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Hidden Toll of Auto Crashes: Types of Brain Injuries From Car Accidents

In California, despite being a strong advocate of safe driving regulations, car accidents occur more frequently than perceived. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration‘s 2022 projections revealed that 31,785 people lost their lives in motor vehicle crashes.

Moreover, the Traffic Injury Management System (TIMS) anticipates that 18,799 individuals will suffer severe injuries from accidents in 2023. These statistics emphasize the ongoing need for safe driving practices and education to prevent road fatalities and injuries.

When a person is involved in an auto accident, the most common injuries are cuts, bruises, and broken bones. However, what many people fail to consider is that a car accident can also cause serious brain injuries. Brain damage caused by traumatic events like auto accidents can lead to mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and difficulty with memory, motor skills, communication, and cognitive functions.

This blog will discuss the following:

  • Common causes of traumatic brain injury due to auto accidents
  • 8 types of brain injuries from car accidents
  • Treatment options for TBIs

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Common Causes of TBI Due to Auto Accidents

types of brain injuries from car accidents

Car crashes can happen in a matter of moments, however, the trauma and physical pain that follows can last a lifetime. When an accident occurs, the body is subjected to extreme forces that can tear and damage brain tissue. These forces can come from the impact of a crash, an occupant’s head hitting the steering wheel or window, or even a sudden stop.

Car crashes can happen as a result of negligent acts from other drivers such as not respecting traffic lights, traffic rules, or drunk driving. They can also be caused by faulty auto parts, poor road conditions, and even bad weather that can make it difficult to drive.

Some of the most common causes of TBI from car crashes are:

  • Hitting one’s head against an object inside the car
  • Being thrown from the vehicle in a crash or rollover accident
  • Whiplash caused by sudden deceleration
  • Concussion from a collision between two vehicles or a vehicle vs. another object
  • Violent jerking of the head due to high-speed impacts

8 Types of Brain Injuries From Car Accidents


A concussion is an abrupt shift in brain activity induced by either a direct or indirect blow to the head. It is essential to remember that while healthcare providers typically link concussions directly with trauma on the skull, oblique external forces have been known to cause a sudden acceleration or deceleration within the brain; ultimately resulting in this same medical condition.

Generally speaking, concussion symptoms are limited and self-resolving. Hence, mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is often used to describe a concussion; however, it should be noted that concussions fall under the category of mTBIs. Fortunately, most people who suffer from these types of injuries experience full remission from milder symptoms down the road.

Cerebral Contusion

Cerebral contusions are bruises of the brain that are caused by direct trauma to the head or an object striking it. In the case of a vehicle accident, this is most likely caused by the head striking something inside the car. Contusions often disrupt normal brain activity and can cause swelling, bleeding, and even seizures.

Fortunately, cerebral contusions are usually reversible and the patient can experience a full recovery with proper treatment. However, in extreme cases, these injuries can be life-threatening or cause permanent disability.

Diffuse Axonal Injury (DAI)

DAI is a broad and complex brain injury caused by rapid deceleration of the head. This type of acceleration can cause disruption in the axons — cells responsible for transmitting nerve impulses in the brain. As a result, DAI can cause both physical and cognitive impairments that are usually long-term or even permanent.

Patients with DAI may experience a wide array of neurological impairments, ranging from minor to comatose. Alas, an overwhelming number of individuals battling this condition are classified as having severe forms and usually have Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) scores below 8.

Skull Fractures

Skull fractures can be caused when an external force is applied to the head, causing the skull to crack or break. In a car accident, the skull can sustain tremendous damage if an individual’s head comes into forceful contact with surfaces like windows or unforgiving objects such as the ground. This may lead to serious injury of the underlying brain tissue and cause debilitating symptoms ranging from headaches and dizziness all the way to complete loss of consciousness, coma — even death in the worst cases.

Coup-Contrecoup Injury

Coup-contrecoup brain injury is a common type of concussion. It occurs when the head experiences a direct blow, causing an injury on the opposite side of the impact site. For example, if an individual suffers a head injury resulting from a frontal impact, the brain can suffer an injury on the opposite side — in this case, the back of the head.

