Did you suffer a concussion and, days or weeks later, find yourself wondering when your symptoms will subside? Many people regard concussions as minor injuries that resolve on their own without difficulty. In truth, concussions are serious injuries involving one of the body’s most important organs—the brain—and there’s no way to predict how long the symptoms will last, regardless of the diagnosis you may have received.
Read on for more information about the usual recovery time after a concussion, a complication of the injury that can result in lingering symptoms, and how you can obtain compensation for your expenses and quality-of-life impacts if your concussion was caused by the careless, reckless, or intentional actions of someone else.
What Is a Concussion?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury suffered when an individual bumps or jolts their head or body, which in turn disrupts brain function. Doctors sometimes refer to concussions as mild traumatic brain injuries. However, as the brain is responsible for controlling all of the body’s functions and involuntary responses and has only a limited ability to heal from damage, there is nothing mild about a brain injury.
Motor vehicle accidents are among the most common causes of concussions, as the violence of the collision often forces the brain to bounce or twist inside the skull. Other common causes of concussions include falls, sports injuries, and injuries sustained by combat military members, including those caused by explosive blasts.
Most people do not lose consciousness when they have sustained a concussion, and the unconsciousness is brief for those who do.
The common symptoms of a concussion include:
- Headache, which is the most frequently mentioned symptom by patients suffering from this condition.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Inability to remember events immediately before or after suffering the injury.
- Dizziness, light-headedness, or difficulty with balance.
- Vision disturbances such as double vision or blurry vision.
- Sensitivity to light and noise.
- Ringing in the ears.
- Changes in sleep patterns, including insomnia as well as difficulty waking.
- Trouble understanding communication or concentrating.
- Depression or sadness.
- Irritability, nervousness, or anxiousness.
- Forgetfulness or memory loss.
- An overall feeling of being in a fog.
Six portions of the brain, known as lobes, control different functions of the body. The symptoms that an individual exhibits after a concussion can depend on which portion of the brain suffered an injury and the functions that the injured portion of the brain controls.
The functions that are controlled by each lobe are as follows:
- Frontal lobe: Located in the front part of the brain, the frontal lobe controls functions such as attention, concentration, self-monitoring, the ability to speak, personality, mental flexibility, emotions, and inhibition of behavior.
- Temporal lobe: Located along the sides of the brain beneath the temples, the temporal lobe controls functions such as memory, the ability to understand spoken language, sequencing, hearing, and organization.
- Occipital lobe: In the back portion of the brain, the occipital lobe’s primary function is controlling vision.
- Parietal lobe: Located in the top area of the brain, the parietal lobe is responsible for the five senses of sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch.
- Cerebellum: Located in the lower portion of the brain, just above the brain stem, is the cerebellum. The cerebellum’s functions include balance and coordination, skilled motor activity, and visual perception.
- Brain stem: The brain stem, located at the base of the brain, controls the body’s involuntary functions, including sleep/ wake cycles, breathing, and heart rate. A concussion does not generally cause damage to the brain stem and brain stem injuries often result in death, as a person can’t survive without mechanical assistance if their involuntary responses are not intact.
Concussion symptoms often appear within moments of the injury. However, it is not uncommon for new symptoms to appear hours or even days after the injury, particularly if the individual’s brain is overworked or stressed during that time.
The symptoms of and recovery from a concussion vary due to the severity of the injury, the portion of the brain injured, and the overall health of the individual before the injury took place.
How Long Do Concussion Symptoms Usually Last?
Nobody knows or can predict how long concussion symptoms will last in a particular case.
However, some activities can increase the amount of time it takes to recover from a concussion, such as:
- Screen time: Using smartphones, laptops, or watching the television or other screens can delay recovery or worsen concussion symptoms due to the bright lights and the eye strain caused by looking at them.
- Bright lights and loud noises: Light and noise sensitivities are common when recovering from a concussion.
- Unnecessary movements of the head or neck: While it is not necessary to stay completely still while recovering from a concussion, any sudden movement—particularly one that involves rigorous motion of the head and neck—should be avoided while the brain recovers.
- Dehydration: Hydration is needed for optimal body function and is particularly important when the body is recovering from injury. Studies suggest that dehydration can increase one’s risk of a concussion, as it reduces the volume of cerebrospinal fluid, which acts as a cushion to the brain and protects it from bumping against the skull during jarring movements.
- Lack of rest: Resting is one of the most important components of concussion recovery, as it relieves mental and physical stress and aids in the body’s recovery.
Potential Complications With Concussions
While many people recover well from a concussion without the need for medical treatment or hospitalization, concussions can sometimes cause more serious or long-term health complications.
In some cases, blood can pool inside the skull from the injury and place pressure on the brain. This is known as a hematoma, and the pressure in the skull that it creates can result in additional damage to the brain and can cause emergency symptoms that require immediate medical attention.
The warning signs of potential concussion complications as a result of a hematoma include:
- One pupil is larger than the other.
