What is a Concussion Injury from A Car Accident Worth?
A car accident can cause a number of injuries. However, two of the most common injuries that clients from Scottsdale Injury Lawyers complain of are concussions and whiplash. Scottsdale Injury Lawyers recently agreed to represent a client who was rear-ended in a Scottsdale car accident and sustained a concussion injury. The client wanted to know what a concussion injury and his personal injury case were worth. The answer is—it depends.
How a Car Accident Can Cause a Concussion aka Mild Traumatic Brain Injury
A concussion is a form of brain injury. It occurs when an impact causes the brain to be shaken or jolted. It can be caused by being struck in the head or experiencing a sudden acceleration and deceleration. In the car accident context, it is a common injury as the forces in a car accident can be great. These forces cause the head to rapidly move backward and forwards or side to side. These powerful movements can cause the brain to move from its normal positioning.
In addition, in a car accident, the head can strike one of many structures which can cause a blow to the head that results in a concussion. For example, in a rear-end car accident the head typically snaps backward and then forward. In the backward movement, the skull is often impacted by the seat or headrest which can result in a concussion.
In a head-on collision, a person is propelled forward. Typically, the lap restraint on a seat belt is tightly fitting reducing the movement of the lower body in a crash. However, the shoulder restraint component of the seatbelt has much more give. This is so passengers and drivers can comfortably move in the vehicle. During a car accident, the shoulder restraint tightens and restricts movement, but this is not before a passenger or driver is thrust forward significantly.
When this happens, the head of a driver or passenger can make contact with the interior parts of the vehicle. Depending on the severity of the crash, this may include the front windshield, steering wheel, head liner, side window, and side door. This also includes the front-impact and side-impact airbags. Airbags must inflate in a fraction of a second to be effective. As such, they create a tremendous amount of force. When the head impacts the interior components of a vehicle or an airbag during a car accident, a concussion often results. The below video shows crash simulations on test dummies. The video shows how much a person’s head and body may move when impacted in a crash.
Of course, if a person is not restrained by a seatbelt, his or her movement is even greater. That person is much more susceptible to serious injuries. This includes brain injuries and concussions.
The Medical Science of a Concussion aka Mild Traumatic Brain Injury
In the medical context, a concussion is a form of brain injury. It is commonly referred to as a mild traumatic brain injury. In fact, concussions make up the majority of brain injuries. Most individuals will eventually return to normal functioning when they recover from a concussion. However, whether a concussion leaves a person permanently compromised is the subject of vigorous debate. The long-term effects of a single concussion are still unknown as there are no medical studies that have adequately evaluated this. As such, no one currently knows how one serious concussion, caused by a car accident, will affect someone 20, 30 or even 40 years later.
However, there is sufficient documentation on what repeated concussions can do to the brain. This is especially true when those concussions are successive and shortly spaced apart. This area of medical science continues to evolve and has really expanded in the past 10-15 years. This is primarily due to media attention placed on studies in this area related to football players. Specifically, studies of the brains of deceased football players from the National Football League.
These studies showed that repeated concussions can cause chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE. This is a degenerative and progressive brain disease caused by trauma. A definitive diagnosis of CTE can only be made after death by examining the brain during an autopsy.
One recent study did exactly that. Doctors and scientists from Boston University and Stanford examined the brains of 202 former football players after they died. This included football players who competed in high-school, college, semi-pro and professionally. The results of the study were published in NIH National Library of Medicine. The study concluded that CTE was diagnosed in 177 of the 202 players. In other words, 87% of the brains examined showed CTE. It found CTE in 99% of the brains of professional football players who competed in the NFL and that were examined in the study.
What one major concussion caused by a car accident can do to a person’s brain is still unknown. Insurance companies still attempt to treat concussions as insignificant. They treat these injuries no different than an ankle sprain or muscle strain. Conveniently, the insurance companies take the position that concussions are not permanent and have no serious long-term or life-altering effects. Simply put, the insurance companies believe that anyone who sustains a concussion in a car accident will fully recover in a short period of time.
When the insurance companies encounter a car accident victim who does not fit into this model, they become skeptical and critical of the car accident claim. Since, the reporting of concussion symptoms are almost entirely subjective, this allows insurance companies to scrutinize concussions claims and any residual symptoms reported. It is not uncommon for insurance companies to discount concussion injuries and any reported symptoms that last longer than 30-60 days. The only exception to this general rule is if the concussion or brain injury is accompanied by an indisputable finding such as a brain bleed or other objective sign of brain trauma.
However, the reality is that no one really knows the answer to what permanent effects one single concussion from a car accident may cause. Our Scottsdale car accident attorneys believe a concussion should not be discounted. A person who experiences one serious concussion may be susceptible to cognitive problems at an earlier age. Scientific studies show that individuals who have suffered concussions have abnormal brain wave activity for several years and degeneration of the motor pathways. Tests also show that individuals who were concussed experience a thinning of the cortex and are more likely to exhibit symptoms similar to those experienced by persons in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease. Two recent studies show that even mild traumatic brain injuries double the risk of dementia, and increase the risk of Parkinson’s by 50%.
