Car accidents and traumatic brain injuries: What you should know

Car accidents are one of the leading causes of people experiencing a traumatic brain injury in California.

Traumatic brain injuries vary greatly depending on the circumstances surrounding how they came to be and how they affect the patient. People in California may experience a mild TBI, such as briefly losing consciousness, or a severe TBI, which can have lifelong and even fatal consequences. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle accidents are one of the leading causes of these injuries.

How often do accidents causing TBI occur?

The CDC states that 2.5 million trips to the emergency department in 2010 were due to TBI, which caused more than 50,000 fatalities that year. Fortunately, between 2000 and 2010, the number of deaths associated with TBI decreased by 7 percent.

There are three main causes of TBI, and those are the following:

  • Falls
  • Unintentional blunt trauma
  • Motor vehicle accidents.

Car accidents account for approximately 14 percent of TBI, though they are responsible for 26 percent of fatalities that are related to TBI. Further, when looking at people ages 5 to 24, motor vehicle accidents became the leading cause of TBI-related deaths.

Why are car accidents a leading cause?

There are two types of brain injuries: open, which happens when an item pierces the brain, and closed, which happens when the head strikes something. A car accident presents an opportunity for either, but more commonly leads to closed injuries. This is because the force of the accident can cause someone's head to hit the dashboard, windshield or steering wheel, for example. It is even possible for the brain to shift inside the skull, striking the bone and becoming injured.

How do I know if I have a TBI?

One of the problems associated with brain injuries is that, in some cases, they are not immediately obvious. Some people may lose consciousness when the injury happens. Others may remain awake and alert. As the day goes on, it is possible that someone who has a brain injury will have trouble remembering the car accident. Confusion and dizziness may set in, as well as blurry vision or even vomiting.

What are the long-term effects?

The International Brain Injury Association estimates that approximately 5.3 million people across the country have experienced a TBI and are living with a related disability. That could include memory problems, speech-related issues and limited mobility or functionality of the limbs. Some people may not be able to return to work. Further, victims who demand a significant amount of care may spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical expenses.

A TBI should never be taken lightly. Anyone who has questions about this issue should speak with a personal injury attorney in California.