A person suffering from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) can walk away from an auto accident with no symptoms, only to have their condition worsen hours, days or even weeks later. In fact, TBI’s can even occur without the victim losing consciousness. If damage occurs directly under the site of impact, it is called a coup injury. Brain injuries that occur opposite the impact are referred to as contrecoup injuries.
Both focal and diffuse brain injuries can cause cerebral contusions (brain bruising) or, more rarely, the formation of an epidural hematoma in the most severe cases. Injuries can range from a momentary loss of consciousness to extended periods of amnesia. The victim’s head doesn’t even need to be impacted for these injuries to occur. Whiplash can cause rapid acceleration and deceleration that slams the brain back and forth inside of the skull.
What to watch for: Common TBI symptoms
Often, a person with a TBI will look perfectly normal. If someone you know was recently in an auto accident where head trauma is a possibility, observe them vigilantly. Look for any changes in mood and behavior, even if they seem minor. Look out for any of the common symptoms listed below.
- Chronic headaches
- Changes in mood or sleep patterns
- Any changes in sensory function: blurred vision, loss of smell or taste, ringing in the ears
- Difficulty concentrating, getting confused easily
- Depression and anxiety
- Slowed reactions, both physical and mental
- Memory problems
Diagnosis & Treatment
As with all head injuries, the most important step is to seek treatment as soon as possible. If you go the hospital after your auto accident, make sure your doctor isn’t just focusing on your physical injuries. Usually, a doctor will order imaging tests like X-rays (to rule out any skull or neck fractures), MRIs or CT scans to look for signs of internal bleeding, bruising or increased pressure within the skull. It’s important to remember that mild TBI’s usually present such minor physical signs that they’re hard to pick up on conventional imaging tests. As a result, some patients might be sent home under the false pretense that nothing is wrong. While many mild TBI’s will resolve themselves, it’s still in an accident victim’s best interest keep an eye on any behavioral changes and discuss ALL symptoms, no matter how mild, with one’s doctor.
If you or a family member has been involved in an auto accident, don’t assume that a lack of physical symptoms automatically means that nothing is wrong. Get treatment immediately and be proactive about your health by monitoring any changes in your condition. And as always, contact an experienced attorney if you are planning to seek monetary compensation for any damages or injuries sustained in an auto accident.