Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

The Signs, Diagnosis, and Treatment of a Car Accident Head Injury

The Signs Diagnosis and Treatment of a Car Accident Head Injury

In the most basic sense, a traumatic brain injury (TBI) refers to a sudden injury that damages the brain. TBIs can be close-headed — such as what occurs when you receive a bump or blow to the head — or penetrating, such as what occurs when an object penetrates the skull. Regardless of the type of TBI in question, traumatic brain injuries are anything but basic.

Every year, traumatic brain injuries contribute to a substantial number of permanent disability cases and deaths. In fact, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were more than 64,000 TBI-related deaths in 2020 alone. This amounts to approximately 176 TBI-related deaths each day. In 2019, the U.S. saw approximately 611 TBI-related hospitalizations per day, for a total of 223,135 that year, many of which are related to severe injuries after car accidents.

These figures do not include the TBIs that emergency room (ER) departments, urgent care centers or primary care doctors treated. They also do not include the many that go untreated each year.

Though not the leading cause of TBIs, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of TBI-related deaths. In fact, nearly a quarter of a million TBI-related ER visits stem from motor vehicle accidents of some sort each year.

The bottom line is, TBI can be a severe injury — especially when left untreated. For this reason, if you were involved in a motor vehicle accident, it is crucial that you familiarize yourself with the signs of traumatic brain injury and seek traumatic brain injury treatment right away.

At the very least, see an assessment from a car accident injury doctor to rule out a brain injury or to get on the path to recovery as soon after the accident as possible.

Signs of Traumatic Brain Injury After a Car Accident

Signs of Traumatic Brain Injury After a Car Accident

The symptoms of a TBI vary from person to person and depend largely on the severity of the injury in question. Medical professionals categorize head injuries in one of three ways: as mild, moderate, and severe.

Understandably, symptoms become progressively more alarming the more severe a car accident head injury is.

Symptoms of Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries

Symptoms of Moderate to Severe Traumatic Brain Injury

The symptoms of mild traumatic brain injury may be physical, sensory and/or cognitive in nature.

They may include but are not limited to the following:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue or drowsiness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Speech problems
  • Dizziness or loss of balance
  • Sensitivity to light or sounds
  • Sensory problems such as ringing of the ears, blurred vision and/or a bad taste in the mouth
  • Changes in smell
  • Loss of consciousness for anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes
  • Memory or concentration issues
  • Disorientation and confusion
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than usual
  • Feelings of anxiety or depression

If you notice any of these symptoms after a car wreck, seek a diagnosis and possibly traumatic brain injury treatment right away. Also, remember that concussion symptoms can be a sign of mild TBI.

Symptoms of Moderate to Severe Traumatic Brain Injury

The signs of a moderate to severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) may be more overt and worrisome the more severe the head injury is. Symptoms may develop within an hour of the car wreck or take days to manifest.

It is crucial that you and/or your loved ones keep an eye out for physical and cognitive symptoms after head trauma, such as the following:

  • Loss of consciousness for several minutes to hours
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Continuous nausea
  • Persistent headache or headache that grows worth with time
  • Seizures or convolutions
  • Clear fluids draining from the ears or nose
  • Dilated pupils in one or both eyes
  • Inability to awaken from sleep
  • Loss of coordination
  • Numbness or weakness in the fingers and/or toes
  • Slurred speech
  • Extreme confusion
  • Combativeness, aggression, agitation or other unusual behavior
  • Coma

If you or a loved one develop any of these symptoms of moderate to severe brain injury following a car crash, seek treatment from a qualified car accident head injury doctor right away.

Symptoms of a Traumatic Brain Injury in Children

Many symptoms of traumatic brain injury are internal. As a result, children who develop TBIs may not have the words or even the ability to communicate what they are feeling, such as headache, fatigue, sleep disturbances, weird taste in the mouth, etc.

