Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) can happen in a variety of ways. Some of the most common include unintentional falls, motor vehicle accidents, violence, and being struck accidentally with an object. All of these types of head injuries can be very serious, and potentially even fatal. However, automobile accidents can be particularly dangerous.
Massachusetts TBI Data
Data from the state of Massachusetts shows that motor vehicle accidents are the number two cause of traumatic brain injuries resulting in hospitalization or death. For the most recent year reported, the state of Massachusetts saw 796 TBI related deaths, 4,917 hospitalizations and 66,952 visits to hospital emergency departments.
Research Shows Auto Accident TBIs are Especially Dangerous
While no traumatic brain injury should be taken lightly, some are much more serious than others. In fact, TBIs are broken out into mild, moderate, and severe categories. Some TBIs on the lower end of the spectrum resolve naturally with rest. Others may require more extensive treatment, including rehabilitation. Some TBI victims never fully recover, and some traumatic brain injuries — about 50,000 per year nationwide – are fatal.
In one older study, researchers compared the severity of TBIs among people who had suffered moderate to severe injuries in four different ways: motor vehicle accidents, violence, falls, and other. They compared scores by a number of accepted measures, including the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS), RLH levels of cognitive functions, FIM instrument scale, DRS, and the Community Integration Questionnaire.
On hospital admission, those who sustained their TBIs in motor vehicle accidents on average had lower GCS scores and lower FIM scores – – both indicating more severe injury. However, this group also saw more significant improvements at the point of discharge from rehabilitation and at one year post injury. The difference in improvements may be attributable in part to demographic differences among the group. For example, traumatic brain injuries suffered in falls occur disproportionately in older people who may have a more difficult time recovering. The motor vehicle accident group skewed younger – – with an average age in their 30s. This group also had some socio-economic advantages over some other categories.
Protecting Against Head Injuries in Motor Vehicle Accidents
The most significant step you can take to protect against a traumatic brain injury in a motor vehicle accident is to wear your seatbelt. A significant percentage of TBIs sustained in car accidents happen when the vehicle occupant is propelled forward and strikes his or her head on the windshield or another surface. Some traumatic brain injuries are also sustained when passengers or drivers are thrown from a vehicle in a collision.
One study of patients who suffered traumatic brain injuries in motor vehicle accidents revealed that only about 21% of them had been wearing seat belts at the time of the accident. The general rate of seatbelt use at that time was about 67%, meaning that traumatic brain injuries in motor vehicle accidents appeared to occur disproportionately among those who did not wear seatbelts.
Similarly, motorcyclists can reduce the risk of traumatic brain injury by wearing a properly rated and well fitted helmet. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has reported that motorcyclists who crash without helmets are three times as likely to sustain brain injuries as their helmeted counterparts. Helmet use also reduces the risk of death in a crash by about 37%.
Protecting Yourself Before and After a Motor Vehicle Accident
The precautions above will help you to minimize the risk of a traumatic brain injury in a motor vehicle accident. Of course, the best protection is to avoid motor vehicle accidents entirely. While that may not be 100% within your control, maintaining your focus on the road, ensuring that you do not drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol or when you are too tired to drive safely, observing speed limits, leaving safe distance between you and other vehicles, and reducing speed when there are risk factors such as reduced visibility or slick surfaces decreases the risk. And, remember that “slick surfaces” doesn’t just mean wet pavement. Be on the lookout for black ice, oil, and even grass cuttings on the road.
Wearing your seatbelt in the car and a helmet if you ride a motorcycle can significantly reduce the risk of serious injury if you are involved in a collision.
If you have been seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident, additional steps may be required to protect yourself. If another driver or some other party negligently caused or contributed to your accident, you may be entitled to compensation. This compensation can help you cover necessary medical expenses and support yourself and your family while you recover.
The best first step is to consult with an experienced motor vehicle accident attorney. Attorney Kevin P. Broderick dedicates his practice to helping people who have suffered injuries in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. You can schedule a free consultation by calling 978-459-1792 or filling out the contact form on this site.