Introduction to Brain Injuries Sustained in Auto Accidents
Our law firm has met with and represented many people who were involved in car accidents. Over and over again, we find that they have a brain injury of some kind. Car manufacturers go to great lengths to make their vehicles safe but this does not prevent head injuries from occurring at high rates relative to other harms. Thus, we wanted to give you some information on the type of head injuries that commonly happen in car accidents as well as the type of recovery that has been (and may be) possible in litigation following an accident.
About the Brain
The brain is made up of three parts: the cerebrum, cerebellum, and the brain stem. The cerebrum is by far the biggest part of the brain. It is composed of two halves and is responsible for advanced body functions like speech and critical reasoning. The cerebellum is right underneath the cerebrum and is responsible for muscle movements such as balance. Finally, the brain stem is the anchor of the brain. It connects the spinal cord to the other parts of the brain and controls automatic functions such as breathing.
The skull wraps around and encases the entire brain. It acts as a protective shield and is composed of 8 separate bones that are all fused together. These bones include the frontal, sphenoid, occipital, ethmoi, two temporal bones, and two parietal bones. Both the brain and spinal cord are also covered with membranes known as meninges. There are actually three layers of meninges and they are called the pia, arachnoid, and dura. The dura is on the outside, the arachnoid is in the middle, and the dura is the inner most level of meninges. Similar to the skull, these provide protective functions but also contain other elements such as blood vessels and subdural cavities.
The cerebrum itself is divided into four parts, known as lobes, and they are the frontal, parietal, occipital, and temporal. The frontal lobe is primarily responsible for speech, judgment and general intelligence. It is located in the front of the brain. The parietal lobe is where language, perception, and feeling emanate and is in the middle region of the brain. The occipital lobe is in the back of the brain and is responsible for sight. Finally, the temporal lobe is underneath the other lobes. Hearing, memory, and organization come from this lobe.
Here are a few diagrams to illustrate the brain’s anatomy and organization:
3 main brain parts:
Understanding the Mechanics of Brain Injuries Related to Auto Accidents
The most common form of brain injury is a concussion, also known as a traumatic brain injury. They occur when an external force puts pressure on the head; this in turn then puts pressure on the skull and causes it to rebound off of the opposite side of itself. This creates bruising and swelling and puts extraordinary pressure on the brain stem. There are varying levels of concussions and their effects can range from difficulty breathing and maintaining balance to loss of memory and even long-term damage to the affected area as well as the correlating part of the body.
In the context of car accidents, there are a number of ways in which concussions and general brain injuries can arise. After a sudden halt, your face could go directly into the dashboard or, if turning too abruptly, it could smack into the window. In some cases, foreign objects have fallen off of trucks and flown into others’ cars and hit them in the head. Even the whiplash of a crash itself could be enough to create the force necessary to cause a traumatic brain injury.
After a crash, you need to be on the lookout for signs of a concussion. They may be hard to notice and may not even emerge for a few days or weeks following the accident, but here is a simple list of things to watch for:
- Loss of memory
Identifying and treating these symptoms is critical because they can develop into larger problems if ignored. For instance, concussions can result in epilepsy or permanent brain damage. Further, multiple concussions raises the probability of these and other complications even more. Therefore, recognizing the circumstances where they can occur and what signs of them look like are very important.
Brain Injury Statistics
- Over one million people suffer a traumatic brain injury every year.
- Tens of thousands of people die from a traumatic brain injury annually.
- Roughly 15% of traumatic brain injuries result from motor vehicle accidents.
- The total cost in treating a traumatic brain injury is roughly $1,000,000.
- Men receive traumatic brain injuries almost twice as much as women.
Further Brain Injury resources
Here are some resources to help you understand what recovery might be possible if you have a brain injury following a car accident: