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Traumatic brain injury occurs as a result of sudden, physical trauma to the head. While not all cases of traumatic brain injury are permanent or fatal, many result in lifelong disability and some even lead to death.

Medical experts categorize traumatic brain injuries in the following ways:

  • Closed—A brain injury which involves the tearing and bruising of tissues and blood vessels but no broken bones in the skull. Individuals involved in car accidents and slip and falls often suffer this type of traumatic brain injury.
  • Penetrating—Also called open brain injury, this type of injury is characterized by a break in the skull bone. Gunshot victims usually suffer penetrating brain injuries.
  • Diffuse axonal—This type of brain injury occurs when several areas of the brain suffer damage, such as tearing, to the nerve fibers. Comas are common with this type of traumatic brain injury.
  • Primary—A brain injury that is considered non-progressive and complete at the time of impact.
  • Secondary—A progressive brain injury that changes over time.

Every year in America, nearly 100,000 people suffer brain injuries that permanently affect their ability to work and do the simple tasks necessary for daily living. One does not have to be traveling at a high rate of speed or have one's head strike an object, such as a steering wheel or windshield, to suffer a traumatic brain injury.

Mild brain injuries can be caused by falls, car accidents or sports-related activities. Trauma to the head or neck region can cause the brain to bruise, bleed, tear, and/or swell. There are two general types of head injuries, open or closed. An open injury means the skull has been fractured, while a closed head injury does not involve a fracture. Both types of brain injury can cause paralysis, loss of vital body functions and death.

In the event of a head-on car collision, involving two cars traveling at 45 miles per hour, the "soft" tissue of the brain is forced against the hard bone of the skull. The human skull has ridges, which normally do not come into contact with the brain. The force of an accident can cause blood vessels to tear, releasing blood into areas of the brain or skull that are not able to accommodate such blood. This causes an increase in pressure that causes the brain to press against the skull, causing impaired brain function or the death of brain cells.

If enough blood leaks into the brain cavity, areas of the brain that control breathing or cardiac function, a minor injury could become fatal within a very short period of time.

It is possible to suffer from such an injury and feel fine. Some victims have suffered such an injury in an automobile accident, yet been able to get out of their car and direct traffic away from the scene. If there is any question at all whether a brain injury could have occurred, it is critical to go to the nearest hospital.

Bruising of the brain is also a common injury that results from automobile accidents, falls, and sports-related accidents. The force involved in such occurrences can force the brain forward and then backward, or vice versa. The force can cause bruising in some areas and bleeding in others.

Another common effect of trauma to the brain is called tearing. The force of a collision can cause tearing. Tearing is similar to what happens if a block of ice were to be struck with a hammer; small cracks form, yet the block remains intact. The nerve system of the brain is usually damaged and, depending on the areas in which this occurs, can cause serious impairment of bodily functions. This injury may not manifest itself immediately.

When the brain suffers the type of trauma described above, swelling usually occurs. The body's natural healing processes cause swelling. The problem with swelling of the brain is that there is no room for the brain to migrate. What results is called intra-cranial pressure, which can be deadly or cause severe impairment of body functions.

One can sustain the force necessary to suffer a brain injury in several types of accidents, including car accidents, sports-related occurrences, and work related accidents.

Because there may be a gap in time between a traumatic physical event and an individual experiencing physical symptoms resulting from that trauma, the importance of hiring an attorney experienced in brain injury cases, who can tie the injury to its original cause, cannot be overemphasized.


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