What Are the Types of Traumatic Brain Injuries a Person Can Receive in an Auto or Semi-Truck Accident?

Everyone understands that a collision with a motor vehicle can do great damage to the human body. After all, even the smallest of automobiles are relatively heavy objects that can move at high rates of speed. When collisions result, the body can be thrown violently, absorb unnatural forces, and even be crushed. These consequences are only magnified when the collision involves the massive size and weight of a semi-truck.

Although it is difficult, if not impossible, to rate one type of injury as worse than another, it is undeniable that brain injuries can cause some of the most debilitating consequences imaginable. In this article, we’ll discuss brain injury in general, and specifically address the types of traumatic brain injury a person can receive in an accident with a car or tractor-trailer truck.

What Is a Traumatic Brain Injury?

The definition of traumatic brain injury (sometimes abbreviated “TBI”) generally references an injury to the brain that results from an external force and disrupts the brain’s normal functioning.  Such  injuries can result from intentionally hitting someone in the head, falling down and striking one’s head, or trauma caused by motor vehicle collisions. The definition does not include acquired brain injuries such as those caused by disease or stroke.

Traumatic Brain Injury Statistics

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 61,00 TBI-related deaths in 2019, or nearly 166 TBI-related deaths per day in the U.S. These sobering statistics underscore the importance of understanding the prevalence of traumatic brain injury after a car accident or semi-truck accident.

The CDC goes on to list falls, firearm-related injuries, assaults, and motor vehicle crashes as the most common causes of TBI, reporting that car accidents were responsible for 25% of all TBI-related hospitalizations in 2016 and 24.5% in 2017. (PDF)

Even when a traumatic brain injury after a car accident is not fatal, it can still lead to serious long-term health consequences, particularly for children.

Types of Traumatic Brain Injuries

There are a number of different labels and ways to define the severity and type of a traumatic brain injury. In this article we will use “mild,” “moderate,” and “severe,”  based on the Glasgow Coma Scale. (PDF)

  • Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: Mild TBI can be caused by a blow to the head or shaking of the head that damages the brain. These injuries are often labeled as concussions. Any loss of consciousness is usually 30 seconds or less. However, mild TBI can still significantly affect behavior or cognition. If you suspect you’ve suffered a mild traumatic brain injury after a car accident, you should still consult a medical professional to ensure proper recovery and prevent long-term effects.   
  • Moderate Traumatic Brain Injury: Moderate TBI often results in loss of consciousness from as little as several minutes to as much as several hours. If full recovery is possible, it can take months. Sometimes full recovery is not even possible.    
  • Severe Traumatic Brain Injury: Severe TBI results in an extreme level of injury. The victim often is comatose, and in many circumstances suffers permanent brain damage. Permanent care may be required.    

Traumatic Brain Injury after a Car Accident

As mentioned above, motor vehicle crashes are one of the most common causes of TBI. Because traumatic brain injury after a car accident is so common, it’s important to be on the lookout for the following symptoms after a crash in which a blow to the head was sustained:

  • Physical symptoms: Headache, nausea or vomiting, fatigue or drowsiness, speech problems, dizziness or loss of balance
  • Sensory symptoms: Blurred vision, ringing in the ears, bad taste in the mouth, changes in ability to smell, light or sound sensitivity
  • Cognitive or behavioral symptoms: Loss of consciousness, a dazed or confused state (with or without loss of consciousness), memory or concentration problems, mood changes or mood swings, depression or anxiety, difficulty sleeping, or sleeping too much

Any of the symptoms above can indicate even a mild traumatic brain injury (concussion).

Moderate to Severe TBI Symptoms

Symptoms of moderate to severe TBI symptoms can include those above, usually appearing within minutes to days after the crash. However, additional symptoms may occur and can show up days, weeks, or even months after the initial accident.

Physical symptoms of a more severe traumatic brain injury after a car accident can include:

  • Loss of consciousness from several minutes to hours
  • Persistent or worsening headache
  • Persistent vomiting or nausea
  • Convulsions
  • Seizures
  • Dilation of pupils
  • Clear fluids draining from the nose or ears
  • Inability to wake up from sleep
  • Weakness or numbness in fingers or toes
  • Loss of coordination

Additionally, moderate to severe TBI may cause mental and cognitive symptoms such as profound confusion, agitation or combativeness, changes in behavior, slurred speech, and coma. Check out the Mayo Clinic for more resources on symptoms of TBI in adults and children.

Though mild TBI usually resolves within a few weeks, it’s important to see a doctor about these symptoms to ensure proper recovery. It’s also important to monitor for the onset of new symptoms that may indicate serious long-term effects. This is especially important for children, who may not be able to communicate symptoms and can suffer more severe long-term health and developmental setbacks due to TBI.

Call with Questions

At Nelson MacNeil Rayfield, we understand that traumatic brain injuries can completely change a person’s life. We also believe that those who negligently inflict these types of injuries must be held accountable under the law so that other Oregonians will be protected. If you have questions about a traumatic brain injury after a car accident, please call us. We will be happy to give you answers.


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