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Head Injuries from Car Accidents

Head injuries, also referred to as brain injuries or traumatic brain injuries (TBI), are a type of injury that can affect the brain, skull, tissues, scalp and blood vessels in the head. Some milder head injuries, such as bumps or bruises, can be treated conservatively. However, more severe head injuries, like a fractured skull, concussion or a deep, open wound, require extensive treatment, including the possibility of surgical intervention, and can be life-threatening and/or life altering.

Car accidents are one of the most common ways that an individual can sustain a head injury. The amount of violent force involved in a car crash can have potentially catastrophic consequences for accident victims that could drastically affect their quality of life and may even be fatal. It is important that car accident victims seek medical attention if they believe they are injured immediately after or in the weeks following their accident. Also, accident victims should gather all information related to the accident should they later decide to seek legal compensation for discovered injuries or losses.

Common Head Injuries Caused by Car Accidents

When an auto accident occurs, the force can cause passengers to hit their heads on parts of the vehicle like the steering wheel, dashboard, and car doors. That same force can also cause someone’s head to violently whip back and forth, causing a head injury, even without direct contact.  They can also be struck by loose objects that might fly around the vehicle upon impact. The severity of a head injury will depend on the degree of damage done to the brain as well as the injury’s location in the brain.

A variety of head injuries can result and will manifest through different symptoms. Common head injuries sustained in car accidents include, but are not limited to, the following:


Concussions are generally mild head injuries that are caused by a blow to the head or a hit to the body that forces the head to suddenly move back and forth. The sudden movement can cause the brain to bounce around the inside of the skull and result in chemical changes in the brain or damage to brain cells. Keep in mind that concussions are only described as “mild” because they are typically not life-threatening, but they can be a very serious injury.

Symptoms of a concussion may not appear immediately. It is possible for symptoms to take hours or even days to develop after the initial injury. Symptoms of a concussion include dizziness, trouble balancing, sensitivity to light or noise, fatigue, headaches, nausea, irritability, and vision problems.


contusion is a bruise, or collection of blood, in the brain that is caused by an impact to the head. This type of injury occurs when capillaries or blood vessels are damaged and blood leaks in the surrounding area. In a car accident, this can result from the driver or a passenger hitting their head on a fixed object like a window or a loose object, like a cell phone. Contusions range in severity depending on the force of the impact. Symptoms will depend on the location of the injury and the size of the bleed. If the bleeding does not stop on its own, surgery may be necessary.

Diffuse Axonal Injury (DAI)

Diffuse axonal injuries occur when the brain quickly moves back and forth inside the skull, causing damage to nerve cells in the brain. Extensive damage to nerve cells prevents information from being transmitted throughout the brain. The effects of this type of injury can be very severe and it is not uncommon for victims to end up in comas.

The most common symptom of a DAI is loss of consciousness, which usually lasts six hours or longer. If the injury victim remains conscious, other symptoms include confusion, headache, nausea, fatigue, and dizziness. This type of head injury is more common in high-speed car accidents because of the extreme forces that are exerted on the body.

Coup-Contrecoup Injury

coup-contrecoup head injury affects two sites of the brain—the initial site of impact and the opposite side of the brain. This injury usually results from a direct blow to the head and is often seen in auto accidents. Internal tissue and blood vessels are damaged at the site of impact, which is called a coup lesion. The brain then bounces backwards, hitting the opposite side of the skull and causing another bruise called a contrecoup lesion. The back-and-forth movement of the brain inside of the skull can cause damage such as internal bleeding, bruising, and swelling of the brain.

The auto accident attorneys at Block O’Toole & Murphy understand the life-altering effects a head injury can have on accident victims and their loved ones. Their results for clients who have suffered head injuries from car accidents include a $32 million record-breaking verdict for a veteran who suffered brain damage when he was struck by a driver impaired by drugs. To speak with one of our skilled attorneys, call 212-736-5300.

Treatment of Head Injuries

When head injury victims are first examined, the severity of their injury will likely be judged using the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS). Using a points system, this scale evaluates the injury based on eye opening response, verbal response, and motor response. The medical examiner will mark higher points for more alert responses and lower points for poorer responses. The overall score is tallied at the end with lower scores indicating a more severe head injury. Generally, head injuries will be classified as follows:

  • Severe: Score of 8 or less
  • Moderate: Score of 9 to 12
  • Mild: Score of 13 or higher

Diagnostic tests, such as computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests, and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) tests will likely be done to gain more information about the injury and form a diagnosis and treatment plan.

The goals of treatment for head injuries are to resuscitate the patient, minimize further damage, and aid in their transition to recovery. Serious head injuries may require intensive care or even surgery to save the patient’s life. Most patients suffering from moderate to severe head injuries will eventually require rehabilitation to relearn skills for recovery.

Of the many injuries that can be sustained in a car accident, head injuries are among the most devastating. Thankfully, most accident victims who suffer a head injury will experience a mild injury that does not require hospital care. The effects of moderate to severe head injuries, however, can completely alter an individual’s life as well as the lives of their loved ones, who may be forced to permanently take on a caretaking role.

