Can a Car Accident Cause Brain Injury?

AUTHOR: A.J. Bruning | December 21, 2022
Can a Car Accident Cause Brain Injury?

The short answer to this question is yes, a car accident can easily cause a brain injury. But there is more to consider than that quick answer provides.

A car accident brain injury can cause profound difficulty and disruption in your life. It may leave you struggling with severe cognitive, motor, or emotional impairments. It could keep you out of work or school for months or years. And it could burden you with crushing expenses.

Let’s explore how brain injuries happen in car accidents and how an experienced car accident injury lawyer can secure compensation to help you overcome the challenges a brain injury can bring into your life.

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What is a brain injury?

Most brain injuries can deplete the supply of oxygen to the brain by limiting the pool of oxygenated blood to the brain or by severing the supply and causing enough tissue damage to the brain to disrupt oxygen absorption.

Brain injuries can result from any number of accidents, such as:

  • Impact: The forces of inertia are probably the most obvious ways the brain receives trauma. The soft tissues, blood vessels, and connective tissue hold little resistance against pressure. When impact jostles the brain inside the skull, it can cause bruising and shear off arteries and veins, and the resulting blood pooling can cause pressure. This pressure is known as a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
  • Safety equipment: Although equipment such as seat belts, harnesses, and airbags protect the passengers of a vehicle, the forces they exert can cause brain injury. Airbags that must expand in a fraction of a second to compensate for a collision can cause trauma to the brain.
  • Fumes: Toxic fumes often accompany a vehicular accident. Fuel, coolant, and even hazardous materials from another vehicle, such as a truck or tanker carries, might result in a chemical spill. Ignition of these substances can cause fumes toxic to the human body since they bind with hemoglobin in the blood and limit your brain’s ability to receive oxygen. The fumes from burning plastic or vehicle batteries can also yield toxic gasses.
  • Carbon monoxide: Combustion engines emit this gas. It is odorless, colorless, and tasteless. An impact might result in a perforated exhaust system, which could, in turn, flood your vehicle with carbon monoxide over time if the engine continues to run. The longer the brain lacks oxygen, the more profound the effect on your brain.
  • Drowning: Though not as common as a collision, a vehicle accident involving deep water can result in the car’s submersion. Flash floods or veering off into bodies of water can quickly engulf the passengers, causing them to drown. Drowning happens when the brain no longer receives oxygen. Within minutes, brain damage can result.

What Are Traumatic Brain Injuries?

Though brain injuries can happen in various ways, TBIs resulting from impact is the most common. Brain injuries can also “stack up,” with subsequent traumas adding damage to the original injury. Though the severity might be different, each one carries the potential to be deadly or debilitating.

Here are some various types of TBI.

  • Concussion: The mildest form of TBI, concussions can occur with minor impacts. Essentially, the brain is jolted and bruised, and the resulting pressure can continue to cause damage to the brain, including an aneurysm, stroke, and problems with cognition.
  • Epidural hematoma: Bruising on the outside protective layer of tissue between the skull and the brain. This type of injury can create pressure on the surface of the brain.
  • Subdural hematoma: Bruising inside the brain’s dura, or protective layer. Blood can pool between the brain, and the resulting pressure can cause widespread damage.
  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage: Profound pooling of blood and bruising between the brain lobes. This damage can cause seizures, neurological difficulties, sensory problems, dizziness, and unconsciousness.
  • Intracranial hemorrhage: a broad term for brain injury, intracranial hemorrhage may include a mixture of the various kinds of TBI or more acute damage.

How Do Doctors Treat Brain Injuries?

When a TBI occurs, the impact injures the brain, and the force shakes it inside the skull. There is often trauma where contact happens. The fat and spinal fluid can only do so much to compensate for these forces.

Blood will begin to fill the injured areas, causing pressure to build and exponential damage to the soft brain tissue.

Medical assistance is vital in treating these sorts of injuries. A doctor may attempt to reduce pressure through medications or surgically draining the blood. Brain death can begin within minutes of impact.

What Are Some Lasting Effects of TBIs?

TBIs can result in a myriad of lasting effects. From something as simple as dizziness, headache, loss of appetite, confusion, and ringing in the ears to blindness, loss of hearing, unconsciousness, stroke, and memory retention problems, the brain is the control center of the nervous system, and injuries can be long-reaching.

People who have survived TBIs might experience paralysis, cognitive difficulties, complete loss of long or short-term memory, sensory problems, chronic headaches, and loss of motor function. The part of the brain that processes speech could also be damaged, and survivors might have trouble pronouncing words or speaking.

