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Post-Concussion Syndrome and Automobile Crashes – The Signs and Symptoms


Soldiers returning from battle overseas and high profile sports athletes are two groups who immediately come to mind when the public thinks of concussions and post-concussion syndrome. A third group that is often overlooked is victims of automobile crashes. Motorists involved in collisions often experience direct, traumatic contact between their head and an object inside the vehicle (for example, the steering wheel, windshield, or air bag). The medical community has also acknowledged that the sudden change in velocity involved in motor vehicle accident can alone cause a concussion, even without the patient’s head striking any object.

Because most concussions cannot be detected on standard emergency room testing such as X-Rays and CT scans, the diagnosis must usually be made, in part, based upon the history provided by the patient and any emergency personnel who arrived at the scene of the crash. One of the first questions the ER doctors should ask is whether the patient suffered a loss of consciousness. A loss of consciousness is almost always an indication that a patient suffered a concussion. Even without a loss of consciousness, though, a patient may still have suffered a concussion. Absent a loss of consciousness, the question becomes whether the patient has any period of amnesia (for example, he or she cannot remember the moments before and after the crash) or whether the patient had a temporarily altered mental state (basically, was he or she “out of it” for a period of time).

Most folks who experience a concussion will be symptom-free within 6 months. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Sometimes the symptoms will persist, particularly if the concussion was not the first the patient had suffered. If symptoms last beyond a year, many neurologists will start to explain that they could be a permanent aspect of the patient’s life. Among the most frequent symptoms of concussions and persistent post-concussion syndrome include the following:

  • Headache;
  • Dizziness and loss of balance and coordination;
  • Sensitivity to light (photophobia) and sound (phonophobia);
  • Nausea or vomiting;
  • Vision changes, including blurry vision and double vision;
  • Sleep changes;
  • Fatigue, feeling tired; and
  • Emotional lability – being more emotional than usual, sadness, crying.

Regrettably, many automobile insurance companies do not take concussions and post-concussive syndrome seriously. They’re settlement offers often reflect that, particularly if the injured party is unrepresented by counsel. The insurance companies will often rely upon the fact that CT scans and MRI scans do not show any physical changes to the brain to argue that the symptoms are either made up, exaggerated, or not supported by the medical records and evidence. The truth, however, is that many concussions just cannot be seen on basic testing. Doctors must rely upon the patient and, in some cases, neuropsychological testing, to diagnose and treat a concussion and post-concussion syndrome.

If you live in North Carolina and have sustained a concussion as a result of another person’s negligence, whether in an automobile crash or otherwise, the attorneys of Maginnis Law can may be able to assist. To speak with our lead personal injury attorney, T. Shawn Howard, call 919.480.8526 or click here to send an email.