A bump to the head can happen in any type of accident, from a slip at work to accidentally walking into something while you’re distracted — but it’s incredibly common in auto accidents, whether you’re driving a car or riding a motorcycle.
But what you might think is nothing to be concerned about could be a concussion, and it can prove highly dangerous. On top of that, you don’t need to physically hit your head to sustain a concussion — any sudden movement can cause what can be a serious injury.
But what are the signs of concussion after an accident you need to look out for, and what should you do if you have a concussion?
What Is Concussion?
A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI). It happens when the brain hits the skull, either from direct impact — such as a blow to the head — or any rapid movement that causes the head to jerk forward. One common example in a car accident is being shunted from behind, where the sudden impact throws you forward and back.
The brain is delicate, so while concussion is common and the least severe type of brain injury you can sustain, it can cause disorienting — if not disabling — symptoms.
What Are the Symptoms of Concussion?
Often, the symptoms of a concussion don’t present immediately. You can sustain head trauma, and — unless you have visible, physical symptoms, such as a wound or swelling — you might not know you have a traumatic brain injury until hours or days later.
This can also be dangerous, as delaying concussion treatment can lead to more complex problems later on. This makes it vital to seek medical attention as soon as you recognize any of the signs, even if you otherwise feel fine.
But what signs should you be looking out for?
Some of the most common symptoms of concussion are:
- Loss of consciousness, whether for a few seconds, a couple of minutes, or several hours
- Feeling dizzy, disoriented, or forgetful
- Muscle weakness
- Lack of coordination or balance
- Difficulty concentrating
- Slurred speech
- Blurred vision
- Moodiness or irritability
- Clear fluid from the ears or nose
As we can see, these symptoms range from the frustrating, such as headaches or fatigue, to the incredibly dangerous and concerning, such as losing consciousness and having trouble speaking.
It’s important to know that you don’t have to see all of these symptoms to have a concussion. The harder the blow and the more severe your injury, the more likely you will experience multiple symptoms, but you may just feel nauseous or a pressure in your head that won’t go away.
Even if you have minor symptoms that you think will pass, it’s worth getting checked out by a doctor to be safe.
Most concussions heal within a couple of weeks, but for some individuals, their injuries get worse over time, and what may have started as a concussion develops into something more serious.
Post-concussion syndrome happens when a concussion doesn’t improve after several weeks. Anyone can experience persistent post-concussive symptoms, even if the initial impact that caused the injury was minor.
The symptoms of post-concussion syndrome can include constant headaches, bouts of dizziness, motor control loss, sensitivity to lights or sudden sounds, insomnia, anxiety, and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). But what makes this condition so difficult for those affected is how long these symptoms last.
Post-concussive symptoms can last months to a year or longer, severely impacting an injury victim’s quality of life. If you have post-concussion syndrome after a car accident, you may struggle to do everyday tasks and have trouble sleeping. In some cases, such as if you experience regular dizzy spells and work with machinery, you may not be able to do your job.
What to Do If You Think You Have Concussion after an Auto Accident
We now know how severe concussions can be, so what should you do if you suspect you might have one?
Of course, the first thing you should do is seek medical attention. Ideally, you will have sought treatment immediately after your accident, but you may have been involved in a minor fender bender and initially felt fine. In this case, you should see a doctor as soon as you notice any symptoms. If you are bleeding or see bruising, feel numb or weak, or have trouble keeping your eyes open, you should call 911.
If your life is impacted by a concussion after an auto accident that wasn’t your fault, you may be able to claim compensation. This can result in a financial payout to cover your medical bills and lost wages and compensate you for the long-term impact of your injury, such as if you continue to experience concussion symptoms months or years after your accident. While compensation won’t ease your pain, it can allow you to get the treatment you need and time to focus on your recovery without worrying about how you’ll make ends meet.
Because of this, it’s worth contacting a car accident lawyer once you’ve sought treatment for your injuries. An attorney can determine whether you’re entitled to compensation, gather evidence — such as medical records, statements from witnesses to the accident, and the crash report filed if the police were called to the scene — and fight to secure you the maximum possible settlement you’re entitled to.
Concussions may be common, but that doesn’t make them any less serious. By keeping an eye out for these common symptoms after an auto accident, you can make sure you get the treatment you need to look after your health.