Technological innovation has improved the safety of motor vehicles over the last thirty years. The mandatory use of seat belts has been accompanied by the development of harness belts and sensor technology. Airbags have become sophisticated to the extent that their deployment depends upon the location of vehicle impact during a crash. But for all of the advancements in vehicle safety, individuals still suffer serious injuries when cars collide. Among those injuries, brain trauma can be among the most complex to address.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of brain trauma-related hospitalizations of individuals between the ages of 15-44. A traumatic brain injury (TBI) can occur when there is a direct blow to the head and also, when the rotational force of the impact causes axonal shearing, or tearing of the nerve tissue of the brain. The resulting injury can be quite significant, marked by the need for intensive care, though it can also result in the diagnosis of a “mild” TBI, characterized by a brief loss of consciousness or altered mental state. But the word “mild” in the context of brain injury is often misinterpreted because the effects can, unfortunately, be permanent.
In my practice, a large portion of which is devoted to representing people injured in car crashes, I have seen the devastating results that brain trauma can cause; loss of job, loss of independence and generally, routine tasks becoming labored. But with a timely diagnosis, the long-term effects of TBI can be reduced. Continuing developments in the specialties of cognitive therapy, visual therapy and physical/occupational re-training can provide coping mechanisms to lessen the effects of the brain injury. I mention “timely” recognition of the fact that a brain injury has occurred because, often, it is not something that is properly diagnosed in the emergency room or by the primary care physician after a car crash. Numerous times in my twenty years of representing people injured in crashes, it was my initial consultation that raised a red flag for the client regarding their memory loss, physical changes and general fogginess since the crash. Once a TBI is diagnosed by a neurologist, the use of diagnostic testing can pinpoint areas of cognitive and motor skills affected. A qualified neuropsychologist is an integral part of the team of medical professionals needed to properly treat a TBI.
If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident, you must pay attention to your symptoms in the aftermath of the trauma. A brief loss of consciousness upon impact or a general feeling of what TBI clients have described as fogginess or fuzziness should be immediately reported to medical personnel. Hopefully, with continuing advances in technology, brain injuries as a result of car accidents can be diminished.
Mr. Friedrichs is the co-author of a book entitled “New Jersey Motor Vehicle Law and Practice Forms”, published by Thomson Reuters and has written articles for legal publications on a variety of topics.