What is a Brain Injury?
A brain injury is any kind of damage to the brain, often caused by a traumatic blow. A car accident, contact sports, an assault, and other similar types of injuries can damage the brain. Brain injuries may also be non-traumatic, related to medical conditions, or congenital.
Brain injuries range from mild to severe and even fatal. Some types of brain injury cause temporary, minor symptoms. Other cause severe symptoms, some that last for months or even years. A brain injury may also be severe enough to cause lasting disabilities.
Types of Brain Injuries
This includes any type of brain injury during fetal development, during labor, or during delivery. For instance, a child may have a genetic mutation that causes the brain to develop abnormally or a baby delivered with too much force to the head may suffer a brain injury.
Medical conditions that cause neurons and their connections in the brain to break down and worse over time are degenerative. This includes illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Both traumatic and non-traumatic brain injuries are classified as acquired brain injuries. A traumatic injury results from an external force, such as being hit on the head or roughly jostled. It may result in an open would or be a closed brain injury.
Traumatic brain injuries can be further broken down into these classifications:
- Diffuse axonal injury. This results from shaking or rough head rotation. A car accident can cause this. It is also typical in shaken baby syndrome, a result of child abuse.
- Concussion. This is a mild type of traumatic brain injury that occurs when the brain strikes the inside of the skull. It is the most common type of traumatic brain injury. A concussion may result from an impact to the body or head, such as in tackle football or a car accident.
- Contusion. A contusion is bruising on the brain, most often caused by a direct strike to the head.
- Hematoma. The buildup of blood in the brain, outside of blood vessels, can be very serious in the brain. It can cause pressure on the brain that leads to permanent brain damage if not addressed right away.
- Edema. This is swelling in the brain, which can also be very dangerous. The skull cannot expand to accommodate the pressure.
- Skull fracture. A strike to the head or a gunshot can fracture the skull, which often causes brain damage.
- Penetration injury. This occurs when anything penetrates the brain, such as a bullet or knife. A fragment of the skull from a fracture can also cause a penetration injury.
Any acquired brain injury that doesn’t result from a strike to the head or an external force is non-traumatic. This includes strokes, drowning, a tumor, oxygen deprivation, and brain infection.
What Are the Signs of a Brain Injury?
Any impact to the head or other type of serious physical accident requires immediate medical care. Sometimes a brain injury is obvious, such as with a fracture or a penetration injury. Often, though, the injury is invisible. Signs that someone may have suffered a brain injury include:
- Loss of consciousness
- A headache that persists and worsens
- Nausea and vomiting
- Poor coordination
- Numbness and weakness in toes or fingers
- Difficulty waking up
- Slurred speech
If you have any of these signs after an accident or injury, or someone else does, get medical care right away.
What Are the Lasting Complications of Brain Injury?
Minor brain injuries do not usually cause lasting health problems, but repeated concussions and more moderate to severe injuries can cause significant complications. Even in situations that seem minor, a severe injury can occur and cause lasting problems. Some of the potential complications of brain injury include:
- A coma or vegetative state
- Buildup of fluid in the brain, swelling
- Damage to blood vessels, which may lead to blood clots and stroke
- Nerve damage that causes facial paralysis, changes in smell, taste, hearing, or vision, ear ringing, or dizziness
- Cognitive problems, such as deficits in memory, judgment, concentration, or learning
- Difficulty with executive functions, such as planning, organizing, or multi-tasking
- Social, behavioral, and emotional difficulties, such as depression, irritability, or poor self-control
- Brain injuries may even increase the risk of degenerative brain disorders, like dementia, Parkinson’s disease, or Alzheimer’s disease.
What Causes Brain Injury?
In infants, brain injuries can result from congenital defects or developmental problems in the womb, such as maternal infections or substance use. They can also occur during labor and delivery if the baby is asphyxiated or suffers a skull fracture from excessive force.
Acquired, traumatic brain injuries result from falls, assaults, athletic injuries, vehicle collisions and accidents, and gunshots. Active-duty military personnel are particularly vulnerable to brain injuries caused by explosions. The shock waves can cause an injury, even if there is no shrapnel or physical blow to the head.
Can Negligence Cause Brain Injuries?
A brain injury may result from someone else’s negligent behavior. In the case of a baby with brain damage during pregnancy or delivery, it may even be medical malpractice. If the doctor, or another medical professional, fails to provide adequate care, they can be considered negligent and liable for damages.
Acquired brain injuries may result from negligence when someone fails to act reasonably. Some examples include:
- Another driver runs a red light and strikes your car. They could be negligent for your resulting brain injury.
- If a person assaults you, causing a brain injury, it could be considered a criminal act and negligence.
- A ladder at work is faulty, causing you to fall and hit your head. The manufacturer of that ladder could be negligent.
- A doctor fails to diagnose a stroke in time to provide adequate medical care. If you suffer brain damage as a result, your doctor could be considered negligent.
What to Do After Suffering a Brain Injury
If you or a family member suffers a brain injury, get medical care as soon as possible. This should be the top priority. Once the injured person is stable and being cared for, take additional steps in case the injury resulted from negligence, and you want to take legal action:
- Gather any evidence from the incident and injury that you can, such as pictures of a car accident or physical injuries.
- Get as much information as you can from witnesses and the person negligent, including contact and insurance information.
- Ask witnesses to record what they observed.
- Get a police report.
- Contact a brain injury lawyer to provide advice and guidance.
A brain injury can be damaging, scary, and life-changing. If someone else caused your injury, you may have a case for negligence. A lawyer with experience in personal injury and brain injury cases can help you recover damages.