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How to Know if You Have a Traumatic Brain Injury After an Accident

Illustration of X-ray showing man holding head with closeup of brain.

Some of the most significant and life-altering injuries sustained in accidents are traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Depending on the type of TBI and the extent of the damage, a brain injury can have dramatic effects on your future. That's why you need to get immediate medical attention after any head injury.

We're participating in Brain Injury Awareness Month because we've seen the devastating effects of brain injuries over and over again. Here's what you need to know after an accident.

What is a traumatic brain injury?

A TBI is any injury that causes damage to the brain, interfering with brain function. There are two general types of TBI:

  • Closed-head injury: any injury that involves blunt force trauma to the brain. Concussions are a type of mild closed-head injury.
  • Penetrating injury: an injury involving an object piercing the brain.

Closed head injuries are by far the more common type of TBI. However, it's worth noting that you don't even have to hit your head on anything to have a brain injury. Any accident involving sufficiently violent forward and backward motion of the head (such as whiplash in a car accident) can cause the brain to strike the inside of the skull.

Warning signs of traumatic brain injury

Loss of consciousness at the scene of an accident is a sign of a moderate to severe TBI, but just because you weren't "knocked out" doesn't mean you don't have a brain injury. Some of the key warning signs include:

Physical symptoms

  • A headache that won't go away or gets worse over time
  • One eye pupil is larger than the other (unequal dilation)
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of balance
  • Weakness
  • Sometimes, fever (brain injuries can damage the parts of the brain that regulate body temperature

Sensory changes

  • Difficulty reading
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Bad taste in the mouth
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)

Cognitive and behavioral changes

  • Changes in sleep patterns (narcolepsy or insomnia)
  • Trouble concentrating or making decisions
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Memory loss
  • Frustration or irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety or depression

While some symptoms of a brain injury may be immediately obvious, others can take hours or even days to become apparent. Moreover, some symptoms, such as mood swings, might be more obvious to people who know you than they are to you. Pay attention to your symptoms and get checked out by a doctor as soon as possible if you have any reason to think you may have a brain injury.

Causes of traumatic brain injury

Again, any accident that causes a bump or jolt to the head can lead to a traumatic brain injury. Falls are the leading cause of TBI nationwide, especially among children and older adults. Motor vehicle accidents can also cause brain injuries, even at low speeds. "Struck by" incidents, a category that includes many sports and recreation injuries, are another leading cause. Brain injuries can also be caused by assault, explosions, and other incidents.

This means most traumatic brain injuries are preventable. When a brain injury is caused by a negligent party, whether a careless motorist or property owner, victims have recourse through the civil justice system.

What to do if you have a brain injury

There are two steps you need to take if you think you may have a TBI. First, see a doctor as soon as possible to diagnose and treat your injury. Some brain injuries will heal on their own with rest, but you still need a diagnosis to assess the extent of the injury and prevent complications. An undiagnosed brain injury can put you at risk of second impact syndrome, a potentially deadly complication from a second brain injury before the first has healed.

Second, if your brain injury was caused by someone else's careless or reckless actions, talk to an attorney right away. Insurance companies are notorious for lowballing brain injury victims and trying to settle their cases for much less than they're worth. We will advocate for your rights throughout the legal process and pursue every dollar you deserve under Alabama law.

If you have a brain injury after a car accident, slip and fall, or another incident, don't take any chances with your future. Contact Dean Waite & Associates, LLC, for a free consultation.

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