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How Can I Tell If a Head Injury From Car Accident Is Mild or Severe?

After a car accident, it is important to seek medical attention for any injuries you sustained. Head injuries are easy to overlook, as you may not experience symptoms until days or even weeks later. To avoid dangerous complications, learn to tell if a head injury from a car accident is mild or severe. 

Car accident head injuries occur when the head strikes another surface or when a sharp object pierces the skull. Head injuries can sometimes happen when the brain hits the inside of the skull. 

An untreated head injury can have serious long-term health consequences, including headaches, cognitive impairment, mood dysregulation, and brain damage. Without appropriate care, a severe head injury can even cause coma or death. 

If you know how to tell if a head injury from a car accident is mild or severe, you can seek appropriate medical care before complications arise. 

What Is the Difference Between Mild and Severe Head Injuries?

head injury, also known as brain injury or traumatic brain injury, refers to trauma to any part of the head, including the scalp, skull, face, brain, and tissues. Traumatic brain injury from a car accident can range from mild to severe, but all should be taken seriously. 

Mild Head Injury Symptoms and Effects

A mild head injury often refers to a superficial or minor injury that does not cause dangerous or long-term effects. Scrapes, cuts, bruises, and concussions that heal within a few days or weeks could be considered mild head injuries. 

Even if they are categorized as “mild,” any concussion or traumatic brain injury is considered serious. Symptoms of mild head injuries include:

  • Headaches
  • Vision problems
  • Sensitivity to light or sound
  • Fatigue or sleeping more than usual
  • Insomnia or sleeping less than usual
  • Anxiety, irritability, and sadness
  • Brain fog, memory problems, and difficulty concentrating
  • Dizziness and balance issues
  • Nausea or vomiting

Many mild head injuries resolve on their own with minimal treatment. However, it is always important to have a physician assess your condition after any head injury. Some serious head injuries are masked by adrenaline and may not present symptoms until later. 

Severe Head Injury Symptoms and Effects

Moderate and severe traumatic brain injuries often cause significant lifelong damage and sometimes death. Such injuries are often caused by motor vehicle crashes, falls, and firearm incidents. Any jolt, bump, blow, or penetrating injury to the head can cause a severe or moderate head injury. 

A moderate to severe traumatic brain injury may have any of the following health effects:

  • Difficulty learning and understanding
  • Communication issues
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Problems with short- and long-term memory
  • Lack of coordination and loss of balance
  • Weakness in extremities
  • Sensory issues, including problems with touch, vision, and hearing
  • Extreme mood swings, anger, depression, and anxiety
  • Changes in personality and behavior
  • Impulsive or out-of-control behavior
  • Prolonged unconsciousness or coma
  • Death

Chronic health issues are common in people with moderate and severe traumatic brain injuries. They may be partially or fully disabled or be unable to return to work. They could have issues performing daily tasks and may require assistance or in-home medical care. Some patients may require long-term hospitalization or nursing home care. 

Types of Head Injuries You Could Suffer in a Car Accident

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined that car accidents are among the top causes of head injuries in the United States each year. Head injuries you could experience in a car accident include:

  • Scalp wounds
  • Skull fracture
  • Concussion
  • Traumatic brain injury 
  • Brain tissue bleeding
  • Bleeding in layers around the brain

According to annual reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 200,000 patients are hospitalized yearly with traumatic brain injury symptoms. Nearly 65,000 patients die annually of brain injury-related conditions. 

Photo of a doctor reviewing an x-ray for head injuries from car accident

When To Seek Medical Attention for a Car Accident Head Injury

While many head injuries are mild, it is always best to seek medical attention if you strike your head in a car accident. See a doctor within 24-48 hours of the accident, even if you do not go to the emergency room.

Since some traumatic brain injuries happen even when there is no direct blow, any accident that shakes or jolts your head warrants a medical evaluation. 

The adrenaline from the accident may disguise the initial symptoms of a brain bleed or other severe head injury. Even if a doctor sends you home after a car accident, seek emergency medical assistance immediately if you experience any of the following head injury signs and symptoms:

  • Increasing head pain
  • Ongoing nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness longer than 30 seconds
  • Dilated or unequal pupils
  • Constant ringing in the ears
  • Blood or fluid drainage from ears or nose
  • Behavioral or cognitive changes
  • Coordination issues and dizziness
  • Disorientation, confusion, and memory problems
  • Extremity weakness
  • Extreme paleness for more than an hour
  • Slurred speech
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Any symptoms that grow worse over time

Warning Signs of Head Trauma in Young Children

Young children are especially at risk for head and brain injuries in a car accident. Since they are not as good at expressing pain or discomfort as adults are, it can be easy to overlook signs of head trauma in young children. 

If your child was in a car accident, be sure to have them evaluated for head injuries as soon as possible. In the meantime, watch for the following signs:

  • Increased crying or irritability
  • Dazed or confused expressions
  • Low energy or becoming tired easily
  • Worsening balance or coordination
  • Different eating or sleeping habits
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures

Traumatic brain injury during childhood can affect the way your child’s brain develops, so prompt medical attention is critical if you see any signs of a head injury.

Diagnosing a Head Injury After a Car Accident

When you go to the emergency room or doctor’s office following a car accident, the doctor will conduct a physical examination and a series of diagnostic tests, including:

  • Imaging such as X-rays, computed tomography scans, and magnetic resonance imaging to see detailed images of the skull, brain, and tissues
  • Blood tests for proteins the brain releases when injured
  • Electroencephalogram to analyze the brain’s electrical activity

Using a combination of these diagnostic methods, the doctor can discover the extent and severity of your head injury and treat it accordingly. 

Seeking Compensation Following a Car Accident Head Injury

If you suffered a head injury in a car accident that was someone else’s fault, you could seek compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. A car accident lawyer with experience handling head injury claims can help you pursue justice and compensation for your losses. Depending on your case details, you could seek financial remuneration for medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and emotional anguish. 

If you lost a loved one to a car accident head injury, you might have the option to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault party. Wrongful death actions allow the deceased person’s family to pursue justice and compensation for costs associated with losing their loved one. Damages you can seek in a car accident wrongful death claim include funeral and burial expenses, lost income, loss of companionship, medical expenses, and emotional distress. 

Contact NST Law for Assistance With Your Car Accident Head Injury Claim

At NST Law, we understand that you face unique and private challenges after a car accident head injury. Our team is here to provide the support you need to surmount those difficulties and secure the compensation you need. Reach out to our car accident attorneys today for a free consultation to see how we can help.

As champions for the injured, NST Law is dedicated to supporting our community members in and out of the courtroom. Our commitment to helping those in need extends to community outreach, and we regularly volunteer and donate to minority and low-income communities. Learn more about our community involvement here.