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
- 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
- Primary—A brain injury that is considered non-progressive
and complete at the time of impact.
- Secondary—A progressive brain injury that changes over
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
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.