- Extreme drowsiness or the inability to wake up.
- A headache that worsens or does not go away.
- Slurred speech or uncoordinated movements.
- Weakness or numbness.
- Repeated nausea or vomiting.
- Convulsions or seizures, which often cause the injured person to twitch or shake.
- Increased confusion, restlessness, or agitation.
- Loss of consciousness. Even a brief loss of consciousness is cause for concern as it can indicate a more severe injury.
Post-concussion syndrome (PCS) refers to lingering concussion symptoms that can last weeks, months, or even years after an individual would have been expected to have recovered from the injury. Anyone who has experienced a concussion can suffer PCS, but the condition is more likely in individuals who have suffered repeated concussions, suffer from a psychiatric condition, or are over the age of 40 when they suffer a concussion.
PCS is hard to diagnose as the symptoms mirror many other conditions, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. However, doctors may diagnose PCS if a person exhibits at least three concussion symptoms for longer than it usually takes to recover from the injury. Post-concussion syndrome often resolves in around three months. However, some individuals have suffered from the condition for a year or more.
Recovering Compensation After a Concussion
Victims of concussions caused by someone else’s wrongful conduct can often turn to various sources of compensation.
Your Own Insurance
If your concussion resulted from a motor vehicle accident, your initial source of compensation may constitute a Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance policy. In some states, drivers must carry a minimum amount of PIP coverage to register a car. In other states, PIP coverage is optional. PIP coverage protects covered individuals against medical expenses and wage losses after an accident, usually regardless of fault.
Other forms of insurance that cover you may also help pay for your expenses after suffering a concussion. You may carry health insurance, for instance, that covers your medical costs. Long-term disability insurance may also protect you against the financial consequences of missing work because of a concussion. Workers’ compensation insurance may cover the costs associated with a concussion you suffer on-the-job.
Speak with an experienced brain injury attorney right away if you have questions about whether an insurance policy you carry covers you against concussion-related expenses and losses.
Brain Injury Legal Claims
Victims of concussions caused by someone else’s unreasonably dangerous decisions or actions may also have the option of filing a brain injury lawsuit, which is a legal claim filed in civil court against the party at-fault.
A brain injury action typically seeks payment for physical, emotional, and financial harm.
In general, a brain injury claim can seek two types of damages: economic and non-economic.
Economic damages refer to a payment made for out-of-pocket expenses such as:
- Medical treatment, including emergency treatment at the scene of your accident or in the emergency department; ambulance or air transport to the hospital; diagnostic testing; hospitalization; prescription medication; physical therapy or rehabilitation.
- Wage loss if your concussion requires you to miss work.
- Loss of future earning capacity if your concussion symptoms are severe and long-lasting enough to result in a permanent disability that prevents you from working or earning in the same capacity as you did before the accident.
- The cost of repairing or replacing damaged property, such as the car you were driving when the accident occurred.
Non-economic damages refer to a payment made in compensation for the quality-of-life impacts of your concussion, such as your:
- Physical pain and suffering.
- Emotional distress.
- Loss of the enjoyment of life.
- Harm to personal relationships.
Proving Liability in a Brain Injury Claim
For a successful outcome to your concussion claim, you must not only show the expenses and impacts that you suffered from your injury, but also who was liable (legally responsible) for the accident that caused your concussion.
To prove liability, your attorney must show:
- The at-fault party owed you a duty of care. The duty of care refers to the actions that a reasonable person would have taken in similar circumstances. For example, a motorist must drive his or her vehicle safely and legally so as not to harm other motorists.
- There was a breach in the duty of care. The breach refers to the actions that the at-fault party took that were contrary to the duty of care that was owed. Some examples of actions that could be contrary to a motorist’s duty of care to operate his or her vehicle safely and legally include speeding, following too closely, failure to yield, distracted driving, or alcohol impairment.
- The breach resulted in an accident that caused you to suffer a concussion and to incur expenses and impacts on your quality of life.
An Experienced Brain Injury Attorney Can Help
Brain injuries—even those that doctors describe as “mild”—can result in unpredictable consequences. Symptoms can last for weeks, months, or even years, and may take a heavy toll on a victim’s life and livelihood.
If you suffered a concussion because of someone else’s wrongful actions, seek the help of an experienced brain injury attorney right away.
A skilled attorney can provide services to help you protect and enforce your legal rights, such as:
- Investigating the cause of the accident that led to your concussion;
- Identifying the party or parties at-fault;
- Calculating the full scope of the harm you suffered due to your concussion;
- Preparing insurance claims and legal actions aimed at recovering compensation on your behalf;
- Negotiating settlements of your claim, if possible; and
- Going to trial to prove your case to a judge and jury.
Contact a skilled brain injury attorney today to learn more bout your rights to compensation after suffering a concussion.
Michael T. Gibson, P.A., Auto Justice Attorney
2420 S. Lakemont Avenue
Orlando, FL 32814