Car accidents are a serious problem throughout the United States. The federal government estimates that motor vehicle crashes took nearly 43,000 lives in 2022. Injuries from traffic accidents can be severe and life-altering. Many people involved in auto accidents suffer traumatic brain Injuries (TBIs), which can lead to lifelong complications for people. If you or a loved one has suffered a TBI in a car accident, you might have a legal right to compensation from the at-fault driver. TBIs can present complicated medical and legal questions, so you need an experienced traumatic brain injury lawyer on your side to advocate for your rights. The Cochran Firm’s team of personal injury litigators has years of experience helping people with TBIs and their loved ones recover the compensation owed to them.

Understanding Traumatic Brain Injuries from Car Accidents

Auto accidents can cause devastating injuries, with TBIs being some of the worst. In order to assert a claim for damages after a car crash, it is crucial to understand what causes TBIs and how they can affect a person.

Causes of Brain Injuries in Car Accidents

The term “TBI” usually refers to injuries involving direct trauma to the head. TBIs can also result from trauma to other parts of the body. They might not be immediately apparent after an accident. Some TBIs do not begin to show symptoms for days or weeks afterward.

Impact Injuries

Many TBIs result from blunt-force impact during a car crash. They may also occur when the head abruptly stops moving after traveling at a high rate of speed. In either case, the brain impacts the inside of the skull. These are known as “closed head injuries” since the injury occurs inside the skull.

Penetration Injuries

Injuries to the brain may also occur when a foreign object pierces the skull and penetrates the brain. This is known as an “open head injury.” 

Secondary Injuries

TBIs involving direct contact with the skull or brain are called “primary” injuries. Secondary injuries occur when damage to another part of the body causes injury to the brain, often after the accident has occurred. For example, injuries that result in low blood pressure may prevent the brain from receiving enough oxygen.

Common Types of Traumatic Brain Injuries in Car Accidents

The following are some of the most common types of TBIs that result from motor vehicle accidents:


A concussion is a brain injury caused by a blow to the head or a jolt to the body. The blow itself can cause the concussion, or the concussion could result from the brain hitting the inside of the skull. They can also cause significant pain and discomfort. If left untreated, they can cause even greater damage. 


A contusion is a bruise on the brain itself resulting from a direct blow to the head or a violent jolt. If the size of the contusion is large enough, it can lead to life-threatening complications like internal bleeding or blood clots in the brain.


This type of injury is a sort of “one-two punch” to the brain:

  • A blow to the head causes injury to one side of the brain, and the other side suffers injury from hitting the inside of the skull.
  • A jolt to the body causes the brain to bounce off one side of the skull and hit the other side.

These injuries could be concussions or contusions, depending on the force of the blow or jolt.

Diffuse Axonal

A diffuse axonal injury (DAI) can result from a violent forward, backward, or rotational force affecting the head or body. This force causes the brain to move in a way that tears tiny nerve connections in the brain known as axons. Without these connections, the brain might not be able to perform some of its functions. This can result in temporary or permanent brain damage, or even coma or death.


A hematoma is a blood clot on or around the brain. Several types of hematomas are possible due to a TBI:

  • Epidural hematoma: A blood clot between the dura mater, the outermost membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord, and the inner surface of the skull
  • Subdural hematoma: A blood clot between the brain and the dura mater
  • Intracerebral hematoma: A blood clot in the brain itself

Any of these types of hematomas can be severe. They may require surgery in order to remove the clot and prevent future complications.


A brain hemorrhage involves bleeding in or around the brain. Much like hematomas, they can cause severe complications without medical intervention. Types of hemorrhages include the following:

  • Epidural hemorrhage: Bleeding between the skull and the dura mater
  • Subdural hemorrhage: Bleeding between the dura mater and an inner layer known as the arachnoid membrane
  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage: Bleeding outside of the brain, but within the arachnoid membrane
  • Intraparenchymal hemorrhage: Bleeding inside the actual brain

Skull Fracture

A sufficiently forceful blow to the head can fracture the skull. This type of injury usually involves other brain injuries, such as a concussion, contusion, or coup-contrecoup. Common symptoms of a skull fracture include bleeding, swelling, and bruising.

