You can sustain a mild-to-severe traumatic brain injury if your head is impacted, suddenly jerked or yanked, or penetrated by an object.

Every year, more than a million people in the United States suffer a traumatic brain injury. One in five brain injuries are sustained in traffic accidents. Many of those are rear-end accidents.

And even without a direct impact or blow to the head, whiplash in a rear-end accident can sometimes cause a brain injury.

HOW DOES A BRAIN INJURY HAPPEN?

When the head is suddenly tossed back and forth, the brain actually collides against the skull, stretching and damaging nerve fibers and additionally damaging the ability of brain cells to communicate with one another.

The brain essentially “floats” inside the skull, so when the head is suddenly impacted or tossed back and forth, the brain does not simply sit motionless. It “bounces,” colliding with the skull, usually several times, and bruising and tearing brain cells.

If the skull strikes a steering wheel, windshield, concrete, or auto wreckage, the brain will crash into the skull with substantial force. Because the brain is floating, it continues to move after the head’s motion has stopped.

In a severe collision, the brain can actually bleed at its point of impact within the skull. If the occipital lobe – the rearmost lobe in each cerebral hemisphere of the brain – is damaged, a victim will probably suffer vision problems.

WHAT TYPES OF BRAIN INJURIES HAPPEN IN REAR-END CRASHES?

What types of brain injuries do victims most frequently suffer in rear-end collisions?

Concussions: Concussions account for about three out of four brain injuries. Symptoms include nausea, disorientation, dizziness, and memory problems. While mild concussions can cause life-long medical trouble, in most cases, a concussion heals in several months.

Unconsciousness: When you sustain a brain injury, you’ll probably lose consciousness for at least several minutes, but some victims lapse into long-term comas. In most cases, the longer someone is unconscious, the more severely that person has been injured.

Post-traumatic amnesia: A patient who suffers from amnesia is probably quite seriously injured and may not realize it. Amnesia patients need monitoring – and if possible, a lot of contact with family members and friends. Rehabilitation will take considerable time.

When the brain sustains direct trauma, secondary injuries can also develop over time:

For example, when a blood vessel tears or a tissue is injured, blood can build up inside the skull – a hematoma – and bleeding can happen there days after the accident and initial injury.

Edema – when swelling happens within the brain – can damage the brain’s blood circulation. Drugs may ease the pressure, but surgery is sometimes required.

CAN BRAIN INJURIES HAPPEN EVEN IN LOW-SPEED COLLISIONS?

A brain injury must not be ignored and must not go undetected. Serious brain injuries happen frequently in rear-end traffic collisions, even in low-speed crashes where there’s no noticeable damage to the vehicles.

How can that happen? Autos and SUVs absorb almost no impact force in collisions below twenty miles-per-hour, so that force transfers to the impacted vehicle’s occupants, often causing whiplash, tissue damage, and brain and spinal cord injuries.

What you need to know – pay attention, because this is important – is that the injuries most often suffered in rear-end collisions are precisely the kinds of injuries that are easy to ignore and hard to detect.

Whiplash, spinal injuries, and internal bleeding in the brain can take several days or even weeks to develop and emerge as a serious medical condition.

WHY IS A MEDICAL EXAM IMPERATIVE AFTER A TRAFFIC COLLISION?

You must seek medical attention at once after a rear-end crash – even if you don’t think you’re injured. A medical exam from a doctor or another healthcare professional will safeguard your health and protect you legally if you subsequently pursue a personal injury claim.

If a brain injury develops days or weeks after a rear-end accident, you must be able to prove that you were injured in the accident.

If you can’t prove that, you cannot be compensated.

That’s why you must obtain medical treatment immediately after any vehicle collision – even if you feel spectacular – and you must be examined again if any symptoms emerge days or weeks later.

HOW SHOULD INJURY VICTIMS DEAL WITH AN AUTO INSURANCE COMPANY?

If you’re injured in a rear-end collision but your vehicle has little or no damage, an auto insurance company may try to deny your claim, or the company may make a settlement offer that’s far below the compensation amount you need.

If you have been injured in a rear-end accident, do not speak to, listen to, or deal in any way with an insurance company on your own.

Instead, here in Louisiana, let an experienced New Orleans personal injury attorney handle your insurance negotiation and settlement. Most personal injury cases are settled out-of-court, so you may not even need to appear in a courtroom.

WHAT DO INJURY VICTIMS HAVE TO PROVE TO WIN COMPENSATION?

In a personal injury case arising from a rear-end collision, the injured victim – the plaintiff – must prove that he or she was injured because the allegedly at-fault driver – the defendant – was negligent.

With the medical evidence and a personal injury lawyer’s help, the plaintiff must prove that the personal injury or injuries actually in fact happened and that the defendant’s negligence was a direct cause of the personal injury or injuries.

A personal injury lawyer is a trained and seasoned negotiator who will fight tenaciously for the compensation – and for the justice – that a victim of negligence will need.

HOW CAN YOU AVOID A REAR-END COLLISION?

Any time you drive, another driver could collide with you, but here are some recommendations for reducing the likelihood of rear-end collisions and the injuries that accompany them:

Ensure that your brake lights work properly at all times. It may be inconvenient, but you really should check your brake lights daily if you drive daily.

Pay complete attention to traffic in front of you. That way, if you must stop, you can stop gradually without slamming the brakes – and surprising the driver behind you.

Check your mirrors frequently, and if you must stop, be sure that the driver behind you is stopping too.

Never, ever tailgate or follow another vehicle too closely.

In the New Orleans area or anywhere in the state, if you are injured by a negligent driver in a rear-end collision, get medical attention at once, and then take your case – as quickly as possible – to an experienced personal injury attorney who will fight for your rights.