Brain Injury from a Car Accident | Common Head Injuries from Car Accidents, Symptoms & Statistics

Posted on August 25, 2021 by bermanstaff

Across the United States, there are more than 2.8 million emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and deaths every year related to traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). Brain injuries are among the most serious injuries and often life-changing. Even fairly minor brain injuries can cause symptoms and harm for months or even year, while serious traumatic brain injuries can cause life-long cognitive impairment and pain and suffering.

Brain trauma is usually the result of violent crime or accidents such as car accidents, falls, and sports injuries. If you or someone you love has suffered a brain injury due to someone else’s wrongful conduct, you may have the right to compensation through a personal injury claim or lawsuit. The experienced San Diego brain injury attorneys at Berman & Riedel, LLP will help you protect your rights, navigate the complex legal landscape, and fight for the maximum compensation you deserve for your pain.

Contact our personal injury law firm for a free consultation to discuss your personal injury case and how we can help you.

Types of Brain Injury | Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

There are two broad types of brain injuries: traumatic brain injuries and acquired brain injuries. These types of injuries are equally serious and come with similar symptoms, but they are sustained in different ways.

TBI is the result of external trauma to the head. Traumatic brain injuries may be fairly minor and cause reversible damage, but severe TBI can lead to life-changing and permanent symptoms.

Our San Diego brain injury attorneys have represented clients who have suffered all types of traumatic brain injury, such as:


A concussion is a typically minor brain injury that can be caused by a sudden change in movement, impact, or shaking. Concussions may lead to memory loss, confusion, disorientation, difficulty concentrating, and migraines. A second concussion can be more dangerous than the first if the first concussion has not fully healed.

Brain Contusion

A contusion is bruising of the brain tissue, and it happens when blood vessels break or leak. In the brain, a contusion can increase pressure which causes symptoms. Many contusions are the result of an impact which may happen in a sports injury, a car accident, or a slip and fall.

Diffuse Axonal Injury (DAI)

DAI is an extremely serious injury. This type of severe brain injury happens when the brain is rapidly shifted in the skull when the injury happens. This causes connecting fibers called axons to be sheared as the brain accelerates and decelerates inside the skull. By damaging brain cells, DAI is one of the most dangerous forms of traumatic brain injury, as it can cause permanent damage or death.


An intracranial hematoma happens when a blood vessel ruptures and causes blood to collect in empty space or brain tissue. Hematomas come in many types, such as subdural hematomas, which are blood clots between the dura and brain; epidural hematomas, with blood clots between the brain and dura but beneath the skull; and intracerebral hematomas, which cause bleeding in the brain tissue.

Penetrating Brain Injury

This is one of the most serious types of TBI, and it happens when an object penetrates through the skull, which causes contact with the brain. Depending on the injury, the injury may affect a small or large area of the brain. This type of severe head injury is usually caused by a car accident or gunshot, but it can also be caused by a slip and fall accident or a sports injury.

Skull Fracture

A skull fracture is a break in the skull that surrounds the brain. Not all skull fractures cause brain damage, but a fracture can lead to brain injury symptoms and fluid leaking from around the eyes and ears.

Second Impact Syndrome

SIS occurs when the brain swells after a second concussion before a previous concussion has fully healed. Second impact syndrome is uncommon and often fatal.

Locked-in Syndrome

Locked-in syndrome is a neurological disorder that causes total paralysis of voluntary muscles while the patient is conscious and awake. While it’s very rare, locked-in syndrome is one of the scariest potential effects of a traumatic brain injury.

Coup Contrecoup

A coup injury is a type of injury occurring under the site of impact, while a contrecoup injury happens on the opposite side of impact. These injuries often occur with cerebral contusions.

Types of Acquired Brain Injury (ABI)

An acquired brain injury or ABI is usually the result of internal occurrences that happen after birth but are not caused by birth trauma or hereditary, congenital, or degenerative conditions. Also known as non traumatic brain injuries, these are brain injuries caused by things like infection, tumors, stroke, or hemorrhage.

Anoxic and Hypoxic Brain Injuries

Hypoxic brain injury happens when the brain receives too little oxygen to function normally. Anoxic brain injury happens when the brain doesn’t get any oxygen. There are three types of anoxic ABI: anoxic anoxia, when the brain receives no oxygen; anemic anoxia, when the blood supplying the brain doesn’t have enough oxygen; and toxic anoxia, when the blood’s oxygen is blocked by toxins.

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE is an example of an acquired brain injury. This degenerative brain disease is associated with repeated concussions and head trauma, often the result of contact sports like football.

