Concussions are a common form of injury that impact thousands of Americans each year. What exactly is a concussion, and how can it affect your brain and long-term health after a car wreck? Our South Carolina car accident lawyer explains what you need to know about concussive injuries, and how to get legal help if you’ve suffered a concussion due to a car accident.
1. Concussions or “mild traumatic brain injuries” are often anything but mild.
A concussion, also known as a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), can lead to everything from short-term memory loss to long-term personality change. If you sustained a concussion, please do not assume that "you should be fine by now" simply because an emergency room doctor told you it was "only a concussion." Too many people in South Carolina suffer lingering effects of mTBI and choose not to pursue proper medical care because they have been convinced that a concussion is a minor incident. Any injury to the brain must be taken seriously, and all symptoms should be properly addressed.
2. You don’t have to hit your head on anything to suffer a concussion.
Concussions can happen when you strike your head against the headrest, steering wheel, or window, but you can also suffer a concussion without hitting your head at all. The sudden impact in a car crash can cause the brain to shift inside the head and slam against the bony underside of the skull. There may not be any evidence on the outside of the head that there was an impact, and the victim may not lose consciousness immediately. Nonetheless, if someone were to look “under the hood,” they would see a concussed brain.
3. Symptoms of a concussion may be delayed.
After a car wreck, some symptoms of your head injury may show up immediately, while other symptoms may appear days or even weeks later. It’s important to remember any blow to the head can be serious and become deadly, even if there’s no apparent bruising or broken skin. If you begin to experience the following concussion symptoms after a car accident, you should make an appointment with your doctor. Possible concussion symptoms include:
- Mental confusion
- Delayed or sluggish speech, responses, or movement
- Difficulty concentrating
- Light sensitivity
- Audio sensitivity
- Lack of balance
- Memory loss
- Mood swings
4. You should see a doctor if you’re experiencing these symptoms.
We generally recommend seeing a doctor after a serious car accident to ensure there are no life-threatening injuries. Many concussion symptoms mimic those of other types of TBI (moderate, severe) that can be deadly if left untreated, such as bleeding on the brain or uncontrolled intracranial pressure. Doctors can examine you and perform imaging tests to determine if you’ve suffered a concussion or a more dangerous brain injury. If you have a mild traumatic brain injury, your doctor can recommend steps to hopefully reduce your symptoms.
It’s important to note that emergency department doctors often fail to diagnose concussions. Even if an ER doctor said you didn’t have a concussion after the car accident, we recommend you make an appointment with your primary care physician if your symptoms persist. Then, if needed, your primary care doctor will likely refer you to a neurologist who focuses on TBI. All neurologists are by definition "brain doctors," though many of them focus on areas other than acquired brain injury, so make sure that the neurologist who sees you actually specializes in TBI, and not another subspecialty like dementia or seizure.
5. Post-concussion syndrome can last for weeks, months, or even years.
Typically, concussion symptoms will subside within a couple weeks to one month after your accident. If your symptoms linger for longer than a month, you may be suffering from post-concussion syndrome, also known as post-concussive syndrome (PCS). If your doctor confirms that you’re experiencing PCS as a result of the car wreck, you may want to consult with an attorney to discuss how you can seek recovery for your economic and non-economic damages.
6. You can file an insurance claim for a concussion.
Insurance companies and juries recognize that concussions are a type of brain injury, and they take these cases seriously. South Carolina law is designed to put you in the position you enjoyed before the wreck. Therefore, you can file a claim with the at fault driver’s insurance company to recover compensation for damages such as medical bills, lost quality of life (also known as pain and suffering), lost wages, and future medical treatment.
7. There are lawyers who focus on brain injury cases.
While many lawyers advertise for personal injury cases, far fewer focus specifically on brain injuries caused by car accidents. I come from a family of doctors, but my love for the law drove me to this profession. Many years ago, I developed a strong interest in neuroscience, and therefore sought ways to combine my passions. I found that representing brain injury victims allows me to apply the law in a way that achieves my greatest goal - ensuring innocent victims receive great medical care and full justice.
Oftentimes, the side effects of a concussion go undiagnosed or undervalued because no one takes time to find out every symptom and change in quality of life that resulted from the head trauma. We try to be different. We want to know your story. We will take time to listen to your story and work tirelessly to achieve the best medical and legal results possible.