If your child was an occupant in a vehicle involved in a collision, keep a close eye on him or her for days to weeks after the incident.

Some symptoms you can observe that should prompt a visit to the doctor are as follows:

  • Easy or out-of-character irritability
  • Changes in nursing or eating habits
  • Inability to be consoled
  • Persistent crying
  • Changes in sleeping habits
  • Seizures
  • Inability to pay attention
  • Extreme drowsiness and/or inability to wake up
  • Depression or sadness
  • Loss of interest in once-loved toys or activities

Ideally, you will have your child assessed for a TBI shortly after an auto collision, just in case. However, if you choose not to, pay close attention to him or her for any of the aforementioned symptoms or changes in behavior.

Diagnosing a Traumatic Brain Injury

Diagnosing a Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injuries are often medical emergencies. Unfortunately, too many victims are unaware they even have a TBI and/or fail to recognize them as the emergencies they are. However, without immediate treatment, a victim’s condition after brain injuries may rapidly worsen and the risk of consequences increases.

If you suspect that you or a loved one developed a TBI in a car crash, mention your concerns to the responding paramedics, the doctor in the emergency room and/or your primary care doctor. The attending healthcare professional may use one or all of three means to diagnose a TBI:

  • Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan: A CT scan is typically the first step hospitals use to diagnose TBIs in car crash victims. The emergency room will typically perform a scan — which entails a series of X-rays — to assess your skull for fractures and to look for evidence of blood clots, internal bleeding, brain tissue swelling and bruised brain tissue.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): An MRI is another type of imaging test. However, whereas CT scan involves the use of X-rays, MRIs utilize powerful magnets and radio waves to create a detailed view of the brain and the activity in individual brain cells. Typically, health professionals will conduct an MRI once a victim’s condition stabilizes and/or if symptoms do not improve following the incident.
  • Intracranial Pressure Monitor: With some car accident head injuries, the brain tissue swells to the point where it puts an enormous amount of pressure on the skull. This, in turn, causes brain damage. If imaging tests reveal swelling, a doctor may insert a probe through the skull to monitor pressure.

Doctors may use each of these tests to diagnose the presence of a brain injury. However, to determine the severity of a TBI, they will refer to the Glasgow Coma Scale.

The Glasgow Coma Scale

Sometimes paramedics or ER personnel will use the Glasgow Coma Scale to quickly assess for the presence of a TBI. However, many medical professionals use it after a confirmed TBI diagnosis to determine the severity of the injury.

The scale uses a 15-point test that assesses a person’s abilities to move their eyes and limbs and to follow directions. It also assesses injured persons’ coherence of speech. The goal of this test to determine the severity of a head injury.

The test giver will score the test taker’s abilities on a scale of three to 15. The higher a person’s score, the less severe his or her injury.

Traumatic Brain Injury Treatment

Traumatic Brain Injury Treatment

How brain injury doctors may choose to treat a TBI depends largely on the severity of the injury. For example, most doctors simply recommend rest and over-the-counter pain relievers for mild TBIs.

They may also encourage friends or family members to closely monitor injured persons for changes in or the worsening of symptoms. Beyond this, though, hospitalization and ongoing medical care are often unnecessary for mild TBIs.

Moderate to severe TBIs, on the other hand, often require immediate and extensive measures to prevent complications and preserve brain health. The sooner injured parties seek traumatic brain injury treatment after the triggering events, the better.

Immediate Emergency Room Care

TBI treatment for moderate to severe TBIs usually begins in the emergency room. When paramedics bring accident victims in for head injuries, ER personnel will typically focus on ensuring patients have enough oxygen and sufficient blood supplies.

They will also keep an eye on patients’ blood pressure levels and other vitals, and work to prevent any future injury to the neck or head. If certain factors, such as internal bleeding, brain tissue swelling or reduced oxygen supply threaten to further deteriorate brain health, ER personnel will also work to minimize secondary damage.