A skull fracture may also result from an object piercing the skull without actually entering the brain. This is a medical emergency, but hopefully not as serious as injuries involving penetration of the brain itself.


As the name suggests, this type of injury involves a foreign object penetrating the brain through the skull. TBIs involving penetration of the brain tend to be the easiest to identify and the most likely to have immediate symptoms. If a person is bleeding after a head injury, a penetration wound is likely. They can result from multiple features of a car crash:

  • Broken glass
  • Airbag deployment
  • Broken metal components of a vehicle
  • Objects inside the vehicle
  • Objects entering the vehicle from outside

TBIs involving penetration should be considered life-threatening. Even if a person survives the injury itself, they could face life-altering brain damage.

Acquired Brain Injury

Some TBIs do not result from direct trauma to the brain. Instead, they are secondary injuries caused by injuries to other parts of the body. They may include the following:

  • A lack of oxygen to the brain, known as anoxia, such as if a person stopped breathing and needed to be revived
  • Insufficient oxygen to the brain, or hypoxia, which may result from low blood pressure caused by excessive bleeding 
  • A hematoma that forms elsewhere in the body due to traumatic injuries and travels via blood vessels to the brain, possibly resulting in a stroke

Signs and Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injuries

Not all TBIs are immediately apparent after an accident. A person might think they only received a light blow to the head, and that they just need some aspirin and a good night’s sleep. In reality, a more severe injury could be forming that will not become fully evident for some time. Medical attention is important in order to avoid missing TBIs that do not appear as bad as they are. Common symptoms of TBIs include the following:


Headaches are a common result of almost any kind of blow to the head. They can also indicate more severe TBIs like contusions, hemorrhages, or hematomas.


Loss of balance and disorientation are also common after many head injuries. If feelings of dizziness do not go away after a few hours, it could be a sign of something more serious.

Nausea or Vomiting

Nausea, sometimes accompanied by vomiting, is also a common symptom of head injuries. As with many other symptoms, if it does not pass after a few hours, or if a person experiences severe vomiting, they may have a worse TBI than they realize.

Vision Problems

Blurred vision or sensitivity to light can be signs of a serious TBI. This is especially true in people who, before the car accident, did not have these concerns.

Different Pupil Sizes

The pupil is the black circle at the center of the eye. Both pupils should be the same size. If one pupil is larger than the other after a car accident, this could be a sign of a dangerous blood clot in or around the brain.

Loss of Energy

TBIs can cause a person to become sluggish, particularly if they lost consciousness when they sustained the injury. A prolonged loss of energy could be a sign of something serious.

Sleep Disruptions

TBIs can disrupt sleep patterns in many ways. They can make people want to sleep far more often than usual. They can also prevent people from falling asleep at all.

Lack of Concentration

Loss of focus and inability to concentrate on tasks are fairly common symptoms of many TBIs. This could simply be due to disorientation shortly after the injury. If the problem continues, it could indicate more serious injuries.

Memory Problems

Brain injuries can interfere with memory. It rarely involves the long-term memory loss seen in Hollywood portrayals of amnesia. A TBI victim is unlikely to forget long-term memories, but they might have difficulty accessing those memories when needed. They might recognize a family member they haven’t seen in a while but struggle to remember their name or how they know them.

TBIs are much more likely to disrupt short-term memory, which involves memories from the previous day or two. They might have difficulty remembering to do daily tasks, or they might start misplacing items much more often. These symptoms may improve with time, depending in part on the severity of their injuries.

Mood Changes

People who have suffered TBIs can experience mood swings, often resulting in irritability or anger. Some people may have difficulty regulating their emotions, while others may find it hard to express any sort of emotion.

Loss of Consciousness

A person might lose consciousness upon suffering a TBI. This can be a sign of a serious injury, whether it occurs immediately after the injury or days or weeks later.


Seizures and convulsions after a TBI could be a sign of significant injury and the possibility of further complications. They should seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Additional Signs of TBI in Children

Children and infants may demonstrate TBIs through their behavior in ways that adults do not. They may be inconsolable, with nearly nonstop crying. They may also refuse to eat or nurse.

