Spot the Signs of Concussion After a Car Accident
There is considerable media attention focused on the effects of chronic traumatic encephalopathy in professional sports, but one specific type of head injury rarely makes headlines: Concussion and other traumatic brain injury (TBI) from motor vehicle accidents. You do not have to be a celebrity athlete to suffer from a concussion in a car, truck, or motorcycle collision, as recent statistics show the alarming frequency of these injuries.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that, in 2013, concussions and TBIs were diagnosed in more than 282,000 hospitalizations and 2.5 million visits to the emergency room.
- Concussion and TBI contributed to the deaths of almost 50,000 during that same year.
- Car accidents are the third-leading cause of concussion and TBI, and place second for head injury-related deaths.
- Motor vehicle collisions are the number one cause of concussion hospitalizations for victims aged 15 to 44 years old.
- Of the more than 55,000 teen drivers and their passengers who were seriously injured in a car accident, 30% sustained concussion and TBI.
- From 2007-2013, there was a 47 percent increase in the number of emergency department visits due to TBI and concussion injuries.
These figures are astounding, but even more shocking is that many victims of car accidents do not even realize they have suffered a concussion right away. Considering the seriousness of an injury to the brain, it is critical for a person to seek treatment as soon as possible after an auto crash.
Overview of Concussion Injuries
A concussion is a type of brain injury that occurs when the brain makes contact with the inside of the skull. For the most part, the brain is protected from damage by the fluids surrounding it. However, this material is insufficient cushioning for an extremely forceful impact like a car crash. When the head and brain move violently, the fluid is displaced and the brain strikes the hard bone tissue of the skull. Tearing, bleeding, and bruising of brain tissues is common. In an extremely intense collision, the brain may even twist slightly within the skull. The disruption of a concussion causes chemical changes within the brain, and there may be damage to the brain cells and nerve fibers.
Classification of Concussion Injuries in Auto Accidents
Medical professionals group concussions into three grades based upon their severity.
- Grade 1: The victim does not lose consciousness, but there may be temporary memory loss that last less than 30 minutes.
- Grade 2: There is a loss of consciousness, and bouts of amnesia may occur from 30 minutes up to 24 hours after the incident that caused the injury.
- Grade 3: The victim is unconscious for more than five minutes, and experienced amnesia for longer than 24 hours.
Signs and Symptoms of Concussion After a Car Accident
Based upon the grade system used by healthcare providers to diagnose concussion, loss of
consciousness and amnesia are the two most obvious signs of this head injury.
However, additional symptoms may include:
- Nausea or dizziness, which may or may not be accompanied by vomiting;
- Light sensitivity;
- General confusion and forgetfulness in the hours or days after a car accident;
- Inability to concentrate on basic tasks;
- Seeing “stars” upon the impact
- Ringing in the ears;
Extreme mood changes, such as sudden irritability, anger, nervousness, anxiety, and depression;
- A disruption in normal sleeping patterns, whether sleeping more or less than routine;
- Problems falling asleep;
- Headaches that get worse over time;
- Issues with balance or blurred vision; and,
- Seizures, in extreme cases.
Often, a concussion victim will recover from his or her injuries within a week or so after a motor vehicle accident. Still, it is crucial to seek medical care and obtain an appropriate diagnosis as quickly as possible. Left untreated, a concussion can lead to more serious medical conditions. Plus, what you believe to be a minor concussion may actually be a TBI, which can be life-threatening and have enduring medical implications.
Damages Available if You Suffer Concussion Injuries After a Crash
You may be entitled to compensation if you experience a concussion in an accident that was not your fault. With the help of an experienced car accident attorney, it may be possible to recover:
- Medical expenses, including costs of emergency care, surgery, and long-term rehabilitation;
- Lost wages if you were unable to work due to your concussion;
- Future wages, when your head injuries are so severe that you cannot return to work in your chosen profession;
- Pain and suffering;
- Losses associated with your family and personal relationships.
Note that, under Maryland law, there are limitations that may affect your rights to compensation or the amount you can recover. The statute of limitations for car accident cases is three years after the incident. You are forever barred filing a lawsuit for your concussion injuries after this time expires. If your own conduct was a factor in your injuries, you may not recover any compensation under Maryland’s contributory negligence law. There are some limited exceptions to this harsh rule.