A concussion—often referred to as a “mild” traumatic brain injury—is a common injury to suffer, particularly in car accidents. Many people believe that the only way to suffer a concussion is to hit one’s head and are, therefore, surprised to find out that they suffered a concussion in a car accident when they do not recall hitting their head on anything. Perhaps they didn’t—their seatbelts held them back and their airbags prevented their heads from striking the windshield or dashboard. Still, however, that jolt could have caused a concussion.
Read on for more information about concussions, how they are caused, the dangers of this condition, and an explanation of how you can suffer this condition without hitting your head.
What Is a Concussion?
Concussions are a form of traumatic brain injury that produce symptoms such as:
- Confusion or disorientation
- Blurred vision
- Nausea or vomiting
Concussions can involve loss of consciousness, though a person suffering this type of injury most commonly does not experience loss of consciousness.
How Concussions Occur Without a Blow to the Head
A person can suffer this type of injury without the person’s head making contact with anything. If the body suddenly stops, such as when a person is in a car accident in which the seat belt prevents his or her body from moving forward, the brain can move rapidly back and forth in the skull and cause an injury. Nearly all types of car accidents that one can have can lead to a concussion without a blow to the head.
Here are some examples:
- A rear-end collision: This type of accident occurs when the front of one vehicle collides with the rear-end of another vehicle. These accidents are most often the result of the following car tailgating the lead car and not having enough time to come to a safe stop if the lead vehicle suddenly stops or slows. The occupants of either vehicle can suffer a concussion due to the back and forth motion of the head that is caused by the impact of the two cars colliding.
- Head-on collisions: A head-on collision is caused when the front of one vehicle makes contact with the front of another vehicle. This type of accident is often caused by wrong-way driving or the force of a previous collision pushing one of the vehicles involved into oncoming travel lanes. Because of the forward motion of both vehicles when the collision occurs, the force of a head-on collision is increased, generally resulting in more serious injuries. The violent jolt of this type of impact can result in a concussion for the occupants of either vehicle.
- Broadside collisions: This type of accident, also known as a side-angle crash or a T-bone accident, occurs when the front of one vehicle collides with the side of another vehicle. This type of accident generally occurs in an intersection when one driver fails to yield the right-of-way to another. The injuries are often most severe for occupants sitting on the side of the vehicle that was struck, due to less protective features on the doors of vehicles as opposed to the front of the vehicle. This is particularly true when a smaller vehicle is struck broadside by a larger vehicle such as an SUV or truck. The occupants in either vehicle are at risk of suffering a concussion due to the back-and-forth or side-to-side motion of the head upon impact.
- Rollovers: Vehicle rollovers can occur due to the vehicle striking or tripping on something such as a median, guardrail, or even another car. This type of accident can also occur due to a vehicle running off the roadway and rolling down an embankment. Taller, narrower vehicles, such as SUVs or semi-trucks can roll over due to having a high center of gravity and taking a curve or corner at speed. Vehicle rollovers tend to be violent events that result in the body being jolted through every rotation and can also result in a concussion without a blow to the head.
The Dangers of Concussions
The brain is a complex organ that controls all of the body’s voluntary and involuntary responses. While the hard shell of the skull protects the brain from many types of damage, the skull can also serve as a catalyst for some of the damage caused as the brain is jolted back and forth within it. While doctors sometimes call concussions “mild” traumatic brain injuries, many concussed individuals could attest that there is nothing mild about a traumatic brain injury. Concussions can result in lifelong disabilities.
The brain has only a limited ability to recover from damage sustained. This is why brain injuries so often result in permanent disabilities. While the symptoms of a concussion often subside within days or weeks after the injury, some people suffer permanent effects from this type of brain injury also. When an individual suffers effects from a concussion for more than ten days after the initial injury, it is called post-concussion syndrome.
The lingering symptoms that often exist in individuals suffering from post-concussion syndrome include:
- Loss of memory
- Inability to concentrate
- Ringing in the ears
- Blurred vision
- Sensitivity to light and noise
- Impacts to other senses, such as a decrease in the ability to taste or smell
Post-concussion syndrome is probably caused by structural changes to the brain or a disruption of the nerves’ ability to send messages to the other parts of the body. In addition, the impacts of this syndrome are worsened by psychological factors, such as post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from the accident, or depression as a result of the pain caused by the injury. This condition is not generally related to the severity of the injury itself.
Some of the issues that increase an individual’s likelihood of suffering post-concussion syndrome include a history of depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder, significant life stressors, and a lack of a strong social support system to assist the individual in recovering from the initial injury. Post-concussion syndrome is often more prevalent among older individuals, and women more often obtain this diagnosis than men.
