A concussion is a “mild” traumatic brain injury (TBI) that motor-vehicle accident victims often sustain. Concussions occur when people hit their heads on objects or surfaces, when something strikes their heads or during strong, unexpected head movement such as whiplash. The biological event during a concussion is brain movement quickly back and forth inside the skull, sometimes in a twisting or stretching fashion that can damage brain cells, modify its structure or alter brain chemicals.
What is post-concussion syndrome?
We put “mild” in quotes because while that word describes a concussion in the medical lexicon, a concussion’s impact on the victim’s life can be anything but mild – especially when the symptoms are long-lasting. While the initial headache, dizziness, nausea, fatigue and other effects can last hours or days, in about one-fifth of these cases, the person develops post-concussion syndrome (PCS), defined as a concussion with symptoms lasting longer than six weeks, according to the University of Utah Health.
However, PCS can last for months or more rarely, for years.
The risk of a concussion evolving into post-concussion syndrome is higher for a patient with a history of concussions, particularly if a subsequent concussion is sustained before the previous one completely healed. Some long-term symptoms the syndrome can cause may include:
- Depression, sometimes severe
- Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Behavioral changes
- Irritability and anger
- Brain fog
- Mood swings
- Sleep problems and fatigue
- Difficulty with memory and concentration
- Sensory disturbance like sensitivity to noise or light, blurred vision or ringing in the ears
- Taste and smell disorders
- Nausea and motion sickness
- Neck pain
- And others
Studies suggest concussion victims have difficulty driving safely
A recent preliminary study showed that people who have suffered concussions have a harder time making “split-second decisions” behind the wheel, reports Everyday Health. Delayed reaction times can happen even when the concussion and its symptoms have been in the rear-view mirror for weeks. One of the researchers explained that the complex driving skills required to prevent some accidents may take longer to relearn after a concussion – even longer than the symptoms take to resolve.
While standard testing assessing cognitive, motor skill and visual impairment can be helpful, there is no scientific standard to measure when a patient can resume driving without increased danger.
How does post-concussion syndrome impact the victim’s claim for damages?
When the victim of a car accident develops post-concussion syndrome, it must be carefully evaluated by a medical specialist like a neuropsychologist or neurologist. The most common treatment is rest – which obviously can impact the person’s ability to resume a normal work schedule.
This is an important reason for a seasoned personal injury attorney to be on board to advocate for adequate – even robust – money damages from parties responsible for the accident. In addition to recovery for medical expenses, mental health treatment, various therapies, rehabilitation, pain and suffering, and property loss, legal counsel in consultation with medical experts can carefully assess appropriate damages for lost wages and loss of earning capacity, considering the likely impact on the patient’s ability to work and the possible length of the condition into the future.
If driving is a skill the victim uses at work, the difficulty of resuming safe driving is another important factor in assessing damages. This factor also may impact the need for help with errands and, if the person is isolated, on pain and suffering, both of which could increase damages.
Any negotiated settlement or lawsuit must take into account these long-term losses – otherwise, the victim would not be made whole.