Traumatic Brain and Head Injuries
Our brains are all we are—they control our personalities, our thoughts, and our actions. Our brains are also responsible for the mundane function of our bodies, from the regulation of blood pressure to the production of hormones. Because the brain is so important, it has three layers of protection: the skull, the meninges, and cerebrospinal fluid. Despite these three layers of protection, brain injuries can happen in car collisions. Any injury that affects the brain or skull has the potential to cause lasting complications.
In this video clip from a deposition, our attorneys asked our client’s doctor to explain how a car accident could cause a concussion or traumatic brain injury.
Types Of Brain Injuries
Concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that occurs when the head moves back and forth rapidly. This rapid movement causes the brain to move around inside the skull, damaging brain cells and causing cognitive changes. Often, concussions occur even in people who have no visible marks on his or her head. The rapid forward-and- back movement of the brain within the skull can cause the brain to compress against the inside of the skull, causing concussions and traumatic injuries.
In some collisions, the force of an impact causes the brain to move in the opposite direction and hit the other side of the skull. This is called a coup-contrecoup injury. When this type of injury occurs, the brain sustains damage in two places: the site of the original impact and the site where the brain hit the other side of the skull. In our practice, we often see people with coup- contrecoup injuries after serious motor vehicle accidents. This type of injury can also occur if you sustain a severe blow to the head.
- Basilar Skull Fractures
Basilar skull fractures, also called basal fractures, are bone fractures that occur in the floor of the skull. A basilar fracture may be incomplete, in a straight line, or broken into three or more pieces. We help people who sustain basilar fractures as the result of motor vehicle accidents, physical violence, and falls from high places.
- Anoxic and Hypoxic Injuries
Anoxic injury occurs when the brain is completely deprived of oxygen, while hypoxic injury occurs when there is an inadequate oxygen supply. If your landlord doesn’t install carbon monoxide detectors in your home, for example, you can develop a hypoxic/anoxic injury after being exposed to carbon monoxide gas. If you are the victim of a violent attack, severe blood loss can deprive your brain of oxygen. Other causes of hypoxic/anoxic injury include electric shock, poisoning, suffocation, and drowning.
- Penetrating Injury
A penetrating injury occurs when an object penetrates the “dura mater,” the outer membrane that protects the brain and spinal cord. If someone attacks you with a knife, the blade of the knife can penetrate the dura mater and injure your brain. We also see people with penetrating injuries caused by motor vehicle accidents. During a crash, it’s possible for a piece of metal or glass to break off the vehicle and pierce the protective covering of the brain.
- Compound Skull Fracture
Compound fractures are similar to other types of skull fractures, except they involve splintering of the bone. Like depressed fractures, compound skull fractures often occur during serious motor vehicle accidents, physical assaults, or falls.
Contusion is the medical term for a bruise. In most cases, contusions aren’t cause for concern, but brain contusions are an exception. Because brain contusions form after an impact to the head, they can cause brain swelling, memory loss, and other serious symptoms. For example, falling from a great height can produce a strong enough impact to cause a brain contusion. We’ve also seen people develop brain contusions after hitting their heads during motor vehicle accidents.
- Depressed Skull Fracture
A depressed skull fracture occurs when one of the skull bones breaks and pushes in toward the brain. If you fall or hit your head during a car accident, it’s possible to sustain a depressed skull fracture. You can also sustain a depressed skull fracture if you are the victim of a physical assault.
Signs and Symptoms
Brain injuries may cause the following symptoms:
- Sleep disturbances
- Mood swings
- Decreased concentration
- Reduced attention span
- Memory problems
- Sensitivity to noise
- Sensitivity to light
- Balance problems
- Difficulty making decisions
Brain injuries can also cause loss of consciousness, confusion for several days or weeks, long- term behavioral changes, and long-term cognitive deficits. Patients with severe brain injuries may fall into a coma, experienced “akinetic mutism” or “locked-in syndrome,” or remain in a persistent vegetative state indefinitely. Akinetic mutism refers to the inability to speak or move. Patients experiencing locked-in syndrome are unable to move their bodies and most of their facial muscles, but they remain conscious and able to perform certain eye movements.
Costs Associated With Brain and Head Injuries
It can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide care for someone with a traumatic brain injury, and the cost may go well into the millions if the injury is severe. Hospitalization, physical and occupational therapy, medications, durable medical equipment, disposable medical supplies, and long-term care are just some of the expenses incurred by people with this type of injury. Because brain injuries can cause mood swings and behavioral changes, some patients also need psychological evaluations and ongoing mental health counseling. When someone comes to our firm because of a brain injury that is the result of negligence, we know what to do. There is little we can do to reverse the damage, but there is a lot we can do to help prepare for the future.