With car accidents, head injury is among the most common injuries. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that motor vehicle accidents were responsible for 25% of all TBI-related hospitalizations in 2016, and 24.5% in 2017. That makes car crashes the second most common cause of TBI, just behind falls. Other common causes of TBI include sports injuries and assault.

car accident head injury

TBIs can range in severity, from fairly mild to life-threatening. But they’re not the only head injury to be worried about. They’re hard to detect without medical attention. Even if you feel fine after a car crash, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Some injuries and symptoms may not show up right away.

Let’s look at some of the most common head and neck injuries from car accidents.

head injury

Understanding Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs)

A traumatic brain injury occurs when damage to the brain is caused by external forces such as trauma or stroke. TBI can be mild, moderate, or severe. It affects people of all ages but is more common among children and young adults. Symptoms may include loss of consciousness, memory problems, confusion, headaches, dizziness, balance issues, vision problems, seizures, personality changes, difficulty thinking clearly, and other symptoms.

Causes of TBIs in Auto Accidents

There are various why someone might suffer a head injury from an auto accident. Some of these include:

  • Alcohol or drug impairment
  • Poor driving habits
  • Speeding
  • Distracted driving
  • Failure to yield the right-of-way
  • Improper lane change
  • Unsafe vehicle design
  • Lack of seat belts
  • Seat belt misuse
  • Vehicle rollover

Negligence while driving can send heavy metal car parts and blunt objects within a car flying. They can have enough impact to cause severe injury.

Types of Car Accident Head Injuries and TBIs

Traumatic brain injury is the overarching term for any kind of head injury sustained during a car accident. However, not every form of TBI is the same. Traumatic brain injuries and other types of head injuries caused by motor vehicle accidents can be categorized into three levels of severity. Each has its own individual set of symptoms, including loss of consciousness and whether there was an open head injury or not. Below, we’ve put together a list of the most common types of head injuries people suffer in car accidents.


Concussions are a mild traumatic brain injury. These are temporary and resolve themselves with a bit of rest. Symptoms of mild traumatic brain injuries include:

  • Headache
  • Problems with balance and coordination
  • Problems with concentration, memory, and judgment
  • Loss of consciousness

Suffering multiple concussions makes you more susceptible to serious injury if there’s another blow to the head.


With a moderate TBI, concussion symptoms last months to a year and sometimes long after the head injury. Many suffer from anxiety and depression. A person may be lethargic, but the eyes remain open to stimulation. Loss of consciousness may occur for anywhere from 20 minutes to six hours with this type of head injury. Brain swelling or bleeding is common, which causes sleepiness. Permanent damage is possible in moderate or severe TBIs.


With a severe TBI, the person is unconscious and doesn’t open their eyes, even when stimulated. The loss of consciousness lasts for over six hours. Effects depend on where the injury occurs within the brain. With extensive damage to the brain, permanent brain damage is possible.

A severe traumatic brain injury can include a penetrating injury, where a foreign object penetrates the skull and brain tissue.


A contusion is a medical term for a bruise. Contusions are bruises in a specific brain area because of the impact. The location of the contusion plays a role in the symptoms. This type of head injury occurs when the driver or passenger is struck by external objects such as the steering wheel or window.

Coup-Contrecoup Brain Injury

You may also hear contusions referred to as coup or contrecoup. The brain is injured directly under the impact area in a coup lesion. In a contrecoup injury, the brain is injured on the opposite side. Coup-contrecoup injuries are common in violent accidents, such as rollovers.


A concussion can be caused by any type of traumatic brain injury, including whiplash injuries, blows to the head or face, and even being hit with a hard object such as a baseball bat. Common symptoms may include headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, confusion, memory loss, vision problems, seizures, balance issues, irritability, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and more.


Other Head and Neck Injury from Car Accidents

In less severe car accidents, head and neck injuries are still possible. These include things like whiplash, soft tissue damage, slipped discs, fractures, and lacerations. Any impact on the head can cause head injuries that require medical attention.


Whiplash is one of the most common injuries from a car accident. The forces of a car accident often cause the body to move in unnatural ways. When most of the body stays still because of the seatbelt, but the head and neck move forward, whiplash is likely. You’ll be sore, but whiplash itself rarely causes permanent injury.

Soft Tissue Damage

Soft tissue damage encompasses a variety of body parts, including muscles, tendons, and ligaments. You may have pulled muscles, sprains, and strains depending on the car accident. You may experience bruising and swelling. An x-ray will be necessary to rule out fractures or more serious injuries. Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) are enough to help heal soft tissue damage.

Skull Fractures

Broken bones are common in car accidents. If the blunt force caused by the car accident is strong enough, it could cause a skull fracture.


Lacerations are cuts and scrapes. These are common if glass breaks or you get hit with a loose object in the vehicle during impact. Often, these heal on their own. Deep cuts will require stitches.

What are the Signs of a Serious Head Injury?

Head injuries can be caused by many things, including car accidents, sports-related incidents, falls, or assaults. If someone has suffered a severe head injury, they may have trouble speaking clearly, walk unsteadily, experience blurred vision, suffer memory loss, or lose consciousness. Patients may also show other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, confusion, seizures, or even coma.

What Should You Do if You Hit Your Head in a Car Accident?

If you are involved in a car crash, there are several things you can do to help yourself recover quickly.

  • First, call 911 and seek medical treatment.
  • Second, try to remain calm.
  • Third, try to stay still and avoid moving your neck or back.
  • Fourth, keep your eyes closed, so you don’t get dizzy.
  • Fifth, take deep breaths through your nose and try to stay awake.

How Long After a Head Injury Can Symptoms Occur?

Symptoms may appear immediately or take weeks or months to develop. Head injuries are often more serious if there is bleeding inside the skull. If this occurs, it could be life-threatening.

Car accident brain injuries can cause both physical symptoms and emotional symptoms. Depending on the severity and cause of the injury, symptoms could present themselves in different ways. No matter how severe your accident, you must seek medical care immediately.

How Long Does it Take to Recover from Head Trauma?

Recovering from a head injury is different for everyone. The recovery speed depends on the severity, cause, and type of injury sustained. Depending on the injury, people who suffered head injuries or TBIs could recover within days or months.

It’s important to be mindful when returning to activities like running and exercising. Returning to these activities too soon can slow down the recovery process and worsen symptoms of more severe injuries.

Why You Might Need a Brain Injury Attorney

If you have been involved in a car accident or suffered some other type of head trauma, then you may be entitled to compensation for any injuries you sustained. This includes medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. A brain injury attorney can help you determine if you are eligible for financial compensation and how much you should receive.

Have you Recently Suffered a Car Accident Head Injury?

If you were involved in a car accident that wasn’t your fault, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact the attorneys at Denmon Pearlman for your free case evaluation today. You won’t pay anything unless we win your case.