In an average year, more than 4,000 people are killed and 75,000 are injured in accidents involving large trucks or buses. Most of those fatalities and injuries happen to people in passenger vehicles. New Jersey has a good share of truck traffic because of its location and proximity to major population centers. That means it also has a good percentage of injuries and fatalities caused by truck accidents.
Owing to the sheer size, weight, and force of a truck, an accident with one can cause personal injury much more substantial than injuries sustained in a car-to-car accident, even at low speeds.
Unfortunately, many of those injuries involve damage to the brain either in the form of traumatic brain injury (TBI), concussion, or post-concussive injury syndrome. Post-concussive injury syndrome is when symptoms and problems persist after a concussion should have healed.
The frightening thing is that brain-related injuries do not always show up immediately after an accident. Symptoms may hide for hours or even days, delaying needed treatment.
In addition, if a person is brought to an emergency room, medical professionals will work on the visible injuries first, such as broken bones, open wounds, and similar trauma. And if the person is conscious and talking or walked away from an accident, doctors may not immediately order brain scans or other diagnostic tests.
Why Brain Injuries May be Missed Initially
There are many physiological reasons why an accident victim may not immediately sense a brain injury or why a medical professional will not automatically suspect one. These are as follows:
- Victims may not feel immediate pain. During trauma such as a truck accident, the human body releases large amounts of adrenaline and cortisol to protect the body. Glucose levels also increase to compensate for an injury. Unfortunately, these spikes of hormones and glucose can also mask injuries for hours, days, or weeks.
- The human brain can compensate for damage. When wounded, the brain will overcome deficits by kicking other parts of the brain into gear. This can ensure that bodily function continues, at least temporarily. Over time, the damaged or overworked area will show signs of strain and exhibit brain injury symptoms.
- Closed head injuries are invisible. Even if a doctor performs a palpable examination of the head, brain injuries may not yet have caused swelling, so that they will go undetected. Also, brain tears, bleeding, and specific other injuries can only be detected by diagnostic imaging. If those tests are not ordered, brain trauma can go undetected for a time.
- Brain injury presents elsewhere. Sometimes brain injury will manifest as neck and spine pain at first. A medical professional may begin investigating back or neck damage first instead of brain injury.
What are Hidden or Delayed Symptoms of Brain Injuries?
A phenomenon known as decreased initiation is a common but often-missed sign of a brain injury. Decreased initiation often presents as the inability to plan, coordinate, and execute everyday tasks.
As an example, if the phone rings, a healthy person will answer it. A person with decreased initiation may not be able to process what to do when a phone rings, so will not act.
People with decreased initiation may be mistaken for someone lazy or unmotivated. They may be deemed unwilling to complete tasks. Sometimes they come off as defiant. In reality, their brain injury has caused these symptoms.
Other symptoms, known as hidden or delayed because they do not present immediately or are mistaken for other conditions, include the following:
- Headaches. A dull headache that lingers can be one of the first signs of a brain injury, concussion, or post-concussive syndrome. Migraines can also indicate brain injury.
- Dizziness and nausea. Dizziness that comes on suddenly or that lingers after an accident can be a primary indicator of a brain wound, especially when accompanied by nausea and lack of appetite.
- Fatigue. Tiredness that lingers despite sleep or makes a person unable to function during the day can point to a brain injury. Concussion, in particular, can cause fatigue.
- Irritability, anxiety, and mood swings. A brain injury may present as changes in mood, irritability, or anxiety. The sufferer may not understand why they are reacting or feeling as they do, and their loved ones and associate will notice a personality change. All are good indicators that a medical visit is in order to discuss potential brain problems.
- Insomnia. Certain brain conditions, especially milder traumatic brain injuries, can cause a person to suffer insomnia. They may feel fatigued but are unable to sleep. Any type of sleep disturbance after an accident should be checked out.
- Lack of concentration. Inability to focus on a task or activity such as reading after an accident could indicate something going wrong in the brain. These symptoms may affect a person’s ability to work or even enjoy social activities, so they need a doctor’s attention.
- Memory issues. Even a mild brain injury can alter a person’s short- or long-term memory. It is a frightening symptom that needs to be looked at immediately.
- Ringing in the ears. Ears are good indicators of brain issues. Accident victims may hear ringing, buzzing, or other noises at rest or when speaking. Any ear disturbance should be checked out.
- Blurry vision. Like ears, eyes will often show symptoms that indicate a potential brain injury. Blurry or double vision after a truck accident is not normal. Victims should see the doctor.
- Sensitivity to noise and light. Again, eyes and ears can help diagnose a brain problem. Being sensitive to even the slightest noise or dimmest light can indicate a problem that needs attention.
What are the Obvious Symptoms of Brain Injuries?
A person involved in a truck accident will often suffer a severe blow to the head or will experience violent shaking or movement of the head. They may also be thrown from their vehicle. Any of these things can cause a brain injury.
Many times, brain injuries show symptoms that will cause a medical professional to suspect brain trauma. These signs and symptoms include the following:
- Loss of consciousness. A person who loses consciousness, whether briefly or for a long time, is potentially dealing with a brain injury. It is a common sign. A lack of oxygen from drowning, choking, stroke, or a heart attack that accompanies an accident will also cause a person to lose consciousness.
- Confusion. A person who does not know where they are, how they got there, or even who they are almost always has some degree of brain trauma. They may not be able to reason, analyze, or even utter a coherent sentence. Many times, they will be slow to respond or will repeat themselves.
- Coordination and movement problems. The brain controls so much of a person’s ability to move and coordinate their movements that any disability in that area needs immediate attention. Depending on the brain injury, symptoms such as imbalance, weakness, and paralysis could indicate trauma.
- Dilated eyes. Those who have suffered a brain injury of any type will have dilated pupils or uneven pupil dilation. This is why emergency responders and other medical professionals will always check a victim’s eyes with a flashlight.
Anyone in an accident or close to an accident victim must be highly vigilant about new or changing symptoms. Brain trauma must be treated as soon as possible. Even if a person does not suspect brain injury, they should be examined thoroughly and insist on diagnostic tests. It can be easy for a doctor to miss a brain injury, often causing the victim even more undue trauma.
Monmouth County Truck Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law Help Truck Accident Victims Recover
An accident with a truck can cause physical and financial devastation, including lost wages and insurmountable medical bills. If you or a loved one was involved in an accident with a commercial truck, contact the Monmouth County truck accident lawyers at Ellis Law today. We will fight for you to secure the compensation you deserve. For a free consultation, call us at 732-308-0200 or complete our online form. We are located in Freehold, New Jersey, and help clients throughout Freehold, East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, Monmouth County, Marlboro, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn, New York, and New York City.