may lead to internal bleeding. Injuries to the brain can ultimately lead to chemical changes and brain damage, causing a change in personality, difficulty with memory, learning, and problem-solving, weakness in the limbs, vision and hearing problems, difficulty speaking, paralysis, mood swings, depression, anxiety, and an increased likelihood of seizures, pneumonia, and infections.
Auto accidents are one of the most common ways people receive TBIs, as there is often a sudden impact in most collisions that causes the brain to hit the interior wall of the skull. While only a sudden jolt is needed to cause a brain injury, often passengers of a car will hit their head against the dashboard, windshield, and windows. Even when the head collides with the airbag, while usually saving the driver or passenger from severe head injuries, it may in fact cause a TBI, especially if the passenger is not wearing a seatbelt. That is why cars manufactured after 1994 are required to put an airbag warning label, usually on the back of the sun visor.
What are the different types of brain injuries?
While we’ve talked about closed and open brain injuries before, where a closed injury is where the brain sustains injuries from a jolt or hit, and an open brain injury occurs when the skull is penetrated, and leaves an open wound; we should also talk about primary versus secondary brain injuries.
Primary brain injury
The injury experienced at the time of the accident is called a primary brain injury. Damage done to the brain at this point is usually irreversible and untreatable. Doctors do not look to treat this injury as much as they will attempt to prevent any further, secondary, injuries from happening later on. Primary brain injuries include:
- Diffuse axonal Injury (DAI). This type of injury occurs throughout the entirety of the brain and includes a loss of consciousness. The Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center (MSKTC) describes it as “a ‘stretching’ injury to the neurons (the cell bodies of the brain) and axons (fibers that allow for communication from one neuron to another neuron).” If the connection between axons and neurons are destroyed, or the neurons or axons themselves are injured beyond repair, then the brain loses the ability to properly communicate with the rest of the body. This type of injury can cause chemical imbalances, even leading to a coma or death.
- Localized injury. This is when only one part of the brain is injured, such as the frontal cortex or temporal lobe. This usually refers to when the brain is left with contusions or bleeding on the outermost of or within the other layers of the brain.
- Coup/contrecoup injury. These types of injuries are categorized by their location. A coup injury is an injury to the part of the brain directly beneath where the location where the injury was received. Contrecoup is when the brain is injured on the opposite side of the brain to where the injury occurred. For example, if you are rammed from behind in a car accident, and your head flies forward into the steering wheel, you will likely suffer a coup injury as your brain will likely suffer injuries right under where the steering wheel hit your head. However, if you think of a whiplash accident where your head is whipped back and forth quickly, your head bouncing off the steering wheel and flinging backwards so that the brain jolts inside your skull and an injury is sustained on the back of the brain opposite to where the hit occurred, that is a contrecoup injury. An injury to both coup and contrecoup areas of the brain is called coup-contrecoup.
- Skull fracture. This is when the skull itself is damaged, leaving the bones broken or dented. When pieces of bone press in and damage the brain, it is often referred to as a depressed skull fracture.
Secondary brain injury
These are injuries that happen often days after the accident occurred, when trauma from the accident eventually leads to the brain not receiving enough oxygen or blood. This often occurs when there is swelling in the brain or sustained low blood pressure. This is what doctors are trying to prevent and treat when you see a medical professional about a traumatic brain injury.
Knowing the type of accident can help determine the type of injury you could be suffering from, and therefore what sort of symptoms you should be on the lookout for. If you have been in a car accident however, you should seek medical attention if your head sustained any sort of blow or sudden jostling. The brain is a fragile but very important organ, and it’s not something you want to ignore.
Why you need a Columbus traumatic brain injury lawyer
While you should seek out an attorney for any car accident where you received injuries due to someone else’s negligent or reckless driving, having an attorney for an accident wherein you sustain from a brain injury is critical. Brain injuries can have lifelong effects, and can leave you experiencing complications. Treatment, rehabilitation, and therapy can leave you suffering financially. A brain injury can cause you to lose your job, and therefore your income as well. That is why you need someone in your corner who knows the legal system and how to ensure that you are compensated for your pain and suffering.
If you or a loved one have suffered a TBI at the hands of someone else’s negligence, speak with a Columbus TBI lawyer at Soroka & Associates. Call our office or submit our contact form to schedule a free initial consultation today. We proudly serve the people of Central Ohio.