These symptoms might be short-lived or plague the survivor for the rest of their lives. All because of one moment that changed everything.

How Might a Brain Injury Affect My Quality of Life?

A brain injury might affect your daily life and become a permanent disability. With changes in your ability to think, your job might become impossible. The blinding headaches and chronic pain or sensory problems might cause you discomfort.

It might be impossible to function in your daily life as you once did. You might have to seek vocational rehabilitation to change career paths, or you might have to go on permanent disability. A brain injury could also result in a loss of quality of your life.

From blindness to loss of smell or hearing to loss of fine motor skills, your ability to make or retain memories, and even acute cognitive problems, you are looking at an uphill battle.

What Happens During Treatment?

​Can a Car Accident Cause Brain Injury?

After the impact, emergency medical services will do what they can to limit the damage. One way to do this is to immobilize a crash victim and transport them to a hospital.

At the hospital, doctors can reduce the pressure built or, at the very least, run tests such as CT scans or MRIs to map out any potential threats to the brain’s health. You might be required to stay in the hospital for some time as medical professionals monitor you. They may also administer medications or surgeries to control the damage done.

In recovery, you will likely be put on light work if not bedrest. You might have light sensitivity and pain, and you could also be recovering from surgical procedures. You will probably miss a lot of work due to your recovery. Depending on how your recovery goes and the severity of your brain injury, you might not be able to work as you recover.

You might have to endure hours of physical rehabilitation. You might have to go to therapy to deal with these changes in your life and the resulting anger, depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts that have come about. You might have to manage your pain and cognitive difficulties with expensive medications.

All the while, hospital bills will begin to come in, your daily expenses might fall behind, and the time you spent living your best life will become a struggle to heal from your injuries. The other party’s insurance provider might reach out to offer you a settlement.

More often than not, this amount reflects the insurer’s need to lowball the settlement amount, and it will likely not cover your losses. Between actuary tables, statistics, and putting a price tag on others’ pain, insurance companies might not be as sympathetic to the pain and suffering you are experiencing to save their bottom line.


What Can I Do to Seek Compensation for a Brain Injury?

Most of the time, hiring an attorney can get you a higher amount of compensation for damages than just accepting an insurance company’s initial offer of a settlement. Taking the matter to court makes things very difficult and expensive for insurance companies.

You have so much on your plate when you are dealing with medical procedures, keeping appointments, lost time at work, and the stress of meeting your financial obligations. Hiring an attorney can also reduce the stress of negotiating with insurance companies, much less taking the matter to court.

By speaking with an attorney about your brain injury, you can get perspective on what your options are in the situation. Your lawyer has your interests at heart and will fight to protect your rights. They will be able to gather information about the accident from law enforcement, witnesses, and even case law to gain leverage in negotiations with insurance companies. If talks in the mediation room fail with the insurance company, your lawyer can take the matter to court to be decided by a judge.

More often than not, insurance companies settle out of court, but with a trial by jury on the table as a negotiation chip, you have quite a bit of leverage in the hands of an experienced attorney. They will consider the extent of your injuries, the damages you should receive for lost time at work, future wages, the cost of rehabilitation, vocational re-training, and even the pain and suffering you have endured as a result of your loss.

The Answer to the Question

Yes, car accidents can cause brain injury and are likely to inflict some form of damage in the form of a TBI. Only time will tell how long the effects of these injuries will last, whether it is just a few weeks or the rest of your life. The trauma still leaves you vulnerable to future brain injuries, which could lead to various forms of dementia, memory problems, and even diseases of the brain. A car accident is almost always serious when it comes to how much it results in brain trauma.

Hiring an attorney can take a lot of strain off your life as you heal. They will be able to navigate the process, from the negotiation table with insurers to the court process if it comes to it. Not all accident cases involving brain injury go to court, but your attorney will know what they need to do to protect your rights. You didn’t ask to be injured, and your life has changed due to someone else’s negligence. Hiring an attorney will give you the tools to ensure your quality of life.

Most car accidents have the potential to result in brain injury. From the impact of the collision to the safety features designed to protect us, human beings are fragile creatures compared to the glass and steel construction of vehicles traveling at high speeds.

Your brain is perhaps the most delicate organ in your body while being the most important. If you sustain injuries from a car accident, you should take every precaution to ensure your life and livelihood, as well as those of your loved ones, are protected at all costs.

A.J. Bruning


I was born and raised to represent individuals who have been needlessly injured. I mean that literally. At a young age my father would tell me about the clients he was representing. I would meet them and take pride in their admiration of my father. I always knew I wanted to be a lawyer and represent clients that needed my help.

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