A concussion is a very common car accident injury — but many car accident concussions are not diagnosed or treated. The fact is that a concussion from a car accident (or from any accident) is a very serious injury that can result in long-term, life-altering disability or even death. These five cautions will help you know when you or a loved one may have a concussion, so you can avoid potentially devastating consequences.
Car Accident Concussions
A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by sudden movement or a blow to the head. Your brain is soft tissue contained within your skull, which is solid bone. When your head jerks violently or hits something during a car accident, your brain bounces around inside your skull. Bruising, bleeding, and torn nerve fibers — referred to as traumatic brain injury — can result.
You can get a concussion in a car accident even if your head did not collide with anything. Just the violent, sudden deceleration that occurs in a crash can cause a concussion. If the concussion resulted from a blow to your head during the accident, it likely is even more serious.
Caution #1: Symptoms of a Concussion Are Not Always Immediate
Symptoms of a concussion do not always occur immediately after the accident. Swelling and bleeding of the brain can develop over time. Symptoms can surface hours, days, weeks, or even months later. You may walk away from an accident feeling absolutely fine, only to discover later that you have a serious head injury with potential long-term severe consequences.
A tragic example of how symptoms of head injuries can be delayed is the case of actress Natasha Richardson, wife of actor Liam Neeson. Natasha fell on a ski slope while she was learning to ski. She landed in soft snow. Immediately after her fall, she felt fine, refused medical treatment, and walked away. Her symptoms surfaced later the same day. She was rushed to the hospital, but she died several days later from bleeding in her brain caused by the fall.
If you’re in a car accident — or have a different type of accident, like a fall — and your head was jolted, jarred, or collided with a solid object, do not ever assume you are fine. Go to the emergency room or see a doctor immediately to make certain you get a professional medical opinion about whether you suffered a head injury that requires treatment.
Caution #2: Symptoms Range Widely and Are Different for Everyone
There is no single physical symptom that identifies a concussion. The symptoms are not all physical, either. They also can be cognitive or behavioral. Sometimes they appear immediately after an accident. They can also be delayed by hours, days, or even weeks.
Each person manifests symptoms differently. Understanding the full range of possible concussion symptoms will help you identify if you or a family member may have suffered a concussion.
Physical symptoms can include:
- Loss of conscious immediately after the accident
- Blurred vision
- Nausea or vomiting
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Loss of sense of smell or taste
- Sensitivity to light
- Headaches or neck pain
- Loss of physical coordination
- Seizures (in severe cases)
Cognitive symptoms can include:
- Amnesia after the accident, which may only last for minutes (but can last longer)
- Mental confusion
- Difficulty concentrating or focusing
Behavioral and emotional symptoms can include:
- Mood changes
- Alteration in sleep patterns (sleeping more or less than normal, or having trouble falling asleep)
- Personality changes
In addition to the symptoms listed above, a concussion in a child can cause excessive crying (or temper tantrums) to the point that the child cannot be consoled. Refusal to eat or nurse can also be a sign that the child has a concussion.
These symptoms will not all occur for a person who has a concussion. They also can manifest any time after the accident. Whenever these symptoms appear after any kind of accident, you should immediately get medical attention.
Caution #3: A Concussion Can Be Difficult To Diagnose
Emergency room medical professionals and doctors sometimes do not immediately diagnose a concussion or brain injury. That’s because brain injuries do not always show on diagnostic tests like x-rays or scans. Sometimes, the patient needs to go through a series of cognitive and medical tests to isolate the symptoms and confirm the diagnosis.
Diagnosis is especially difficult for children and older adults. Children often are not even aware of the symptoms or are not able to explain them. If your child was in a car accident, being especially attentive to the child’s behavior following the accident is extremely important.
A concussion in an older adult can be difficult to diagnose, because the symptoms may be mistaken for normal signs of aging. Older adults have greater risk of serious complications from a concussion, so being alert to the symptoms indicative of a concussion is critical when an older adult experiences any type of accident that may cause head injury, including a car accident. Falls also often cause head injuries in elders.
Caution #4: Concussion Symptoms Are Often Ignored
Many symptoms of a concussion are subtle and can be similar to common physical conditions (like headaches) or “normal” behavioral and cognitive deviations. It’s easy for accident victims to ignore the symptoms and assume they are simply a temporary condition caused by the accident. Often, the victim will not take symptoms seriously until they become severe. That is a significant mistake, because it means the damage to the brain has become more severe as well.
Ignoring the signs of a concussion in yourself or a loved one is the absolute worst thing you can do. As soon as any of the symptoms appear, get medical attention immediately.
Caution #5: Concussion Victims Often Underestimate the Severity of Potential Consequences
Even people who know or suspect they have a mild concussion frequently underestimate the consequences and ignore the need for treatment. That is especially true because treatment for a mild concussion includes getting a lot of rest and limiting or avoiding certain activities like watching TV or playing video games.
Staying still and inactive long enough to allow the brain to heal can be very difficult for many people. Most concussions are not life-threatening, but recovering from a concussion requires a lot of patience. Failure to abide by the doctor’s instructions can result in serious consequences. A concussion that is ignored can cause severe complications and even life-long disability.
When In Doubt, Seek Medical Treatment
If you have any reason to think that you or a loved one suffered a concussion in a car accident or other accident, you should seek medical treatment immediately. Any delay in diagnosis and treatment of a concussion or other brain injury can have very serious life-long and even fatal consequences.
Talk With a Virginia Beach Car Accident Attorney
If you or a loved one suffered a concussion, traumatic brain injury, or other significant injuries in a car accident or another situation where someone else may be responsible, Virginia car accident lawyer Jeff Brooke is here to help. Attorney Brooke has substantial experience helping victims of traumatic brain injuries recover the damages they deserve. Contact us by phone at (757) 552-6055 or by using our online contact form.
Jeff Brooke is a personal injury attorney devoted to helping individuals who have suffered serious and catastrophic injuries or lost a loved one as a result of someone else’s negligent and careless actions. The Jeff Brooke Team serves all of southeastern Virginia. The firm helps clients in the Greater Tidewater and Greater Hampton Roads areas, including in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Chesterfield. The Jeff Brooke Team also handles cases in northeastern North Carolina, including the Outer Banks.