A concussion occurs when your brain hits the inside of your skull due to an external impact. It is a type of traumatic brain injury that should not be taken lightly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a concussion can damage brain cells and cause chemical changes in the brain. If you hit your head in an auto accident, look to the following signs to determine whether you have suffered a concussion.
Sign #1: Wooziness
Some people refer to this feeling as the “Sudafed effect.” If you stand up from a sitting or lying position, for example, you might lose your balance or feel faint. You might also exhibit other signs of intoxication such as slurred speech or uncoordinated muscle movements. All of these symptoms should be easily noticeable by other people.
Sign #2: Confusion and Amnesia
You may suffer amnesia, even to the point of forgetting that you were involved in a car collision or suffered a head injury in the first place. You may experience “lost time” of several hours, or have trouble putting recent events in your memory into the order in which they occurred. You may also experience trouble concentrating.
Sign #3: Nausea and Vomiting
Vomiting immediately after suffering a head injury is a strong warning sign that you may have suffered a concussion. Mere nausea is often a common side effect, although nausea alone might not indicate a serious concussion. In serious cases, you may suffer repeated vomiting.
Sign #4: Slowed Thinking and Personality Changes
A concussion can slow down your thinking, which can bring on personality changes. Take notice if you start experiencing trouble solving problems that were once easy for you, thinking of the right words to use, recognizing friends and acquaintances, or performing other intellectual tasks.
Pay attention when your friends and family tell you that your thinking appears to have slowed down or that your personality has changed. They may be in a better position to recognize these symptoms than you are.
Sign #5: Headaches
Concussions often cause headaches, and these headaches often feel different from ordinary headaches. You might feel, for example, like your “head is in a vice”; you may feel a sharp, stabbing sensation; or you may feel your head pulsing. Concussions can cause Autonomic Nervous System (ANS), Cervicogenic, and other types of concussion-related headaches.
Sign #6: Sleep Disturbances
Concussion victims frequently experience sleep disturbances. If you suffer sleep disturbances, you will probably sleep more than usual for the first week after the injury, but have trouble sleeping starting two or three weeks after your injury. You may be experiencing sleep-related symptoms of a concussion, however, even if your sleep disturbances do not fit this pattern. It is not uncommon for concussion-related sleep disturbances to persist for months or even years.
Sign #7: Loss of Consciousness
Contrary to what most people believe, loss of consciousness is far from inevitable after a concussion. The belief that unconsciousness follows a concussion is dangerous, because it can lead auto accident victims to believe that they have not suffered a concussion as long as they never lost consciousness.
Nevertheless, loss of consciousness is still a common concussion symptom. One of the biggest dangers of this symptom is that amnesia might cause you to forget that you lost consciousness. Since losing consciousness is one of the most obvious symptoms of a concussion, you don’t want to miss it. If you even suspect that you might have lost consciousness at some point, ask anyone around you, at the time of the accident, if you did.
Sign #8: Seizures
You could fail to recognize a seizure because seizures don’t always look like the grand mal seizures you may have seen on television or may have been taught to expect. Ultimately, a seizure is an electrical disturbance in the brain that results in at least some of the following symptoms:
- Staring into space with glassy eyes;
- Sudden fatigue;
- Sudden dizziness;
- Sudden loss of the ability to speak or understand the speech of others;
- Experiencing strange smells, tastes, images, sounds, or bodily sensations;
- Fumbling movements;
- Lip-smacking; and
- Stiffening or shaking of the torso, head, limbs, or eyes. This last set of symptoms is the seizure symptoms that almost everyone recognizes.
The Three Grades of a Concussion
Concussions can be classified into three grades:
- Grade 1: Temporary amnesia lasting up to half an hour (sometimes).
- Grade 2: Loss of consciousness for up to five minutes, and amnesia from half an hour to 24 hours.
- Grade 3: Loss of consciousness for over five minutes, or amnesia lasting longer than 24 hours.
Stages of Recovery from a Serious Concussion
As you might suspect, the more serious the concussion, the longer it takes to recover. Recovery from a serious concussion can be divided into five stages:
Stage 1: For the first 72 hours after a head injury, a concussion victim typically experiences worsening symptoms. At this stage, it is most important that you stay off your feet and get adequate rest. Stay in bed even if you can’t sleep, and do not resume normal activities. Doctors typically recommend a week of bed rest.
