What Types of Brain Injury Can I Claim For?

By Anna Watson

X-ray picture of the skull injury

There are many different types of brain injury, ranging from relatively minor concussions to life-changing traumatic brain injuries.

Identifying what type of brain injury you have sustained and how it has affected your life will be crucial to the success of your brain injury compensation claim. Your financial settlement will depend, to a large extent, on how much long-term pain and/or disability you or your loved one suffer as a result of the injury.

Concussive Brain Injuries

A concussion often occurs when the brain receives trauma from an impact or a sudden momentum or movement change, such as a fall, road traffic accident or physical assault. As a result of the concussion, the blood vessels in the brain may stretch and cranial nerves may be damaged.

  • A concussion can be caused by direct blows to the head, violent shaking of the head or force from a whiplash-type injury (often sustained in road traffic accidents).
  • A concussion can lead to a brief loss of consciousness (not exceeding 20 minutes). A person may remain conscious after suffering a concussion but could feel “dazed” or “punch drunk” as a result of the injury.
  • A concussion may or may not show up on a diagnostic imaging test, such as a CAT Scan.
  • Physical signs of concussion, such as skull fractures, brain bleeding or swelling, may or may not be present. Concussive brain injuries are therefore sometimes defined by exclusion and are considered a complex neurobehavioral syndrome.
  • A concussion can result in a diffuse axonal type injury, which in turn can lead to permanent or temporary brain damage.
  • A blood clot in the brain can sometimes occur as the result of a concussion and is sometimes fatal.
  • It may take a few months – or even a few years – for a concussive brain injury to heal.
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Cerebral Contusions

Cerebral contusions are a form of traumatic brain injury that causes a bruise of the brain tissue. Often caused by a direct impact to the head, cerebral contusions, like bruises in other parts of the body, can be associated with multiple microhemorrhages, which are small blood vessel leaks into the surrounding tissue.

Contusions occur in approximately 20–30% of severe brain injuries. This type of injury can sometimes cause a decline in mental function in the long term, and in the short term may result in brain herniation, a life-threatening condition in which parts of the brain are forced past parts of the skull.

Coup-Contrecoup Brain Injuries

Coup-contrecoup brain injuries are contusions that are present at both the impact site and on the complete opposite side of the brain. Coup-contrecoup brain injuries generally occur when the force of the impact is great enough to cause a contusion at the area of impact and also on the opposite side of the head to the impact area.

Due to the force required to cause coup-contrecoup brain injuries, they often occur as a result of automobile accidents or abusive or violent events, such as physical assaults. Coup-contrecoup injuries often cause additional complications such as hematomas (bleeding of the brain), and swelling of the brain, and can also cause disruptions to the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (which surrounds and protects the brain).

Blackwater Law successfully represented Catherine in a brain injury claim after she suffered a long-term brain injury as a result of a car accident.


Traumatic Brain Injuries

A traumatic brain injury is one that is caused by a sudden or violent impact on the brain, or if the skull is pierced by an object causing damage to the brain.

Closed Brain Injuries

Closed brain injuries occur when the head accelerates and then rapidly decelerates or collides with another object (for example, the windshield of a car) and the brain is damaged, not by a penetrating blow to the skull and brain, but by the violent shaking, stretching and twisting of brain tissue within the skull. The nerve endings connecting the skull to the brain are often torn or become completely separated from the brain in cases of traumatic brain injury. Closed brain injuries typically cause diffuse tissue damage that results in mental and physical disabilities, which are highly variable.

Open (Penetrating) Brain Injury

An open brain injury occurs when an object (such as a bullet, knife or piece of shrapnel) fractures the skull, enters the brain and injures the brain tissue in the process. These injuries tend to damage localised areas of the brain and, if the victim manages to survive, often result in catastrophic injuries and severe disabilities.

Anoxic Events

Anoxic brain injury (also known as cerebral hypoxia or hypoxic-anoxic injuries (HAI)) is a serious, life-threatening injury that can cause serious cognitive disabilities. HAI injuries are caused by a partial or total lack of oxygen to the brain. The greater the loss of oxygen, the more widespread and serious the brain injury will be. The common causes of anoxic brain injuries include respiratory arrest, choking, chemical poisoning (accident at work) and complications at birth (birth injury).

Second-Impact Syndrome “Recurrent Traumatic Brain Injury”

Second-impact syndrome (SIS), also known as “recurrent traumatic brain injury”, occurs when the brain swells rapidly after a person suffers a second concussion before the symptoms of an earlier concussion have subsided. This second impact may occur minutes, days or even weeks after an initial concussion, and even the mildest grade of concussion can lead to SIS. Second-impact syndrome can be fatal.


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