Head injuries are not uncommon in a car accident. But sometimes they also cause damage to the brain. The severity depends on the type of injury, with one of the more severe being a diffuse axonal injury. Learn how this brain injury can impact the victim and a car accident claim.
What is a diffuse axonal injury and what causes it?
Diffuse refers to more than one area of the brain, which means that injury can occur to different parts of it. It’s the result of axons (nerve fibers) tearing as they shift and rotate inside the skull. It can happen in a car accident when there’s significant acceleration or deceleration. The brain literally moves back and forth inside the skull, similar to injury produced in Shaken Baby Syndrome.
The tearing of the nerve fibers causes a disruption to nerve communication, leading to nerve cell death. As a result, swelling occurs in the brain, which can cause a variety of complications. It’s one of the most common types of severe traumatic brain injuries (TBI) to sustain. Although less common, it can also occur with a mild or moderate TBI.
The severity of this injury also makes it one of the most devastating, resulting in coma and sometimes death. Widespread brain damage may be temporary or permanent.
What are the symptoms of a diffuse axonal injury and how is it treated?
A loss of consciousness, from a few minutes to several hours, is a common indicator of this injury. If the person is conscious, there may be other signs but that depends on the location of brain damage. Keep in mind that some victims never regain consciousness.
Sometimes an MRI, CT scan or EEG can detect the injury. Other times it’s a little more difficult because the damaged areas are so small. The doctor might also run a series of cognitive tests on the patient.
Treatment may include reducing brain swelling with medication. The patient is closely monitored. Once stabilized, rehabilitation usually follows. This may include rehabilitation therapy (recreational, speech, occupational, physical), counseling and adaptable equipment training.
Most times when a diffuse axonal injury occurs with a mild or moderate TBI, there isn’t long-term or permanent damage. But a large majority of those who survive a severe injury remain unconscious. The rest usually suffer severe impairment.
What legal options are available after a brain injury in a car accident?
Because of the severity oftentimes involved in this type of injury, the victim may not have the ability to pursue legal action on his or her own. But that doesn’t mean a family member can’t file a claim on the accident victim’s behalf if it was the result of another driver’s negligence.
The court may assign the incapacitated person a guardian. When a family member wishes to take on that role, he or she must petition the court. If granted, the guardian can then proceed with filing a claim against the at-fault driver. Because of the complex issues involved in this type of case, it’s a good idea to seek legal advice. Call D.J. Banovitz at 303-300-5060 or fill out the contact form to set up a consultation if you’re in the Arvada area.