How the brain gets hurt in car accidents

Every year, between more than one million people are seen at emergency rooms and by physicians after a head injury. Between 50,000 and 100,000 of these will have a brain injury which will cause symptoms and problems which will affect their ability to function in their daily lives including in work and school.

Many brain injuries are due to car accidents. When a car is traveling at a high rate of speed and then stop suddenly, a head injury — or traumatic brain injury — is often the result. A person doesn’t have to hit their head on the steering wheel or windshield to sustain a brain injury. Even at moderate rates of speed, brain injuries can happen.
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There are three separate ways a brain can be injured:

  • bleeding or bruising
  • swelling
  • tearing

Brain Bleeding/Bruising

In a head-on car accident, a person’s brain can be traveling at a high rate of speed and then zero in an instant. In this type of motor vehicle accident, the brain is pushed against the skull which is made of hard bone. The brain tissue when pushed against the skull can cause blood vessels to tear. When the blood vessels tear, they can leak blood into areas of the brain and between the brain and skull.

Because the skull is closed, there is no room for the blood to go any where so the blood can pool and press on the brain tissue. When this happens, the brain tissue can be damaged and even die. With a lot of bleeding in and around the brain, areas of the brain can stop working and if it affects areas which control the heart or breathing, the person can be in a life-threatening situation which can result in death.

It is always wise to be checked out by a doctor after a car accidents because one can feel fine immediately following the accident but if they have a brain bleed, they can lapse into a coma a short time later.

Brain Swelling

After a car accident, the brain can swell, especially if there is bleeding or bruising. When the brain swells, there is no room for it to go because the skull is fixed and hard. The pressure of the brain swelling against the skull can damage the structures in the brain. In this case, brain surgeons can perform surgery and remove part of the skull or install a ICP to allow the extra pressure to escape. Swelling can impact important structures of the brain which control breathing and the heart.

Brain Tearing

In a motor vehicle accident, the brain can be thrown forward then bounced backwards. Because of this forward and backward motion, the brain can get small tears or cuts in it. These cuts or tears can be so microscopic that they do not even show up on CT Scans or on MRIs. In fact, up to 85% of brain injury patients have injuries that do not show up on CT Scans or on MRIs.


This information is provided by Washington Injury Attorney blog, a service of The Farber Law Group. We specialize in representing people who have suffered a traumatic brain injury due to a motor vehicle accident or due to some other type of accident like a fall. With our help, you may recover compensation for your damages which include medical and rehabilitation costs.

Contact The Farber Law Group at 1-800-244-9087 or attorney@hgfarber.com to schedule a free and confidential case evaluation. We have offices in Seattle and Bellevue to assist you.