woman holding her head after suffering brain injury in a car accident

Car accidents often cause closed head injuries where the brain is suddenly pushed forward or backward and shaken against the skull. This rapid movement bruises or tears vital blood vessels and tissues in the brain.

A car crash may also cause an open head injury when an object such as debris from the collision penetrates the skull and damages the brain. These wounds can completely alter the trajectory of your life, affecting your ability to work and enjoy the life you had before the accident.

Despite the devastating consequences of a head injury, it is often difficult for car accident victims to recognize the signs of brain damage in the immediate aftermath of the crash. It is crucial to seek medical attention after any collision where you hit your head.

It is also important to speak to a lawyer as soon as possible if you are diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) from the crash. The attorneys at Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop have helped many accident victims pursue claims for traumatic brain injuries. We have 233 years of combined experience, making us the most experienced legal team in the Omaha area. We will pursue your case professionally and aggressively so you can focus on rehabilitation from your TBI.

How Common Are Traumatic Brain Injuries in Car Accidents?

According to the CDC’s Surveillance Report on the incidence of traumatic brain injuries, motor vehicle crashes are the second leading cause of TBIs in the United States. On average, car accidents account for 24.75% of hospitalizations related to TBIs each year.

Sadly, these numbers are likely low. The CDC notes that the report does not include brain injuries treated in emergency departments, urgent care centers, and primary care offices. In all probability, these scenarios encompass a significant number of car accident victims who sustain TBIs.

What Are the Symptoms of a Traumatic Brain Injury?

Traumatic brain injuries are among the most challenging injuries to recover from after a car accident. They cause a broad range of symptoms, some of which you may notice on your own while others might be more apparent to your friends and family.

Symptoms of a TBI may surface immediately after the collision or in the days and weeks following. The delayed onset of symptoms is a major reason why it’s essential to seek medical care promptly after any crash. Even a seemingly minor car accident such as a fender bender may cause a mild traumatic brain injury, which is still a serious medical concern.

Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms

A mild TBI may cause physical and psychological symptoms such as:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Drowsiness or fatigue
  • Changes in speech
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of balance
  • Tinnitus (ringing ears)
  • Changes in vision, taste, or smell
  • Light or sound sensitivity
  • Memory lapses
  • Mood changes
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Sleep issues such as trouble sleeping or sleeping more often
  • Difficulty concentrating

If you experience a mild TBI, you may or may not lose consciousness. Some people are unconscious for seconds or minutes, while others experience a dazed or disoriented mindset right after the car accident.

Moderate to Severe Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms

Car accident victims who suffer moderate to severe TBIs may be unconscious for minutes or even hours in the aftermath of the crash. Potential signs of more serious brain injuries may include:

  • Ongoing or worsening headache
  • Repeated vomiting or persistent nausea
  • Seizures
  • Pupil dilation
  • Clear fluid drainage from the ears or nose
  • Difficulty waking from sleep
  • Numbness and weakness of the fingers and toes
  • Coordination challenges
  • Severe or extreme confusion
  • Unusual changes in behavior
  • Slurring speech
  • Agitated or combative behavior
  • Coma or another consciousness disorder

Anyone is at risk for a TBI from a car accident, even infants and young children who may not be able to vocalize their symptoms. Parents should watch for changes in eating or nursing as well as unusual or inconsolable behavior such as irritability and persistent crying. Children may have trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, seizures, drowsiness, mood changes, or lose interest in their favorite activities and toys.

What You Should Do If You Suspect Brain Injury

A traumatic brain injury should always be treated as an emergency. Severe TBIs will worsen quickly without treatment, and first responders are trained to assess you for brain damage after a car accident.

Doctors and other medical professionals use the Glasgow Coma Scale, a 15-point test to determine if a brain injury occurred and how severe the damage could be. The higher the score, the less severe the brain injury. At the hospital, imaging tests such as a CT scan or MRI may be ordered to assess the damage to the brain.

It’s critical to your health and well-being to seek medical attention after a car accident, especially if you suffered head trauma. Not only is this vital to your recovery, but medical records show the extent of your TBI after the crash. This in turn will strengthen your car accident claim.

What to Expect If You Are Diagnosed with a Brain Injury After a Car Accident

Your quality of life and medical treatment depends on the severity of your brain injury and how much it affects your cognitive and physical abilities. You may be unable to speak clearly, walk, and/or perform other necessary daily functions.

While a mild TBI may not require treatment, you should still have a family member monitor you at home for persistent, worsening, or new symptoms. You’ll still need time to rest and may lose valuable days of work.

More severe TBIs need to be monitored at the hospital to make sure you have enough oxygen and blood supply getting to the brain to avoid further injury. You could have brain bleeding, inflammation, or reduced oxygen that requires emergency surgery or management through anti-seizure drugs, induced coma, or diuretics to quell the damage.

Once your traumatic brain injury has stabilized, you will likely start rehabilitation to relearn how to do basic everyday tasks again, such as talking and walking.

Traumatic brain injuries affect every area of your life. You and your family may have a difficult road ahead with mounting medical expenses and wondering when and if life will be “normal” again. Joining a support group, following a routine, and managing expectations can help.

Contact a Car Accident Lawyer Today

Trauma to the head and brain is extremely common in car accidents. If your life has been turned upside down by a collision caused by someone else, you should not have to bear the burden alone.

Now is the time to focus on rebuilding your life. Let our car accident lawyers handle your claim so you and your family can concentrate on healing.

If you or a loved one suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident, the attorneys at Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop can help. With more than 233 years of combined legal experience, our firm offers unparalleled knowledge and service in accident and injury claims.

Please call Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop at (402) 241-5020 today for a free consultation. Our car accident lawyers serve clients in Omaha, Sarpy County, and nearby areas of Nebraska and Iowa.


by Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop
Last updated on - Originally published on

Posted in: Car Accidents, Catastrophic Injuries