Causes of Brain Injuries | Types of San Diego Brain Injury Cases

Brain injuries can occur from all types of accidents, even seemingly minor accidents. It’s a common misconception that most brain injuries are the result of violence or serious car accidents. In fact, falls are the leading cause of brain injuries in San Diego.

The most common causes of TBI include:

  • Falls, which are responsible for 48% of all TBI-related ER visits. Among seniors 65 and older, falls are responsible for about 81% of TBIs.
  • Being struck by an object is responsible for 17% of TBI-related emergency room visits.
  • Motor vehicle accidents account for 20% of all TBI-related hospitalizations.
  • Assault and self harm are responsible for more than 33% of TBI-related fatalities or 255,000 cases of TBI per year.
  • Sports-related injuries are responsible for nearly 21% of TBI among children and adolescents, although they rarely cause fatalities. Sports most likely to lead to a head injury include cycling, water sports, baseball and softball, skateboarding, and basketball.

The cause of a traumatic brain injury isn’t always known, however. About 217,000 cases every year have an unknown cause.

Acquired brain injuries can also be caused by many conditions and incidents, such as:

  • Drug abuse
  • Drowning or choking
  • Exposure to poison or toxins
  • Heart attack or stroke
  • Meningitis and other infections
  • Aneurysm
  • Tumors

Risk Factors for TBI

Anyone can suffer a head injury that leads to a traumatic brain injury, but there are risk factors associated with TBI-related emergency room visits, hospitalization, and death.

One of the biggest risk factors of TBI is age, according to the CDC. Falls, the leading cause of TBI, disproportionately affect children and seniors as they’re responsible for almost half of TBI-related ER visits among kids 0 to 17 and 81% of visits in older adults. TBI-related deaths are also highest among seniors aged 75 and older.

Among TBI-related fatalities, falls were the leading cause of death for seniors, intentional self-harm for adults 45 to 64, car accidents for people 15 to 34 and over 75, and homicide for kids 0 to 4.

In general, the people most at risk of TBI are:

  • Males of any age
  • Adults 60 and older
  • Young adults between 15 and 24
  • Children, especially between 0 and 4

Traumatic Brain Injury Statistics

Traumatic brain injuries are more common than many people believe. TBI affects men and women of all ages, and these injuries are responsible for hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations every year.

  • 235,000 people are hospitalized for TBI every year. That’s 20x more hospitalizations than spinal cord injuries.
  • TBI is responsible for almost 2,700 deaths every year among children 14 and under.
  • Almost 79% of TBI victims are male.
  • About 56,000 people die from TBI per year, with a mortality rate of 30 per 100,000.
  • About half of people who die from a traumatic brain injury die within 2 hours of the injury.
  • Seniors over 75 have the highest mortality rate from traumatic brain injury at almost 79 fatalities per 100,000 people.
  • About 288,000 people are hospitalized for a traumatic brain injury every year.
  • Up to two-thirds of people who sustain a TBI have a history of risky drinking or alcohol abuse. About one-third of people who get a traumatic brain injury were injured while under the influence of alcohol.

Common Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injuries

A brain injury can cause a wide range of symptoms depending on the severity. Some symptoms of brain injuries may not be apparent for days after the accident, which makes it crucial to seek medical attention right away after an accident. Seeking medical treatment as soon as possible can minimize the long-term effects of a brain injury and prevent further brain damage. It also helps establish the cause of your head injury. Your medical records will be important evidence your San Diego brain injury lawyer uses to build a strong case.

A brain injury accident can have lasting effects. There is no way to predict the severity or type of injuries after a blow to the head or trauma to the brain, as the same injury can affect brain injury victims differently.

It's important to note that not all brain injuries result in loss of consciousness, and you can get a brain injury without hitting your head. You can suffer brain trauma without a blow to the head or unconsciousness!

Mild TBI Symptoms

Even a mild brain injury can cause symptoms such as:

  • Dizziness
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Headaches
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Loss of consciousness which lasts for only just seconds
  • Difficulty remembering events around the time of your accident
  • Trouble remembering new information
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Blurred vision
  • Tinnitus or ringing in the ears
  • Sensitivity to sound or light
  • Changes in your sleep patterns, emotions, or behavior

For most people, these symptoms resolve within a few weeks. A growing body of research indicates the effects of even mild brain injuries can last for years and may be subtle.

Moderate to Severe Brain Injury Symptoms

The symptoms of a moderate to severe TBI include the above symptoms and more.