In a car accident, coup-contrecoup injuries are usually caused by direct, blunt trauma such as hitting against hard objects inside the car — like the dashboard or steering wheel. Unfortunately, this type of injury is usually more severe than regular concussions and can cause serious long-term neurological impairments.

Penetrating Injuries

Penetrating injuries are caused by an object entering the skull and damaging the brain such as a bullet, a knife, or even a piece of shrapnel from an explosion. These types of injuries can cause serious damage to the brain and are often associated with a poor prognosis.

In a car crash situation, penetrating injuries can be caused by a variety of objects such as the car’s windshield or even a sharp piece of debris from the accident. Therefore, it is important for individuals involved in a car crash to receive prompt medical attention and have an evaluation for potential penetrating brain injuries.

Anoxic or Hypoxic Brain Injuries

Anoxia refers to a total deprivation of oxygen supply to an organ. Hypoxia happens when the brain is deprived of oxygen, but not completely. Both forms can cause serious damage to the brain if they are prolonged and can even be fatal.

In the case of an auto accident, anoxia or hypoxia can be caused by inhalation of carbon monoxide and other hazardous gases that may be present in a car after an accident. To prevent such injuries, it is important for individuals to be conscious and alert about their environment so they can immediately evacuate the area if there is an indication of hazardous air contamination. 

Post-traumatic Epilepsy

Some TBIs can cause a direct impact on the brain and causes Post-traumatic epilepsy (PTE), which is characterized by recurrent seizures. These seizures can have serious neurological and physical implications, such as loss of consciousness, confusion, nausea, and even muscle spasms that can lead to injury. In a car crash, this type of injury is usually caused by blunt trauma to the head and often requires medical attention, as well as a long-term preventive treatment.

Overall, traumatic brain injuries can be extremely debilitating and difficult to manage, especially in the case of DAI. It is important for individuals involved in car accidents to seek prompt medical attention to ensure that any resulting brain injury is correctly diagnosed and treated. Early intervention is essential in minimizing the long-term effects of traumatic brain injuries, so it’s important to be aware of their signs and symptoms.

Are you a TBI victim? Get Help here.

Treatment Options for TBIs Due To A Car Accident

Some of the treatment options for those suffering from a TBI include:

  • Surgery: In cases of severe trauma, surgery may be necessary to repair any physical damage done to the brain.
  • Medication: There are a variety of medications available to help manage the symptoms of TBIs, such as headaches, nausea, and dizziness.
  • Cognitive therapy: This type of therapy can help individuals affected by TBIs to relearn skills, such as problem-solving, that may have been impaired as a result of the injury.
  • Physical therapy: This type of therapy helps improve mobility and balance and is essential in helping individuals with TBIs regain their ability to walk or move normally.
  • Occupational therapy: This type of therapy focuses on helping individuals build the skills they need to be able to manage their daily tasks and live independently.
  • Counseling: Counseling can help individuals affected by TBIs come to terms with any emotional or psychological issues that may accompany their injury.
  • Community-based therapy: In some cases, community-based therapy can be beneficial in helping individuals affected by TBIs integrate back into the community and return to their normal lives.

Overall, with proper medical attention and treatment, those affected by TBIs due to a car accident can often recover and live fulfilling lives.

Get Help From A Trusted Organization

Every victim of traumatic brain injury has the right to receive medical care and legal support during this life-altering event. Unfortunately, rehabilitation for TBI can be costly, often taking a long time before one sees progress in their recovery journey — leading to feelings of discouragement or defeat.

However, if patients are persistent with treatment plans tailored towards their needs and goals through the proper resources available to them, they have every opportunity to make astounding improvements!

At the Brain Injury Help Center, we prioritize recovery and are dedicated to upgrading the lives of individuals struggling with brain injuries across California. Our goal is to support victims through the legal process while they receive treatment from qualified medical professionals. We provide a one-stop shop for all of your needs in terms of rehabilitation, financial compensation, and much more.

If you or a loved one has suffered from a traumatic brain injury due to an auto accident, we are here to help. Contact us today and learn how to get started on the road to recovery. We speak English, Spanish, and Filipino. Let us fight for you. Call us now.

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