Importance of Seeking Immediate Medical Attention

Medical attention is critically important after a car accident. Even if you do not think you suffered any sort of injury to your head or brain, many TBIs do not show any symptoms right away. They are, however, already damaging your brain. The sooner you can see a doctor to diagnose a TBI, the better chance you have of avoiding larger complications.

You will also need medical records in order to recover damages from the at-fault party. Medical records provide evidence of the injuries that you sustained because of the car accident.

Pursuing a Legal Claim for Traumatic Brain Injuries

You have two main options for recovering damages from the at-fault driver. Some states require you to seek compensation from the driver’s insurance provider before taking any other action. If that does not work, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the driver.

Making an Insurance Claim

Settling with an insurance company is a less formal process than a lawsuit. It is typically less expensive as a result. Drivers in all states must carry auto insurance with a minimum amount of liability coverage. Insurance companies may offer a fair settlement in order to avoid the risk and expense of going to court.

Filing a Lawsuit

If you and your attorney are unable to negotiate a settlement with the insurance company, you may have to file a lawsuit in order to recover damages. The procedures and requirements for filing a lawsuit vary from state to state. Most lawsuits settle before they ever see the inside of a courtroom, so the odds of a brain injury lawsuit going to trial are usually slim. The process can take anywhere from a few months to several years.

Types of Damages

You may be able to collect several types of damages to compensate you for your losses.

Economic Damages

Economic damages, also known as actual damages, cover the costs that have come — or will come — directly out of your pocket. These may include:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Future medical bills
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Costs of rehabilitation or physical therapy
  • Costs of modifying your home to accommodate you or your loved one’s injuries
  • Funeral expenses, in cases involving wrongful death

Noneconomic Damages

A brain injury can affect you, your family, and others in ways that you cannot express as out-of-pocket expenses. Noneconomic damages provide compensation for the ways a brain injury has damaged your quality of life and diminished your ability to enjoy life in the future, including the following:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional anguish
  • Disfigurement
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of consortium, which is a claim that a partner of an injured person may make to compensate them for the loss of the injured person’s care, support, and intimacy

Punitive Damages

Some states allow plaintiffs to claim additional damages that, rather than compensate them for their losses, are intended to penalize the defendant for their wrongful acts. Most state laws that allow punitive damages require evidence that a defendant intentionally caused the plaintiff’s injuries or recklessly disregarded the plaintiff’s safety.

Why You Need a Specialized Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyer

Personal injury cases involving TBIs can be quite difficult. They may involve complex legal and medical issues. An experienced traumatic brain injury lawyer can help you understand the process and advocate for you at every step. The following are a few reasons why hiring a skilled and knowledgeable attorney is essential:

Insurance Companies Will Try to Avoid Paying You What You Deserve

Insurance companies are quite skilled at finding ways to pay you the minimum amount they are required to pay under the terms of their policies. They may, for example, try to trick you into admitting that you were at least partly at fault in the accident. Depending on the laws in your state, that could reduce the amount of damages owed to you or wipe out your damages altogether. Personal injury lawyers know all of the insurance industry’s tricks. They know how to avoid their traps and present your case in the best way possible.

Filing a Traumatic Brain Injury Claim Is Subject to a Time Limit

You have a limited amount of time after the accident to file a lawsuit. The time limit is as short as two years in some states. If you are going to file an insurance claim, you need to do that long before the deadline expires. Personal injury attorneys have experience preparing and presenting claims within the time limits.

Court Rules and Procedures Can Be Overwhelming

Brain injury lawsuits are subject to state laws, county ordinances, and local court rules. These laws and rules cover everything from how you may assert a claim to damages to how you must dress and behave in court. A lawyer can guide you through this process.

Still Have Questions? Contact the Cochran Law Firm Today!

The Cochran Firm, founded more than fifty years ago by the renowned attorney Johnnie Cochran, is one of the country’s top personal injury litigation firms. The experienced litigators at the Cochran Firm have helped countless clients recover damages to compensate them for their injuries. The firm handles all personal injury cases on a contingent fee basis. This means that, until the firm recovers money for you, you do not owe them anything.

Our call center staff is available 24/7 to assist you. Contact us today to speak with a Cochran Firm attorney or intake specialist and schedule a free, no-obligation consultation:

Our team will discuss your legal matter with the confidentiality, understanding, and respect you deserve.