A common argument that we hear from insurance companies is that our client’s brain injury couldn’t have been caused by the accident because the client’s head didn’t hit anything. That is a fallacy. It is true that most head injuries are caused by a trauma to the head. For example, in a car wreck, the victim’s head may hit the window, the steering wheel or the dash board. However, there are a number of other common situations that lead to brain injuries where there aren’t any direct blows to the head. Some of those are listed below.
1. Forces applied to the brain. You don’t have to hit your head to apply forces to the brain. When your head moves rapidly, your brain moves inside your skull and impacts the brain. These forces, slamming your brain around in your skull, are often hard enough to cause brain injuries. For example, one study found that in car wrecks of 35 miles per hour, 27% of drivers and 21% of passengers who were wearing seat belts were at high risk of head injury even when their head didn’t contact anything on the interior of the car.
This risk is often made worse because multiple impacts occur. Studies have repeatedly shown that repeated brain injuries have a cumulative effect on people, and in high impact accidents, there are often multiple injuries. For example, in a simple rear-end case, upon impact, the head is immediately thrown forward, causing the brain to hit the front of the skull. And then the head whips back, causing a second impact with the back of the skull. With more complications, such as impacts with other cars or quick stops, there are additional opportunities for more impacts and more injuries, all occurring without the head ever hitting anything on the interior of the car.
Even hearing the above description, some may discount the non-impact cause of head injuries. But remind them of shaken-baby syndrome. Countless children are harmed or even killed from head injuries suffered by shaking — and they all occur without any impact.
2. Blast Injuries. One legacy of the Iraq war is that we are learning more and more that people around explosions can suffer severe brain injuries without any type of impact on the head. These same type of injuries are often found in construction-site accidents or in various types of manufacturing plant accidents.
3. Lack of Oxygen. Brain injuries are also often caused by anoxia, or lack of oxygen to the brain. These types of injuries often occur in near-drowning cases, but they also arise in other situations.
4. Loss of Blood. An injured person who loses a lot of blood may also develop a brain injury even though the head never impacted anything during the actual accident.
5. Electrical Injuries. Many doctors miss this, but any type of electrical injury can potentially cause a brain injury in a person.
Just because you or a loved one doesn’t have an impact on your head, don’t dismiss the possibility of a brain injury. Recognizing the brain injury and getting prompt treatment can make a difference in your outcome.