car accident head injuries

Car Accident Victims with Head Injuries – Rights and Legal Options

car accident head injuries

Motor vehicle accidents are one of the most common reasons people have head injuries. Head injuries tend to be serious because the head houses the brain, and damage to the brain can mean life-changing mental and physical impairment. It can be difficult to evaluate the extent of the damage caused by a head injury because every person will be affected differently based on individual characteristics, what part of the head was injured, and the severity of the injury.

Victims of car accidents who suffer head injuries have the right to recover compensation from those responsible. Understanding how the head can be injured and what the effects of the injury are going to be is necessary to determine the potentially available damages that can be recovered and how much compensation is appropriate.

How the Head Can be Injured in a Car Accident

The most common way a head is injured is by forceful contact with a hard surface – like the interior of a car or a paved road. There can be external damage to the skull, ears, and face. And there can be internal damage to the brain even when the external damage to the head appears minimal.

Head injuries that may be compensated after a car accident can include:

  • Facial disfigurement
  • Loss of sight or hearing
  • Fractured skull
  • Brain injury

Traumatic Brain Injuries

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are a type of acquired brain injury. An acquired brain injury is one caused by an event or set of circumstances that occur outside of the body.

In car accidents, traumatic brain injuries can occur from direct impact to and/or penetration of the head or from the violent motion of the body causing the brain to move back and forth inside the skull.

The impact from a car accident can throw the body forward rapidly and then snap it back. This motion is commonly associated with whiplash injuries to the neck and back, but it can also cause the brain to slam into the skull, damaging brain tissue.

According to the Brain Trauma Foundation, approximately 2.5 million Americans experience TBI each year, resulting in close to 55,000 deaths. Acquired brain injury is the second leading cause of disability in the U.S., affecting an estimated 13.5 million people.

Determining the Severity of a TBI

Initially, the severity of TBI is measured by the level of consciousness of the person injured. The duration of loss of consciousness is an indication of brain injury severity. TBIs are classified as any of the following:

  • Mild – No loss of consciousness or loss of consciousness for less than 30 minutes. A concussion is generally considered to be a mild TBI.
  • Moderate – Loss of consciousness for more than 30 minutes.
  • Severe – Loss of consciousness for six or more hours. People with severe TBI may be in a coma.


Concussions are typically designated as mild TBI, but that doesn’t mean they should be taken less seriously. Concussions are considered mild because they are not usually life-threatening, but they can have significant and lasting consequences and should not be dismissed as minimal injuries.

A concussion is usually diagnosed based on the experience of the injured person and how they are feeling. Concussions are often not detectable from brain imaging. Symptoms can include headaches, nausea, dizziness, slow response and reactions, confusion, and memory issues.

For most people, the symptoms of a concussion will resolve themselves within one to two weeks. However, susceptibility to another concussion is higher while the brain is recovering, and the injury may cause chemical changes in the brain that can take up to a year to return to normal function.

Multiple or repeated concussions can have a cumulative effect resulting in permanent changes in the way a brain functions. Cognitive impairment and memory problems may worsen over time. Repeated mild TBI has been linked to the development of the brain disease Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), which causes deterioration of the brain.

The Long-Term Effects of a Head Injury

Medical research has increasingly shown even mild head injuries may have long-lasting effects including the development of disease. It is well known the chances of developing dementia later in life increase in direct proportion to the number of head injuries sustained.

For persons who suffer moderate or severe TBI, the prognosis is not good. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that after five years, only about 25 percent of people with TBI have improvements in their condition. More than 50 percent have had their conditions worsen or have died as a result of their injuries. Survivors of moderate or severe TBI can expect shorter lifespans and a greater likelihood of having seizures, getting infections, and developing pneumonia.

Compensation for a Car Accident Victim with a Head Injury

Head injuries can be expensive to treat and can affect everything about a person’s daily life. There may be a disability and the need for long-term care. There may be an inability to earn a living. There may be personality changes causing strain on family relationships. And it is possible symptoms will worsen over time.

A person who receives a head injury from a car accident that was at least partially the fault of another driver can recover medical expenses, lost income, and amounts to compensate them for diminishment of function and life enjoyment the car accident injury caused.

Settling a Head Injury Claim after a Car Accident

It can be difficult to determine the extent of the damage done by a head injury. Sometimes the damage takes days, weeks, months, or years to develop. Insurance companies prefer to settle claims quickly to keep costs down. Settling a claim too quickly may leave legitimate damages uncompensated. The impact of a head injury needs to be understood so a fair amount of compensation can be determined and awarded in order to keep the injury victim from having to come out of pocket for damages caused by another’s negligence.

Identifying all available compensation sources becomes critical because damages for head injuries can be significant, and any potential settlement should not occur until all potential resources are examined and their individual liability determined. Policy limits provide the limit on how much insurance companies are required to pay, which could leave a head injury victim without adequate compensation for all of their damages.

Head injuries are some of the most complex car accident injuries to evaluate and adequately compensate. Victims of head injuries can benefit from skilled professional assistance from a California car accident lawyer to ensure their claims receive every available legal advantage.