doctor examining traumatic brain injury scansCar accidents are, unfortunately, a common occurrence in South Carolina, and many of them result in traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). The brain damage caused by an impact to the head in a crash can be extensive. TBI is a general term that refers to a wide range of specific brain injuries and long-term effects. Understanding your condition is the first step towards getting fair compensation.

It is crucial for victims to know what their rights are in these situations and how to pursue the compensation they deserve. Navigating these challenging times is difficult and is best aided with the legal advice of an experienced South Carolina personal injury lawyer.

Types of Car Accident Brain Injuries

Along with slip and fall accidents, car accidents are one of the leading causes of TBIs in South Carolina. In a car crash, a person’s head may hit a hard surface inside the vehicle. This can include the dashboard, headrest, steering wheel, or even the windshield. The violent jolting action of a collision can cause the brain to strike the inside of the skull, too. These can all result in serious brain damage.

Some types of traumatic brain injuries include:

  • Closed-head injury. The skull is not broken, but the brain suffers significant trauma. The sudden impact of a crash pushes the brain against the inside of the skull. Damaged brain tissue can swell.
  • Concussion. This is one of the most common forms of closed-head injury. The impact or sudden momentum change of a car crash can cause a concussion. Victims may suffer a loss of consciousness.
  • Coup-contrecoup. A contusion refers to bruising of the brain. A coup-contrecoup injury occurs when the brain bruises on both sides. It suffers trauma from the impact side and the opposite side.
  • Diffuse axonal injury (DAI). Trauma is more spread out to different areas of the brain rather than one or two focal points. This generalized brain injury can lead to temporary or permanent brain damage.
  • Subdural hematoma. A blood vessel between the brain and the skull is damaged. The resulting blood clot places pressure on the brain.
  • Open-head injury. Penetration is a common example of this type of TBI. The skull is punctured or broken. Bone fragments can pierce brain tissue, causing further damage.
  • Hypoxic brain injury. A car accident injury, like to the chest or throat, can impede the oxygen supply to the brain. This can lead to permanent brain damage as the brain starves for oxygen.

Short-Term and Long-Term Impact of TBIs

Symptoms of TBIs are remarkably diverse. They also may not appear right away. It could take several days or weeks before symptoms start to surface. Individuals may think they feel fine, even if the underlying brain damage is causing problems. Whether it’s from playing high-impact sports or suffering a car crash, TBIs can profoundly impact victims.injury lawyer

Just a few examples of TBI symptoms include:

  • Persisting headaches, dizziness, and vertigo
  • Memory loss or confusion
  • Difficulty concentrating, communicating, or thinking clearly
  • Extreme fatigue or low alertness
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Loss of balance and coordination
  • Numbness in extremities
  • Blurred vision
  • Increased sensitivity to light or sound
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Angry outbursts and mood swings
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Seizures or epilepsy
  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Heart attacks
  • Loss of control of bodily functions
  • Periods of unconsciousness

These symptoms may be short-lived, but they can also become chronic. It is vital to seek medical treatment right away if you experience any of these symptoms after a car crash.

What to Do If You Suffer a Brain Injury

There are several steps you should take if you’re involved in a car accident. It’s useful to take photos of the crash and note the road and weather conditions. If you suspect you’ve suffered a TBI, it’s critical to take further steps to protect your health and your rights.

  1. Get a medical exam. Even if you don’t think you have any symptoms, taking early action is paramount. An early diagnosis offers the best prognosis for recovery. Brain imaging may not reveal all injuries, so you should request functional testing, too. Early testing also helps your case if you choose to pursue a personal injury lawsuit.
  2. Seek medical treatment. Your family doctor may request specific diagnostic testing or refer you to a specialist. Remember that your health and well-being must always come first. A seemingly minor injury can quickly worsen if left untreated. Treatment may include medication, therapy, or assistive technology.
  3. Collect documentation. Keep copies of medical forms, like test results and other evidence that may support your personal injury claim. Ask your employer to provide documentation for any time you’re taking off work.
  4. Consult with an attorney. Seek the services of an attorney skilled in helping victims of car accidents. At Pracht Injury Lawyers, we have years of experience navigating these types of cases.
  5. Call your insurance provider. Tell them you’ve been involved in a car accident and may have suffered a traumatic brain injury. Follow the advice of your lawyer on how to approach this discussion.
  6. Do not settle. It is imperative not to sign any releases from your auto insurance company. These can waive your rights to pursue further compensation. Your lawyer can explain your options so you can make an informed decision.

Common Questions After a Traumatic Car Crash

A car accident can leave you feeling shaken. Especially if you’ve suffered a TBI, you may not be sure what to do next. Here are answers to three of the most common questions asked by car crash victims.

What Damages Can I Recover?

South Carolina is a comparative negligence state. This means that the amount you can recover is proportional to the amount of the assigned fault. If the other party is 100 percent at fault, you can seek to recover 100 percent of damages. If you are 15 percent at fault, then you can only seek to recover 85 percent of damages.

For compensation, you may seek to recover such costs as:

  • Current medical bills, like hospital visits
  • Anticipated future medical costs, like therapy and rehabilitation
  • Current lost wages
  • Loss of future earning potential
  • Cost of future job retraining
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of consortium
  • Punitive damages

How Long Do I Have to File a Case?

In general, South Carolina’s statute of limitations is three years. This means you must file a personal injury lawsuit within three years of the car accident. If the accident involves a government official, including police and ambulance, this reduces to two years.

In the context of traumatic brain injuries, there is another noteworthy exception. The three-year period may not start until your TBI is formally diagnosed. TBI symptoms may not appear right away. If you discover symptoms a few weeks or even months later, you may still pursue legal action against the other driver up to three years after that.

Do I Need a Personal Injury Lawyer?

The short answer is yes. Working through a personal injury claim is complex and nuanced. It can be even more complicated with an uninsured or out-of-state driver. An experienced lawyer will have the vital knowledge needed to navigate this process. They understand and will protect your legal rights, helping you recover the fair compensation you deserve.

Christopher Pracht
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Christopher Pracht is an experienced attorney at Pracht Injury Lawyers.