By teaching the other side, how debilitating and compromising a concussion injury may be, we are able to obtain higher settlements in car accident cases.
The car accident attorneys at Scottsdale Injury Lawyers are constantly studying the developing medical research on concussions and brain injuries. By doing so, it allows us to present information to the insurance companies and defense attorneys that help to increase the value of a client’s case. By teaching the other side, how debilitating and compromising a concussion injury may be, we are able to obtain higher settlements in car accident cases.
Concussion Symptoms that May Arise Following A Car Accident
Common symptoms of a concussion or brain injury following a car accident may include:
- post-traumatic headaches
- balance problems/dizziness
- double or blurry vision
- sensitivity to light and noise
- fatigue or drowsiness
- changes in sleep patterns
- trouble comprehending and/or concentrating
- depression and anxiety
- irritability, nervousness, or sadness
- feelings of being “just not right” or in a “fog”
Other danger signs of a concussion are:
- not knowing people or places
- unusual behavior
- reading and auditory comprehension problems
- spatial disorientation
- altered taste or smell
What Factors Affect What a Concussion is Worth in a Car Accident Case?
Keeping the above in mind, what a concussion or mild traumatic brain injury case is worth is not a simple answer. A car accident lawyer cannot tell you the exact amount. Each case must be analyzed independently. This is because each personal injury case is fact-dependent and depends on a multitude of factors. These factors include:
- The skill of the car accident lawyer
- The reputation of the car accident lawyer when taking cases to trial
- The insurance company defending the case
- The insurance adjuster handling the claim
- The severity of the impact
- The damage to the vehicle in the car accident
- Whether there was a loss of consciousness
- Whether there are objective findings of trauma on diagnostic tests (ie. brain bleed, bruising)
- The course of medical treatment
- The amount of medical expenses
- The amount of wage loss
- The background, education and career status of the injured individual
- The effects the injury has on the person’s everyday living activities
- The permanency of the injury
- The need for future medical care
- The inability for the injured person to perform tasks he or she used to do
- The inability for the injured person to participate in hobbies he or she used to enjoy
- Whether there are behavioral changes in the injured individual
- Whether there are witnesses who will testify as to the behavioral changes including how much the injured individual changed following the injury
- The credentials of the doctor or neurologist diagnosing the brain injury
- Whether neuropsychological testing support that the injured individual is compromised
- How the injured individual measured on the Glasgow Coma Scale
Concussion Statistics Related to Car Accidents
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), traumatic brain injury is a major cause of death and disability nationally. Visits to emergency rooms for traumatic brain injuries and concussions have been steadily increasing. According to the last data set examined by the CDC, there was a 24% increase, over an eight-year span, for emergency room visits for traumatic brain injuries and concussions that resulted from car accidents.
Also, according to CDC statistics, car accidents were the second leading cause of all traumatic brain injury related hospitalizations. Car accidents were also the leading cause of traumatic brain injury deaths for individuals between the ages of 15-34 and adults over the age of 75. In fact, monitoring concussions is of such importance that in December of 2018, The Traumatic Brain Injury Program Reauthorization Act of 2018 was signed into law. This bill required the CDC to implement a National Concussion Surveillance System to help accurately determine how many Americans sustain a concussion each year.
Scottsdale Car Accident Attorneys That Have Experience Handling Concussion and Other Injury Claims
If you or a loved one suffered a concussion, brain injury or other injury as a result of a car accident, contact one of our Scottsdale car accident lawyers today. Our car accident attorneys have the required experienced to obtain top compensation for you and your loved ones. Our car accident attorneys constantly review medical studies and literature in the field of brain injuries and concussions. This allows our attorneys to stay up to speed in the latest scientific developments and explain to the insurance companies the true value of a concussion or brain injury.
A consultation with one of our accident attorneys is free of charge. If we decide you have a case, we work on a contingent fee. This means we only get paid if we win your case. We advance all costs and if we are not successful in obtaining a recovery, you will owe nothing. Contact Scottsdale Injury Lawyers today for a free consultation.
About the author: The content on this page was written by Scottsdale personal injury attorney and civil rights lawyer Tony Piccuta. Piccuta graduated with honors from Indiana University-Maurer School of Law in Bloomington, Indiana (Ranked Top 35 US News & World Report 2018). Piccuta took and passed the State bars of Arizona, California, Illinois and Nevada (all on the first try). He actively practices throughout Arizona and California. He is a trial attorney that regularly handles serious personal injury cases and civil rights lawsuits. He has obtained six and seven figure verdicts in both state and federal court. He has been recognized by Super Lawyers for six years straight. He is a member of the Arizona Association of Justice, Maricopa County Bar Association, Scottsdale Bar Association, American Association for Justice, National Police Accountability Project and Consumer Attorneys of California, among other organizations.
Disclaimer: The information on this web site is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Reading and relying upon the content on this page does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, you should contact our law firm for a free consultation and to discuss your specific case and issues.