Post-concussion syndrome is often diagnosed by ruling out other potential causes of the symptoms the individual is experiencing. A physician will often order a CT scan or an MRI to check for abnormalities in the brain. An ear, nose, and throat specialist will be consulted to rule out medical conditions or illnesses that could produce symptoms such as dizziness. In addition to being difficult to diagnose, this condition is also often difficult to treat. There is no single cure, but merely a handful of symptoms that the doctor will attempt to address through various treatments.
Those who suspect that they are suffering from post-concussion syndrome can assist medical professionals in determining the symptoms that need to be addressed by journaling the following information:
- Any symptoms that have been experienced, even if they seem unrelated to the head injury that was suffered.
- Key personal information, including any situations that are causing the sufferer to experience extreme stress, such as a change in jobs or a divorce.
- A list of all medications and supplements the individual is currently taking.
- A list of questions to ask the doctor. Some examples may include: why are these symptoms occurring, how long are they expected to last, if any additional tests can help to diagnose the problem, and if there are any activity restrictions that the individual needs to follow.
The Process of Recovering Damages Related to Your Concussion
For some individuals, the symptoms suffered by post-concussion syndrome can be permanent and can result in life-altering impacts, such as chronic pain, or memory loss.
If you suffered a concussion as the result of a motor vehicle accident that was caused by someone else, there are two ways to obtain compensation for your injury:
- Your personal injury protection (PIP) policy. Drivers in Florida are required to purchase a PIP policy of at least $10,000 before registering their car in the state. This policy will provide payment of medically necessary treatment after an accident, regardless of fault. Additionally, the policy will pay up to 80 percent of the individual’s loss of wages due to being too injured to work or having to miss work to attend injury-related appointments. The benefit of recovering compensation through your PIP policy is that the money you need is generally made available to you more quickly than it would be if you filed a third-party insurance claim and pursued damages through the at-fault party’s insurance provider. However, many injuries create larger expenses than the policy can provide, and lost wages are not paid in full, which often results in an individual not obtaining enough compensation to shield him or her from the burden of out-of-pocket expenses.
- You can file a traumatic brain injury lawsuit against the at-fault party. Florida only allows these lawsuits to be filed in cases where the expenses of the injury exceed the limit of the sufferer’s PIP policy or meet the serious injury threshold. Injuries that meet this threshold include those that result in significant or permanent loss of a bodily function. Many concussions, particularly those that result in post-concussion syndrome can meet this threshold as they can result in loss of memory and other functions.
To have a successful outcome from your traumatic brain injury lawsuit, you must prove that someone else was liable.
Liability is established by proving:
- The at-fault party owed you a duty of care. If the person who caused your accident was another driver, the duty of care that he or she owed to you would be to drive his or her motor vehicle safely and legally. Other duties of care will exist in different types of accidents, depending on the facts of your case.
- There was a breach in the duty of care. The breach refers to the action that the at-fault party took that was contrary to the duty of care he or she owed to you. An example would be an at-fault party who was driving while alcohol-impaired. The breach would be the impairment, as this is contrary to the duty to operate the motor vehicle safely and legally.
- The breach resulted in the accident, which caused injury to you and subsequent expenses and impacts on your life.
You can recover both economic and non-economic damages through a traumatic brain injury lawsuit.
Economic damages refer to out-of-pocket expenses you incurred as a result of the accident, such as:
- Medical expenses, including emergency treatment at the scene or in the emergency department, transportation to the hospital via ambulance or medical helicopter, diagnostic testing, physician or surgical services, hospitalization, prescription medication, physical therapy, and rehabilitation.
- Lost wages.
- Loss of future earning capacity.
- The cost of hiring someone to perform household tasks that your injury prevents you from doing on your own.
Non-economic damages are the impacts that the injury has on your life.
Examples of this type of damage include:
- Physical pain and suffering.
- Emotional distress.
- Loss of the enjoyment of life.
What Do I Do if I Sustained a Concussion?
In the wake of concussion, follow these three basic principles: take care of yourself and your loved ones, follow your doctor’s treatment plan, and, if necessary, speak with an attorney as soon as possible. Many individuals who have suffered a concussion are reluctant to seek the assistance of an attorney in pursuing compensation. There are many reasons for this, including the fear that others will view the injury as minor and a brain injury lawyer will tell the individual that they do not have a case.
Because concussions can have lifelong, life-altering consequences, don’t worry about these things and seek legal advice to understand your options.
More importantly, it’s vital to understand that concussions can be very dangerous. Now is the time to practice self-care and rest. Work with your physician, attorney, and whomever else you need to get better and get back to normal. Contact Michael T. Gibson, P.A., Auto Justice Attorney’s today!
Michael T. Gibson, P.A., Auto Justice Attorney
2420 S. Lakemont Avenue
Orlando, FL 32814