  • Loss of consciousness that may last several minutes, hours, or longer
  • Seizures
  • Persistent or worsening headache
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Unequal pupil dilation
  • Numbness, weakness, or tingling in the toes or fingers
  • Poor motor control and coordination
  • Extreme changes to personality, behavior, or mood
  • Coma

A severe injury can also affect your ability to work and perform basic tasks or even impact motor skills and cognition. While prompt medical care, therapy, and time may improve symptoms, many brain injury survivors struggle with lifelong impairment, reduced quality of life, and other effects.

Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS)

Post-concussion syndrome refers to concussion symptoms that last for weeks, a year, or even longer after an initial injury. There are several risk factors for PCS, including:

  • Of the female sex
  • Accident involving significant external force or blunt force trauma
  • Double blow to the head
  • History of previous concussion or head injury
  • Advanced age


Why Work with a Top San Diego Brain Injury Lawyer?

After seeking medical attention after an accident, it’s important to speak with an experienced San Diego traumatic brain injury lawyer as soon as possible afterward. Unfortunately, many people delay seeking legal advice until they realize how seriously they’ve been hurt (sometimes due to a delayed diagnosis) or the insurance company won’t make a fair settlement offer.

Injury claims involving a brain injury are notoriously complex. It can be difficult to prove the cause of a traumatic brain injury and even determine the value of the claim, as a TBI may lead to life-long changes to cognition and motor skills. The higher the value of a claim, the harder insurance companies fight a payout and try to minimize or deny a claim.

Insurance defense attorneys and claims adjusters may try to minimize the extent of the injury and claim it’s minor or that you will recover quickly. The truth is up to 15% of people who suffer even a mild TBI have not fully recovered after a full year. Some people experience even more symptoms as time goes on.

A San Diego brain injury law firm helps you through every stage of your claim by giving you sound legal advice, protecting your legal rights, ensuring you get the medical help you need, and seeking fair compensation for your injuries.

Experienced brain injury attorneys in San Diego are familiar with the tactics insurance attorneys and claims adjusters use to fight serious brain injury claims. Your attorney will serve as your advocate and work to examine your claim, gather evidence, and get expert medical testimony to demonstrate the severity of your injuries. Depending on the circumstances, your San Diego brain injury lawyer may even recommend an independent investigation into your accident to search for evidence before it disappears.

If your San Diego TBI attorney can’t reach a fair settlement with the insurance company, he or she will discuss filing a brain injury lawsuit and represent you in court.

Compensation Available in San Diego Brain Injury Cases

Victims who sustain a brain injury may live with the effects for the rest of their lives. Depending on the severity of the injury, you may be unable to work or even enjoy your favorite hobbies. Even basic tasks may be difficult or even possible years after a brain injury. Under California law, when someone else is at fault for your injuries, you have the right to compensation that’s designed to make you as whole as possible.

While financial compensation can’t reverse your injuries or restore your life to what it once was, it can ensure you receive the medical attention you need, make sure your home is adapted to your needs, and give you a sense of justice knowing the responsible party has been held accountable.

How much you can recover in a brain injury lawsuit in San Diego depends on many factors, including what your life was like before the accident, the severity of your injuries, the economic and non-economic damages you have suffered, and even the nature of the accident.

A personal injury lawsuit in San Diego can help you recover compensation for:

  • Medical expenses. You don’t just deserve to be reimbursed for the medical bills you have faced so far in your treatment; you are also entitled to compensation to cover your future medical expenses as estimated by an expert. This includes the cost of surgery, assisted living, medical devices, prescriptions, and more.
  • Lost wages and lost future income. Compensation for a brain injury in San Diego generally includes not only the wages you lost after the accident but also the wages and benefits you are expected to lose in the future if you are unable to return to work or have reduced earning capacity.
  • Non-economic damages. This includes a range of less tangible losses you have suffered without a clear financial cost, including physical pain and suffering, loss of consortium, mental anguish, and emotional distress.
  • Punitive damages may be awarded in rare cases by a jury or judge. These damages are designed to punish someone for egregious wrongdoing or reckless behavior, and they aren’t available in all cases.

For many people, the non-economic losses resulting from a traumatic brain injury deal the most damage. These damages are also the hardest to prove and calculate. Your San Diego brain injury lawyers will help you demonstrate why you are entitled to these types of damages. You can learn more about brain injury settlements and the factors that affect how much your case is worth.

In California, your damage award may be reduced if you are found even partially at fault. In this case, a jury or judge may assign a percentage of fault in the accident to you, which directly reduces your award. This is one of many reasons it’s crucial to work with an experienced brain injury law firm in San Diego that understands the extent of your injuries and can seek full compensation for the harm you have suffered.

