Nebraska Traumatic Brain Injuries

Common Questions, Myths, and Misconceptions about Car Crash TBIs

Did you know that more than half of the traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) reported in the United States each year are caused by car accidents?

Traumatic brain injury is one of those terms you hear often but might not know how to define. Certainly, it sounds bad, but when is a head injury a brain injury? And when is it “traumatic”?

More to the point, how you can protect yourself against TBIs? How do you know when to seek medical attention after a car crash? And what can you do to protect your family’s legal and financial interests after suffering a TBI that someone else caused?

We answer these questions and more in the sections that follow.

Despite how often they happen, there are many misconceptions about auto accident TBIs.

As Nebraska car accident lawyers, we’ve represented thousands of injured clients, and we’ve seen first-hand how debilitating a traumatic brain injury can be in the long term… and how easy it is to overlook a TBI at first glance.

How Do Traumatic Brain Injuries Happen in Car Accidents?

Most traumatic brain injuries result from a direct impact to the head — a forceful jolt or violent blow.

In an auto accident, this can happen when the head impacts the headrest, steering column, dashboard, windshield, airbag, or a flying object.

An object that penetrates the head and/or brain tissue can also cause TBI, as sometimes happens when foreign objects enter the vehicle or when the force of impact is especially severe.

But brain injury can also happen even when there is no direct impact to the head. In fact, one of the most pernicious myths surrounding auto accident TBI is that a head injury isn’t “traumatic” unless there was a serious blow to the head and a loss of consciousness.

On the contrary, significant brain injuries can result from low-speed, low-impact accidents. Even whiplash — which insurance companies may try to dismiss as unserious — has been extensively shown in medical literature to cause TBI.

Indeed, one of the most common types of auto accident TBIs is diffuse axonal injury (DAI), a devastating condition in which the brain sheds certain fibers and tracts lesions across wide areas of white matter tissue. It is caused by a rapid shifting of the brain within the head, does not require direct impact, and can leave the victim in a vegetative state or persistent coma.

Is a Concussion Considered a TBI?

Yes. A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury, and while many cases are moderate and self-limiting, some concussions are severe. Auto accidents can and do result in concussion, which requires immediate medical attention and careful evaluation.

What Are the Symptoms of a Traumatic Brain Injury After a Car Accident?

The symptoms of TBI depend on the type of TBI, and they can vary significantly from one person to the next.

That presents a challenge. After all, if you’ve recently been in a car accident, you might not even be sure whether you have a TBI, let alone which specific type you have. So, what are the warning signs suggesting a need for medical attention, as opposed to routine pain and soreness?

At the outset, we urge everyone to seek medical attention as quickly as possible after a car crash. Many medical conditions, including TBIs, develop slowly, and symptoms are often nonspecific or non-apparent. It may be the case that only a doctor can determine whether you are injured. In fact, even physicians sometimes miss the early signs of brain injury.

General symptoms of TBI include:

  • New, persistent, or severe headache
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness (or, alternatively, difficulty sleeping)
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Coordination problems / impaired reflexes
  • Communication problems
  • Vision problems / sensitivity to light
  • Personality changes, agitation, or depression

Other, more specific symptoms might include:

  • Dramatic change in attention span or problem-solving skills
  • Memory loss
  • Loss of space / time perception
  • Unable to carry out daily tasks as usual
  • Poor balance
  • Loss of taste / change in sensation (touch, smell, taste, hearing, etc.)
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Epilepsy
  • Partial or total paralysis

Debunking TBI Myths

Don’t let an insurance company (or, for that matter, an internet article) convince you that your brain injury isn’t serious. There’s a lot of bad information out there. Even insurance adjusters, who frequently handle auto accident TBI claims, get confused. (More to the point, insurance adjusters are not on your side!)

If you have been in a car accident or recognize potential signs of brain damage, you need to see a doctor as soon as possible.

Myth: TBI Only Happens When There Is a Direct Blow to the Head

As we outlined earlier, some TBIs, including concussions, contusions, hematomas, and diffuse axonal injuries (DAIs) can cause serious medical complications even when there is no direct impact with the head.

Myth: TBI Is Purely Physical in Nature

Patients who experienced a traumatic brain injury have a long road of recovery ahead of them, and the process isn’t easy. The emotional repercussions can be severe. Emotional distress is a common claim arising out of traumatic brain injuries in car accidents.

Myth: MRI and CT Scan Will Detect Any TBI

While these diagnostic tools are extremely valuable and will detect many brain injuries, they aren’t perfect. DAIs, for example, sometimes result from very mild changes in brain fibers or white matter, which may be imperceptible on CT scan or MRI.

Many people have suffered serious TBIs that were not detected using diagnostic imaging.

Myth: TBI Damages Resolve in the Short Term

No two brain injuries are quite alike. Some people’s symptoms get better over time, while others’ get worse. Some see a full resolution within a matter of days or weeks, some within months or years. Other victims may never entirely recover.

Myth: Whiplash and Concussion Aren’t Serious Injuries

While many cases of whiplash are moderate, some are more severe. Rare cases lead to lifelong complications such as persistent coma. Too often whiplash and concussion are wrongly characterized as “bogus,” “minor,” or “benign.”

Even if your collision was more moderate in nature, you may still require medical treatment and/or time away from work. If someone else’s negligent driving is to blame, you deserve to be compensated for those losses.

Likewise, concussions can have profound long-term effects. In fact, the science on concussions is evolving, and some medical experts are beginning to argue that the consequences are more serious than many in the profession previously suspected. Here again, every person’s experience is unique.

Schedule a Free Case Review with an Omaha TBI Lawyer Today

Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop, P.C. is a Nebraska personal injury law firm with many years of experience and a long track record of getting injured Nebraskans the compensation they deserve.

Strict time limits apply to most personal injury claims in Nebraska, so please don’t make the mistake of ignoring your TBI symptoms or waiting too long to seek medical attention.

We encourage all auto accident victims to visit a doctor as soon as possible. If you believe you have suffered injuries as a result of the crash, please contact our office right away.

To schedule a free consultation with an experienced Omaha TBI attorney in our office, please contact Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop, P.C. today. Remember: we do not charge a fee for our services unless and until you win.

We are proud to offer legal representation to auto accident victims and other TBI victims throughout the states of Nebraska, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, South Dakota, and beyond. Give us a call today.

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

Posted in: Brain & Spinal Cord Injuries