There are many ways in which a traumatic brain injury (TBI) can cause a car crash. Motor vehicle crashes were the chief cause of TBI related emergency rooms visits and trips to the hospital in the U.S. in 2013, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). TBIs from car crashes can happen when a direct trauma occurs, such as a penetrating injury, a strike to the head, whiplash, or other indirect type of injury. These injuries can range in severity from mild concussions to brain injuries that result in long-term impairment and require continuous care.
How a car accident results in brain injury
Car crashes can result in brain injuries in a number of different ways. Even when the injuries are similar in nature, the prognosis for recovery can vary depending on the individual. Some ways car crashes can lead to brain injuries are mentioned below.
During a car accident, there are various items that can strike the head of the vehicle occupant. Serious head injuries can occur from the head striking the windshield, side post or window, steering wheel, or the roof during a rollover accident.
Airbags can also cause head injuries in some cases. These devices deploy at superfast speeds and the impact can potentially damage the brain. Experts in vehicle safety recommend that teenagers and children ride in the back seat for this very reason.
Indirect brain injuries
Indirect injuries to the brain occur when the occupant of the vehicle does not strike their head on anything but rather suffers the injury due to the forces of the crash itself – i.e., sudden decelerations and G forces. What a car stops suddenly in a collision, coup injuries can occur as the body suddenly stops moving when strapped into a seat belt, but the brain continues to move and strikes the skull. When the brain then rebounds and strikes the other side of the skull, it is referred to as a contrecoup injury.
These coup-contrecoup injuries can affect a person’s visual processing, attention and behavior, and emotional state.
Car accidents often involve extreme forces that propel the body of occupants into movements that are way beyond their expected capabilities and range of motion.
Although whiplash is thought of as a neck injury, in severe cases it can produce serious brain damage. The body’s nervous system and brain require nerve fibers and cells to function correctly. This type of whipping injury has a tendency to damage the cells in fibers, causing a diffuse axonal injury (DIA). A DIA can damage large portions of the brain and cause serious impairments.
Primary brain injuries occur during an actual car accident. However, some people sustain additional brain injuries over period of days and weeks after an accident has occurred. These are referred to as secondary traumatic brain injuries. For instance, a relatively minor head injury may develop into a severe TBI as a result of swelling in the brain that leads to intracranial pressure increases, bleeding in the brain, and other problems that result in further damage to the brain.
Crash-related TBI severity and prospects for recovery
Doctors often diagnose the severity of a traumatic brain injury based on medical imaging results, loss of consciousness at the outset of the injury, and other factors. A mild TBI involves either no loss of consciousness or only a few minutes of lost consciousness. A moderate TBI involves a loss of consciousness for anywhere between a few minutes and a few hours. A severe TBI involves loss of consciousness for more than a few hours.
The prognosis for recovery from a TBI resulting from a car crash is based in part on the severity of the injury. Individuals suffering mild TBIs may miss some work but can often return in a few weeks or months. Those with moderate or severe TBIs may endure a recovery that is much longer and more difficult and includes rehabilitation and physical therapy.
If you or a loved one has suffered a brain injury in a Nashville car accident, our Gladiators are here to help. At Rocky McElhaney Law Firm, we know how to fight effectively on your behalf to help you secure the compensation you deserve. To arrange a free, initial consultation, give us a call today at 615.246.5549, or fill out our contact form. We serve injured clients from our offices conveniently located in Nashville, Hendersonville, and Knoxville, Tennessee.