What to know if you got a head injury in a car accident

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It doesn’t take a lot to cause serious and irreparable damage to the human head. As terrifying as this simple fact may be, it’s important to stay realistic and aware of all the dangers that surround a head injury in the event of a car accident. Always visit a doctor when a head impact is suspected. Even seemingly minor head injuries can lead to long-term health issues, meaning it can be a very dangerous idea to brush off possible head trauma, even if you don’t believe your accident was too bad.woman with a head injury from a car accident

If you or a loved one has experienced head trauma during a car accident, seeing a doctor is key to ensuring you receive an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Even if you weren’t taken to the hospital immediately after an accident, problems that arise from even a mild head injury can be subtle, hard to diagnose, and ultimately life-changing. Get to a doctor and inform them that you’ve been in a car accident and hurt your head or you could wind up in a much worse situation.

With close to 400,000 car accidents every year, Florida is one of the most dangerous states to drive in. And with Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) accounting for a significant portion of serious injuries and deaths, particularly in children and young adults, knowing what to do in the event of a head injury after a car accident could mean the difference between life and death.

A Quick Note on Airbags

While airbag technology has improved dramatically over the years — and they usually work as intended — they can’t prevent 100% of head impacts. Even when an airbag manages to soften the blow, it can’t prevent all injury, so head trauma is still possible even when these safety devices work exactly as intended. And even when the outside of the head looks uninjured, there is still the chance that the violent motions of the accident caused internal damage.

Objects within the vehicle can also become high-speed projectiles during an accident, meaning penetrative or blunt trauma to the head is possible from more sources than the frame or interior of the vehicle. The violent thrashing of a bad accident alone can also be enough to leave a victim with serious brain damage.

Common Head Injuries From Car Accidents

Before delving into some of the injuries that are related to brain trauma, here are some of the types of external head injuries that can occur in a car accident:

Cuts, bruises, burns

Shattered glass, metal shrapnel, and jagged plastic can easily cause cuts of varying degrees of severity. Bruises are also very common, even in low-speed car accidents or incidents where the airbag deploys properly. The tough fabric of an airbag also commonly causes friction burns on a driver or passenger’s limbs and head.

Facial Fractures

The face has quite a few protruding pieces of bone. The cheeks, brow, jaw, and nose are all susceptible to serious damage in the event of a car accident. Nosebleeds, pain, bruising, difficulty working the jaw, difficulty breathing through the nose, and swelling can be expected depending on the severity of a facial fracture. In some cases, a bad car accident can result in permanent facial disfigurement as well.

Skull Fractures

When trauma to the head is harsh enough that the skull breaks, it’s known as an open head injury. There are several kinds of skull fractures that are possible in a car accident. Here are a few of them:

  • Linear fracture – the skull is fractured in a line but the bone is not displaced.
  • Stellate fracture – multiple linear fractures spread out from the point of impact 
  • Depressed fracture – a piece of the skull is broken off and pressed into the cranial cavity. This often requires surgery. 
  • Basilar fracture – An injury at the base of the skull

Eye Injury

Damage to the eyes in a car accident, whether due to debris physically getting into the eye or blunt trauma to the face, can be life-changing. Some common eye injuries resulting from a car accident include:

  • Hyphema — Blood in the eye, which can lead to vision loss without treatment
  • Orbital bone fractures — Fractures on the eye socket
  • Retinal Detachment — The retina is torn away from the blood vessels that feed it oxygen and can lead to permanent vision problems
  • Optic Neuropathy — Damage to the nerve cells in the eye can lead to life-long pain and degeneration of vision

Traumatic Brain Injuries After a Car Accident

Injuries to the head are often misleading because of a lack of obvious external symptoms. It’s quite easy for the soft tissue of the brain to brain to suffer significant damage without ever showing as much as a bruise on the skin. Unfortunately, some of these internal injuries can exacerbate over time if not dealt with quickly, so it’s imperative that you see a doctor and report any symptoms after an accident.

Symptoms of an Internal Head Injury

Be sure to see a doctor if you experience any of the following mild symptoms:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Mild confusion
  • Nausea
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Temporary tinnitus or ringing in the ears
  • Memory loss
  • Sensory issues like a loss of taste or smell
  • Unusual mood changes

In the case of any of the following serious symptoms, see a doctor immediately:

  • Loss of consciousness at the scene of the accident or any time after
  • Persistent vomiting or nausea
  • Severe disorientation
  • Seizures
  • Severe or worsening headache
  • Inability to focus vision
  • Unusual eye movements
  • Clear fluid leaking from the ears, nose, or eyes
  • Loss of bodily control

Brain Swelling

When a head impact or sudden violent force causes trauma to the brain, the body may have a natural swelling response. Brain swelling, also known as cerebral edema, is a serious medical condition that can require emergency surgery to address. If the swelling worsens to the point that the brain compresses against the skull, the patient can incur serious side effects or even sudden death. Worse, these injuries can be difficult to detect. There may not be an obvious impact point, yet the trauma of the accident is enough to trigger swelling. Symptoms are similar to that of other TBI symptoms listed above, and the patient may also develop a fever, loss of senses, dizziness, and fatigue.


A concussion is when the brain is jostled inside the skull hard enough to bump up against the inside of the skull. These are some of the most common types of brain injuries, but there are dramatic differences between a mild concussion and a severe one.

  • Grade I – Victim remains conscious or amnesia is absent or present for less than 30 minutes.
  • Grade II – Victim is unconscious for no more than five minutes or amnesia exists only between 30 minutes and 24 hours
  • Grade III – Victim is unconscious for more than five minutes or amnesia lasts 24 hours or longer

Get Help With Your Head Injury Case From a Florida Head Injury Attorney

Whether you’re dealing with a concussion, broken facial bones, skull fractures, or ongoing complications due to your head injury, we can help you seek the maximum possible for your damages. The legal team at Hoskins, Turco, Lloyd & Lloyd have dealt with cases just like yours and are ready to help you. Give us a call at (866) 460-1990 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation today.

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