There are a few different medications doctors may use to minimize the risk of secondary damage to the brain. Some of the most commonly used medications to treat TBIs are as follows:

  • Coma-Inducing Drugs: Though it may seem counterproductive to do so, doctors may purposely induce a coma in brain injury patients to preserve oxygen. This is because the brain requires less oxygen to function when in a coma. Doctors will only go this route in extreme situations, such as when extreme pressure compresses the blood vessels and prohibits them from supplying the brain with oxygen and nutrients.
  • Anti-Seizure Drugs: Convulsions and seizures are common symptoms of moderate to severe TBIs. To minimize the risk that a patient might experience either in the weeks following the injury, a doctor may prescribe a course of anti-seizure medications.
  • Diuretics: If scans or images detect fluid buildup in the tissues surrounding the brain, a doctor may prescribe diuretics to increase urine output and flush out excess fluid.



In extreme situations, emergency surgery may be necessary to minimize damage and preserve brain health. “Extreme situations,” in terms of traumatic brain injuries, are those in which blood clots, skull fractures, bleeding in the brain and/or swollen tissue are present.


Rehabilitation is often necessary to help accident victims overcome the effects of severe TBIs. Severe TBIs can have significant consequences on a person’s brain functioning, abilities and overall quality of life.

To attempt to undo any damage, a doctor may recommend immediate and ongoing rehabilitation to help the victim relearn basic skills, develop coping strategies, manage emotional and behavioral changes, and, essentially, resume life as a functioning member of society.

Though the goals for rehabilitation vary from one brain injury patient to another, certain types of specialists are commonly involved in the process:

  • Neurologist
  • Physical therapist
  • Psychiatrist
  • Occupational therapist
  • Speech and language therapist
  • Rehabilitation nurse
  • Social worker
  • Neuropsychologist
  • Vocational counselor
  • Recreational therapist
  • TBI nurse specialist

These specialists often work together following an approved treatment plan to help victims resume life as close to normal as possible.

The Consequences of Failing To Seek Traumatic Brain Injury Treatment

The Consequences of Failing To Seek Traumatic Brain Injury Treatment

Without treatment, TBIs can worsen rapidly, leading to severe, life-changing and possibly fatal consequences. Though like the symptoms themselves, the consequences of a head injury vary from person to person, some complications are more common than others.

The severity of complications also depends on the severity of the initial injury. Though by no means an exhaustive list, below are a few complications that may arise without effective TBI treatment:

  • Infections
  • Fluid buildup
  • Seizures
  • Blood vessel damage
  • Paralysis
  • Cognitive decline
  • Diminished executive function
  • Behavioral and mood disorders
  • Sensory issues
  • Degenerative brain disorder
  • Coma
  • Minimally conscious state
  • Vegetative state
  • Brain death

Sadly, for many victims, these complications often lead to premature death. It’s critical for accident victims to seek medical care right away.

TBI Treatment Is a Phone Call Away

TBI Treatment Is a Phone Call Away

Traumatic brain injury treatment has come a long way in recent decades and is much more effective than many neurologists or neuroscientists could ever have hoped it would be. Whereas, once upon a time, there were little doctors could do to restore or preserve brain health, today that is no longer the case.

With immediate and appropriate treatment, a TBI does not have to result in cognitive decline, reduced executive function, behavioral and personality changes, or a reduced quality of life. Rather, with help from caring and competent medical teams, patients can go on to live full and fulfilling lives.

If you were in a car accident recently, be on the lookout for signs of traumatic brain injury. If you develop any — even if they seem minor — contact a car accident head injury doctor. A qualified doctor can make an accurate diagnosis and, if necessary, develop an appropriate treatment plan. Do not put off receiving an assessment. Seek medical attention right away after traumatic injuries. Doctors in our directory accept no-fault insurance, PIP (personal injury protection), workers’ compensation, medical liens, LOPs (letters of protection), and other insurance plans.

Schedule your appointment today.