Contact a San Diego Brain Injury Attorney

Due to the often subtle nature of brain injuries and the complexity of the medical issues involved, it is crucial that a victim be represented by an attorney who has experience and an extensive understanding of brain injuries. The San Diego brain injury lawyers at Berman & Riedel, LLP, have had much experience with these very injuries. Our attorneys work closely with a team of highly-respected, professional brain injury experts to ensure that a proper diagnosis is made and to forecast exactly what effects the injury will have on the victim’s life both presently and in the future.

Our traumatic brain injury attorneys in San Diego work diligently to recover the full compensation our brain injury clients deserve, including past and future medical expenses, pain and suffering damages, damages for the loss of enjoyment of life, and lost income.

The attorneys at Berman & Riedel, LLP have recently settled a mild traumatic brain injury case for $8,000,000.00 for our client, who was struck in the head unexpectedly by a large piece of machinery. Our attorneys are currently working on a traumatic brain injury case in which our client fell through the roof of a house that he was employed to construct. Our brain injury attorneys can offer the experience and skill necessary to provide you with sound advice on how to protect your legal rights.

Contact a San Diego brain injury attorney at Berman & Riedel, LLP, at (858) 350-8855, to discuss your legal options during a free case evaluation.

About Berman & Riedel, LLP firm managing partner attorney William M. Berman:

Attorney William M. Berman focuses his practice in the areas of catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death and elder abuse and neglect. Strictly a plaintiffs’ dedicated firm, he never represents insurance companies in the defense of claims. Mr. Berman’s firm remains staunchly committed to helping those who have suffered serious injury or loss due the negligence, intentional misconduct or wrongful acts of others. Mr. Berman has grown his firm to what is considered one of the largest and most successful elder abuse/neglect practices within California. Through his continued successes in handling claims involving nursing home and elder abuse and neglect, Mr. Berman remains a prominent figure in advocating on behalf of this vulnerable class of citizens.
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Frequently Asked Questions

Below are answers to common questions people have about personal injury cases and working with a lawyer. During your initial consultation, we will be happy to answer questions that are particular to your case.

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Personal Injury Attorney?

The attorneys at Berman & Riedel, LLP, accept cases on a contingency-fee basis. This type of agreement means you do not pay any attorneys’ fees out-of-pocket for legal representation. Attorneys’ fees are also contingent on the outcome of your case.

You benefit from legal representation in exchange for an agreed-upon percentage of a settlement or jury award. We will only recover a fee if you recover compensation.

Can You Tell Me How Much My Case Is Worth?

There is no way to determine the exact value of a personal injury case, especially early in your case. However, an experienced attorney can give you an estimated range based on their experience with similar cases.

There are many factors that may influence the value of your case, such as:

  • Your total financial or economic damages
  • The severity of your injuries
  • The impact of your injuries on your daily life
  • The strength of your case
  • Whether you share fault for your accident
  • Insurance policy limits 

Some damages are easy to calculate, such as lost wages and medical bills. Calculating the value of diminished earnings for the rest of your life or future medical needs; however, may require the help of experts. Non-economic damages like pain and suffering have no intrinsic financial value. These damages are challenging to calculate. 

If your case goes before a jury, you may potentially be able to recover more than you could through a settlement. However, this introduces a new element of risk: the jury. The circumstances of your accident and even how sympathetic you or the defendant are can influence the outcome.

During your consultation, and throughout your case, we will help you understand how these factors influence your case. We will also work tirelessly to document the value of all your damages and pursue maximum compensation on your behalf.

Will My Case Go to Trial?

The vast majority of cases are resolved by reaching a settlement agreement outside of court. Very few personal injury cases actually go to trial, but it is more likely if the facts in your case are in dispute, a legal issue is being contested, or you have a high-value case.

An experienced lawyer will build your case as if it will go to trial from the beginning. The stronger your case and evidence, the more likely a fair settlement will be reached.

How Do I Know If I Need a Personal Injury Lawyer?

If your case involves mostly property damage or minor injuries, you likely do not need a lawyer to handle a claim with the insurance company. The more serious your injuries, or the more complex your case, the more important it becomes to seek experienced legal counsel.

Remember that the insurance company is not on your side, even if the insurance adjuster seems sympathetic and you receive a settlement offer. If you are being blamed for your accident or sustained serious injury, a lawyer will help you protect your rights and build the strongest case possible. This includes calculating the full value of your current and future losses.

Legal representation is also vital if your case involves a complex area of law such as elder abuse or neglect, premises liability, commercial vehicle accidents, medical malpractice, or serious work-related accidents. Determining liability, navigating decades of legal precedence, and interpreting specific statutes in these cases is best done with years of relevant legal experience.

Do You Accept Cases Outside of San Diego?

While our law office is located in San Diego, Berman & Riedel, LLP, accepts cases throughout the state of California.


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