Those that suffer serious injuries due to the negligent behavior of others may be able to obtain legal compensation for their losses. If an accident victim or their loved ones decide to pursue legal action, it may be in their best interest to consult an experienced car accident attorney who can guide them through the legal process.

How to Prove Your Head Injuries Were Caused by Your Accident

To explain the cause of a head injury, it is important to have the most qualified experts educate the jury on the mechanism of the injury. At trial, head injuries can be one of the most challenging types of injuries for a jury to comprehend and accept.

While head injuries that include skull fractures and brain bleeds that require craniotomy or other surgical procedures are more readily accepted by a jury, many times a person can suffer a permanent brain injury without any outward signs of trauma. These types of cases are more difficult to prove.

In these instances, where there are no outward signs of trauma and where diagnostic studies do not reveal any structural damage to the brain, credible evidence must be presented to establish the brain injury.

In order to prove a traumatic brain injury or post- concussion syndrome injury, your lawyer must understand the mechanism of the injury (meaning how the injury occurs), the medical signs and symptoms of a head injury, and the affect such an injury can have on a person’s life.

Experts in neurology or neuropsychology are the type of experts necessary to provide such complex medical testimony. In addition, to afford the jury an opportunity to understand the complex medical issues that are present in these types of cases, visual aides are essential to complement the testimony of the witnesses. Medical art detailing the brain’s anatomical structures and schematic diagrams showing the mechanism of the injury, specifically a shearing injury, will better allow the jury to understand the injury. It is also important to demonstrate the actual injury by way of a visual presentation through demonstrative evidence.

The ability to prove the symptoms and consequence of a traumatic brain injury will also require expert testimony from a neurologist or neuropsychologist. They will be able to explain how such an injury presents in a person by way of symptoms, which may be pronounced or subtle. Such symptoms may include headaches, dizziness, visual disturbances, ringing in the ears, memory loss, sleep disturbances, emotional disturbances, sensitivity to light, difficulty word finding and cognitive deficits.

In conjunction with such expert testimony, the Plaintiff must be to explain the symptoms that exist as well as the frequency, severity, and duration of those symptoms. It is also imperative that they explain how these symptoms affect their life, including activities of daily living, relationships with family and friends and employment. However, additional testimony should be provided to corroborate their testimony. Medical records, testimony from friends or family members detailing their observations and evidence from employers regarding changes in job attendance or performance are useful tools to corroborate the expert testimony and testimony of the Plaintiff. Through the presentation of evidence from multiple sources — including expert, layperson, and documentary evidence — there is a stronger likelihood that you will be able to successfully establish the permanent brain injury to a jury.

Seeking Legal Assistance for a Head Injury

Accident victims who have suffered severe head injuries will require extensive treatment. Moderate to severe head injury victims should receive care in a hospital where they can be constantly monitored by medical professionals. The costs for medical treatment and care will quickly add up. For this reason, head injury victims may seek legal assistance to obtain financial compensation through a personal injury claim for the losses they have incurred because of their injury.

Each case’s value varies depending on factors such as liability, loss of income, and cost of care. For a personal injury case to succeed, your attorney will need to be able to prove that another party acted negligently and that their negligent actions directly caused your injuries. Cases in which the accident victim suffered a head injury can be more complex due to the ways in which TBIs (traumatic brain injuries) may affect cognitive function. It is best to consult a lawyer who has extensive experience working on head injury cases and understands the process.

Speak with a Head Injury Attorney Today

The lawyers at Block O’Toole & Murphy are dedicated to obtaining justice for those who have suffered losses because of the negligent behavior of others. Our legal team will work tirelessly to evaluate your case and determine the best path forward to receive fair compensation to cover current and future expenses related to your injury.

Results* for clients who have suffered head injuries in car accidents include:

  • $32,756,156 record-breaking verdict for a 60-year-old army veteran who sustained extensive brain damage and fell into a coma when he was struck by an impaired driver
  • $13,500,000 record-breaking settlement for a 24-year-old pedestrian who suffered a TBI when she was struck by a car in Suffolk County, NY
  • $8,800,000 settlement for a woman who suffered a head injury when she was struck by a van that jumped the sidewalk while walking to pick her grandchildren up from school
  • $7,525,000 settlement in a New York case for a family involved in a car accident in which a mother and her son died and two other children suffered serious injuries, including head injuries
  • $2,558,000 settlement in a wrongful death case in which the passenger of a car involved in an accident suffered fatal head injuries
  • $1,800,000 settlement for an NYPD Sergeant who suffered a diffuse axonal injury when her vehicle was struck by a truck
  • $1,500,000 settlement for a pedestrian who sustained a TBI when she was struck by a van while crossing a road in the Bronx

To discuss your case with one of our attorneys today, please call 212-736-5300 or fill out our contact form online. We serve all of New York and New Jersey.

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*Prior results for not guarantee a similar outcome.

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