What Damages Am I Entitled to for a Traumatic Brain Injury Caused by a Car Accident?

A doctor holding up scans of a patient's brain, looking for any signs of brain injury.

After a car accident, your lawyer will help you determine what damages you have and how much you should seek to recover. Here are the typical damages we will consider when evaluating your claim:

  • Medical bills. Head injuries can be expensive to diagnose and treat, starting with basic diagnostics like a CT scan or MRI. If you need to stay overnight in the hospital for observation, there may be additional charges, and health insurance often only covers part of the bill. That’s an inexpensive scenario. If you need surgery to treat a brain bleed or reduce swelling, or if you have serious complications that require days of hospitalization and treatment, you could easily have thousands of dollars in medical costs, plus follow-up care, including physical or occupational therapy. Your lawyer will be sure to consider future costs in addition to your current bills.
  • Lost income. When you’re ready to leave the hospital, your doctor may advise you to rest and avoid activities that worsen your symptoms until those symptoms are resolved. For some people who suffer from headaches, vertigo, light or sound sensitivity, and other issues, this may prevent them from working. It can take several weeks to feel better, but in the meantime, you may not be getting paid, or you might be using up all your PTO. In some cases, your symptoms could persist longer than usual, and you might not be able to return to work for several months, if at all.
  • Lost earning potential. If your TBI causes a disability that prevents you from working permanently, we can also seek to recover your lost earning potential. This is true if you can’t work at all or if you have to take a less demanding job that doesn’t pay as well.
  • Permanent disability. A traumatic brain injury or TBI can be life-altering. Although some patients recover fully, others suffer permanent difficulties or impairments and may become disabled as a result. The specific type of disability differs depending on where in your brain the injury occurred and how severe it was. Common impairments include difficulties with speech or language, movement issues (including difficulty walking or using your hands or arms), balance or coordination problems, difficulty with memory or cognition, and more.
  • Pain and suffering. Your physical and emotional pain and suffering are considered non-economic damages, and we can seek compensation for these losses as well.

What Head Injuries Can Be Caused By Car Accidents?

There are a number of head injuries you might sustain in a car accident and several different ways to be injured. The most obvious way is to hit your head, which often happens to unrestrained passengers who are ejected from a vehicle or motorcycle.

Sometimes, restrained passengers also hit their heads, especially if the vehicle flips over. However, it’s also possible to have a head injury without hitting your head. When the head is violently shaken, the brain can be injured by impacting the inside of the skull.

In car accidents, this frequently happens when a collision causes the car to rapidly decelerate (or the driver brakes in an attempt to avoid the collision). The car stops quickly, but the person inside the car continues to move forward at the same speed.

Seatbelts stop most of the body from moving more than a few inches, but the head often snaps forward and then back, shaking the brain and blood vessels.

This scenario is very common and can lead to a TBI, even without a blow to the head. It could also cause whiplash or neck strain and other soft tissue injuries.

Unfortunately, many people don’t realize the potential effects and may think they’re uninjured because they didn’t suffer a bump on the head. Adding to the confusion, symptoms of a head injury may not appear for several hours or days after the accident.

For this reason, we advise you to let the paramedics check you out at the scene, even if you feel all right, and to follow up with your doctor.

Here are some common head injuries we see in car accidents:

  • Concussions. A concussion is considered a mild TBI, but it can still cause symptoms like headaches, dizziness, confusion, or memory issues. Although the typical recovery time is 2-3 weeks, a small percentage of patients may have persistent post-concussive symptoms that last for months.
  • Contusions. These bruises on the brain happen when the brain hits the skull or a fold in the brain’s strong outer covering. In some cases, contusions are minor and heal on their own (although your doctor may want you to stay in the hospital for observation in case they get worse). More significant contusions can form a clot or increase pressure in the brain, in which case your doctor may recommend surgery to prevent severe complications.
  • Skull fractures. These fractures often co-occur with a concussion or other TBI and vary in severity. There are four kinds of skull fractures: Simple and linear fractures involve simple bone breaks without splintering or depression of the bones. A depressed skull fracture is a situation where the broken bone is pressed in toward the brain; in some cases, this can cause serious complications. A compound fracture is an injury where the skin is broken or lost, and there is also splintering of the bone, which can cause severe complications. 
  • Intracranial hemorrhages. These brain bleeds happen in the “intracranial vault,” or the space that covers and protects the brain, where they are often caused by broken blood vessels or arteries. Other hemorrhages include bleeding in the brain itself or in its ventricles. As with contusions, a mild bleed may only require observation, but a more serious one is often treated with surgery.
  • Diffuse axonal injuries or DAI. This condition occurs when the brain’s nerve fibers are torn, usually due to the brain shifting and moving inside the skull. Although the damage can be difficult to see on a CT scan or MRI, it can be quite severe and often causes a coma or other brain injuries. Unfortunately, this damage can’t be corrected with surgery, and in the short term, the main treatment option is to reduce brain swelling with steroids. While milder cases may result in a full recovery, many people suffer permanent brain damage and may need physical, occupational, or other types of therapy to regain lost functions.

How Do You Seek Compensation for a Head Injury From a Car Accident?

As we discussed earlier, head injuries can result in significant medical bills, which may be difficult to pay if you’ve been out of work due to your injuries.

Unfortunately, the insurance adjuster will be focused on keeping your payout as small as possible. They might undervalue your claim or, worse, deny it altogether.

An experienced car accident attorney can help you recover the damages you’re entitled to after your accident. We’ll study the accident report and other evidence, then build a strong case showing you were not at fault.

Utah is a no-fault state for car accidents, but only up to $3,000 in medical expenses, the amount required to be covered by Personal Injury Protection or PIP insurance. Because TBIs are often serious and require months of therapy, they frequently exceed the $3,000 threshold for an at-fault accident lawsuit.

What if You Were at Fault?

In Utah, a person can be partly at fault for an accident and still collect damages if they were less than 50 percent responsible. If the other driver’s insurance company has denied your claim because you were at fault, please talk to a lawyer immediately.

It’s possible you made a mistake, but the other driver is primarily responsible, in which case we can still pursue damages. You will lose some percentage of your final award based on your own share of responsibility, but you may still be able to collect a large portion of your damages.

We also sometimes see cases where the injured person was not responsible at all, and after investigating further, we locate evidence to show they were not at fault. 

What if You Already Received an Offer From the Insurance Company?

We recommend consulting an attorney to ensure all your damages are accounted for—the first offer is frequently too low. Many people with TBIs not only have current medical bills but may need continued care for months, years, or the rest of their lives.

If it appears that your treatment will continue indefinitely, we’ll estimate your future costs to ensure you receive enough compensation to cover them. Additionally, we can estimate your lost earning potential if you’re no longer able to work due to your TBI.

If the insurance company’s offer is insufficient, we can negotiate with them to recover the amount of compensation you deserve.

Get Help From a Car Accident Lawyer Today

If you or a loved one have suffered a TBI in a car accident, please contact Valley Law Accident and Injury Lawyers for a free, confidential consultation. There is no obligation, and if we do take your case, you won’t owe us anything until we win or settle it.

Valley Law was founded by attorney Brigham Richards, who has recovered millions of dollars for injured people and their families. He makes responsibility the focus of his practice and vigorously advocates for his clients.

Mr. Richards can also serve clients who speak English or Spanish. To work with his expert team from Valley Law, call 801-810-9999 today.

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