Automobile Accidents and Traumatic Brain Injury

By: Ahaburchak
Of the 1.4 million Americans who sustain a traumatic brain injury each year, half of them will be involved in an automobile or motorcycle accident. The National Institutes of Health cite automobile accidents as the number one cause of traumatic brain injury in people under 75.

Accident-Related Brain Injury: Mechanisms

In an auto-accident-related TBI, the victim is jolted violently, sometimes against an object. This causes the brain to twist within the skull and bump against the skull walls, damaging the brain's axions, which are the connections between neurons. This disrupts the brain's internal communications, reducing the patient's ability to perform basic functions. Patients with more severe axion damage may go into comas or die immediately. Other types of brain injuries that are commonly caused by an auto accident include concussion; contusion, or bruising of the brain tissue; skull fracture; and anoxia, a lack of oxygen to the brain.

A closed brain injury, in which the skull is not broken or penetrated, is the most common kind of TBI caused by auto accidents. It is also more difficult to diagnose than a penetrative brain injury, because the symptoms may not be obvious at first. Right after the accident, victims may feel fine, or show only a short loss of consciousness or a mild headache. They may be sent home from the hospital with a clean bill of health. However, more symptoms can appear in the days and weeks after the accident. They include:

* Headaches
* Dizziness and lightheadedness
* Double vision or blurred vision
* Confusion or agitation
* Fatigue
* Memory loss
* Mood or behavior changes
* Trouble concentrating
* Slurred speech
* Dilation of the pupils
* Repeated vomiting or nausea
* Loss of coordination

These secondary symptoms can occur when the brain swells in response to the original trauma. Because the brain is trapped inside the skull, this swelling can cause complications of the original, seemingly mild, injury. About 40 percent of TBI patients develop some of these symptoms, sometimes called post-concussion syndrome, in the days or weeks after an accident. Accident victims who show any of these symptoms should insist on being thoroughly rechecked for a traumatic brain injury, even if doctors originally said they were fine.

Costs of Automobile Accident-Related TBI

The costs, both personal and financial, of a traumatic brain injury can be high. Because brain tissue cannot regenerate the way other body tissues can, brain-damage patients may never fully recover from their injuries. Such patients will live the rest of their lives with disabilities such as trouble seeing or hearing, memory loss, motor skills damage, depression and personality changes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that more than 5 million Americans need help with daily tasks because of a traumatic brain injury. All of these things take a toll on the lives of the patients and their loved ones, as well as costing millions of dollars to treat.

To minimize the chance of living with a disability, accident victims who think they might have a TBI should insist on a thorough medical evaluation after an accident, so they can begin treatment as soon as possible. If you believe that someone else may be at fault for an auto accident that caused you or a loved one to sustain brain damage, or if you believe you are being unfairly denied treatment or compensation, you may wish to speak to an experienced brain injury attorney.
Car Accidents
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