Whiplash Brain Injuries: What You Need to Know
Whiplash is one of the most common car accident injuries, and it doesn’t just lead to ongoing pain but causes major medical expenses and even loss of earnings. One study estimated the annual cost of whiplash in the United States at $42 billion.
Whiplash is an injury to the neck, but its effects are not limited to that area. Whiplash brain injury can impact people’s lives and cause symptoms you may not expect.
Defining Whiplash Brain Injury
To start, let’s clarify the meaning of whiplash.
A whiplash injury occurs when the neck moves back and forth rapidly. It gets its name from a whip being cracked.
Just imagine that movement happening to your neck! It’s no wonder that people suffer greatly in the aftermath of whiplash injuries.
Getting rear-ended is a common cause of whiplash injuries. But the movement and impact are not limited to the neck and back; the brain can also move considerably during the collision.
Just as the neck moves back and forth, so does the brain, which can bounce like a rubber ball back and forth, slamming into the skull repeatedly. This is known as a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
The sudden movement can even cause damage to your brain at the cellular level. Brain cells can get stretched and damaged in other ways. Chemical changes can also occur in the brain.
The most common whiplash brain injury this causes is a concussion.
Whiplash Concussion – Mild Traumatic Brain Injury
A concussion after a car accident is usually considered mild traumatic brain injury (TBI). Having a checkup from your physician soon after the accident is essential. They’ll be looking for signs of a concussion and other physical symptoms such as neck pain that may need treatment with physical therapy.
Your doctor may also check you for signs of any neurological or cognitive issues. They’ll test your memory, concentration, and problem-solving skills.
Most people recover from a mild concussion with rest and painkillers.
Moderate or Severe Traumatic Brain Injury
The signs of a moderate TBI include:
- Loss of consciousness that lasts for more than 20 minutes and less than 6 hours
- Sleepy but can be roused
If you have a severe TBI, you will be rendered unconscious. This will last more than 6 hours, and it won’t be possible to rouse you from it.
The initial force of the impact can cause you to feel dazed and confused. But as the brain slams against the skull, it can tear, bruise, and bleed. This causes the body to send in the cavalry, which leads to swelling – not good in a confined space.
Swelling reduces blood flow to the brain. This secondary injury can cause more damage in the long run than the initial impact.
It’s important to monitor yourself for signs of a secondary injury. The symptoms can take up to 5 days to appear.
TBI in Children
A traumatic brain injury caused by whiplash can greatly impact children’s lives and disrupt how their brains function because their brains are still developing. While most children recover well, in some cases, they may need lifelong support.
If your child has suffered a TBI due to another person’s actions or negligence, you can get help. A brain injury lawyer is best placed to help you to get the compensation you need to care for your child’s long-term needs.
Whiplash Associated Disorder (WAD)
Whiplash is the motion that causes the injury. The umbrella term for the resulting injuries is whiplash-associated disorder (WAD).
This is classified using five grades:
- Grade 0 – No complaints or physical signs
- Grade I – Neck pain but no physical signs
- Grade II – Neck pain and musculoskeletal signs, such as range of motion problems
- Grade III – Neck pain and neurological signs
- Grade IV – Neck pain and either fracture or dislocation
WAD and Brain Injuries
Grade III and up can take over a year to heal or may lead to chronic pain or disability. The long-term symptoms of WAD can include:
- Pain in the neck and back
- Tingling and numbness in the hands and fingers
There are varying medical opinions on the long-term impact of mild TBI on how the brain functions. It may be that long-term pain and fatigue can cause cognitive (processing) problems in some people.
However, the Handbook of Clinical Neurology noted that neurocognitive deficits could persist for years in 15% of patients. It also points out that mild traumatic brain injuries are not static events but progressive injuries, and they can lead to an increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases.
Will I Need a Brain Scan?
In most cases of whiplash, a brain scan is not needed. That’s because a concussion will not show up on a brain scan. So scans are only used when they are deemed to be medically necessary.
This could be because your doctor suspects you have a fractured skull or another severe brain injury. They may suspect you have a fractured skull if you have:
- Severe vision issues
- Speaking difficulties
- Severe headaches
- Tenderness in certain parts of the skull
Your doctor will usually order a CT scan in the first instance. If your symptoms persist, they may use an MRI to get an even clearer picture of what’s happening.
Are You Suffering from a Whiplash Brain Injury?
It’s not easy to diagnose a car accident brain injury. But if you notice that you are developing symptoms in the months after a car accident, they could be connected, and they may not show up all at once.
You may have trouble concentrating at work when watching TV or reading. You could find that it takes a long time to process what other people say and respond to them. It can also lead to difficulty undertaking mental tasks that you could easily do.
Do your family tell you that you don’t always make sense? Some people who’ve suffered whiplash report that they can’t communicate as clearly as they could.
If you notice any of these symptoms, get yourself checked out. Even if a doctor examined you at the time and diagnosed a mild concussion, it’s still important to schedule a doctor’s appointment. They may send you for further testing or refer you to a specialist.
Don’t delay in getting medical help. If you get new symptoms 24 hours after a car accident or even weeks after, head to the doctor to get checked out.
How a Brain Injury Lawyer Can Help
The thought of a car accident lawsuit can be overwhelming when you’re struggling with a brain injury. But specialist lawyers can help, and they understand these types of damages and the impact that they can have on people’s lives.
They’ll begin by talking to you about the accident and your symptoms. Be sure to bring all the medical documentation you have with you to the appointment. Tell them about how your life has changed since the accident and any impact it’s had on your work or family life.
Help Obtaining Financial Assistance
Having a brain injury is expensive. There are costly medical bills to pay, which can impact your ability to do your job. You’ll need financial support, and that’s what your Houston whiplash brain injury lawyer is there to help you obtain.
A medical evaluation is a vital part of the puzzle. An expert will evaluate your ability to:
- Live independently
- Assess your medical care needs
These cases can be complex, so choose your attorney wisely. You need to pick one that understands your injury’s short-term and long-term implications. They’ll be able to fight to get you the compensation you need to live the best life you can with your new circumstances.
Your brain injury lawyer’s job is to prove that a third party’s act or negligence led to your injury. If you were injured by a driver who has drunk, distracted, or reckless, they’d build up a case.
They can also pursue the line of product liability. If a manufacturer’s fault with your vehicle led to your accident, they might be able to build a case this way instead.
Time to Get Help for Your Whiplash Brain Injury
Mild whiplash injuries usually clear up in a few months. But if you’ve had a whiplash brain injury, it’s possible you could feel the effects for years to come.
At Morgan Legal Group PLLC, we specialize in advocacy for the injured. Our brain injury lawyers have years of experience helping clients like you get the compensation they deserve.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.