Stage 2: Your doctors will run a series of medical tests on you such as balance tests, CT scans, MRIs, and neuropsychology tests. About a week after your injury, your doctors will formulate a long-term treatment plan that includes a sleep schedule. Follow it as strictly as you can.
Stage 3: Within a few weeks after your concussion, the severity of your symptoms will probably reach a clear plateau. Once this plateau is reached, you will still need a lot of rest until they begin to fade.
Stage 4: Stage 4 begins when your symptoms start fading. If your concussion is serious, this stage might not begin until six weeks or even longer after your auto accident. You could remain in this stage for several months.
Stage 5: During Stage 5, your symptoms will continue to decline until you reach Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) – the point at which you will have recovered as much as you are ever going to. That might mean a full recovery, or it might mean something less than that.
How the Length of Your Recovery Affects the Amount of Your Compensation
It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the longer it takes you to recover, the higher the compensation you will be entitled to. Like everything else in law, however, it gets more complicated than that. Although you will probably end up with a private settlement rather than a courtroom judgment, the substantive legal principles that govern a trial will govern settlement negotiations as well.
The amount of the settlement you are likely to receive for a concussion will be determined by a number of factors, including:
- Who you choose to retain as your lawyer.
- Your level of impairment as a result of your car crash, both before and after MMI. Permanent impairment, such as constant headaches, will entitle you to much higher recovery.
- Your economic damages, such as medical bills and lost wages.
- Whether you seek prompt medical treatment, and whether you strictly follow your doctor’s medical advice.
The Consequences of Delaying Medical Treatment for a Concussion
Delaying medical treatment after an auto accident, especially one in which you suspect you may have sustained a head injury, is an ill-advised decision for a number of reasons – both medical and legal. Such delays are distressingly common, unfortunately, if for no other reason than the fact that the symptoms of a concussion are often delayed or masked by amnesia, tempting you to conclude that you have not been injured.
Solid research supports the idea that early treatment of a concussion will improve your outcome – meaning a faster recovery and a lower chance of permanent injury. A recent study published in JAMA Neurology, for example, based on the analysis of over 150 young athletes suffering from concussions, concluded that athletes who were treated within a week of their injury recovered faster than other athletes. Obviously, immediate treatment is ideal.
Although this study was based on concussions caused by participation in athletics, a blow to the head is a blow to the head, regardless of whether it is caused by being tackled in a rugby match or hitting your head against the dashboard in a car crash. Either way, swift treatment is likely to aid your recovery.
Second impact syndrome
Suppose you sustain a concussion, fail to seek medical treatment, and then suffer a second concussion before the first one has fully healed. The most likely result is death from a condition known as second impact syndrome. The possibility of becoming a victim of second impact syndrome is the most important reason to seek swift medical attention when you think you may have suffered a concussion.
Delaying medical treatment after a car crash-related concussion can damage your claim to the point where it may be impossible to obtain damages from the responsible party or his insurance company. Below are some of the ways that delaying treatment for a concussion may damage your claim:
- It allows the insurance company to assert that you suffered the concussion after your accident – perhaps the next day or a week later, but not in the car crash.
- Failing to seek treatment will not generate medical bills that an insurance company might otherwise be obligated to pay.
- It will be difficult to prove that you were seriously injured if you had already recovered from your injuries by the time you sought treatment.
- Delaying medical treatment will delay the pursuit of a legal claim against the responsible party. The longer you wait, the weaker your case may become. Witness memories may fade, for example, or physical evidence may get lost or deteriorate.
- If your loved one dies from a condition such as second impact syndrome, the administrator of your loved one’s estate can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible party. Compensation can be reduced or even eliminated if the court determines that the victim’s own fault contributed to his death. Failing to seek medical treatment for a concussion could be construed as fault on the part of the victim.
Take Action Immediately
If you have been injured in a car crash, regardless of whether you suffered a head injury, call Berkowitz Hanna at one of our office locations or simply contact us online for a free initial consultation on your case.