Are there different levels of brain injury?

Written on behalf of Abramson Smith Waldsmith LLP

If you are in a car accident in California, and a healthcare provider diagnoses you with a brain injury, you have cause for concern. However, before you start thinking the worst, it is important to understand there are different levels of severity of a brain injury, ranging from mild to serious. They type you have will determine how it will affect you over the long term and what your treatment options are.

The Brain Injury Alliance discusses that brain injury is a very general term, as each situation is unique. The severity and dysfunction that results depends on which area of the head the hit occurs, as well as the type and amount of force. For example, a relatively mild rear-end accident can cause whiplash which may lead to a mild concussion that does not require any rehabilitation. In contrast, a more serious accident may result in a diffuse axonal injury, in which there is excessive tearing of neural tissue. This can lead to long-lasting impairments. Although less common, a bad car accident may also result in skull penetration, which can have a host of complicated issues.

The New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services outlines the symptoms that may occur with the different levels of injury. They include the following:

  • Mild – confusion for a few minutes, brief loss of consciousness, normal brain scans and full recovery within days for most cases
  • Moderate – confusion for days or weeks, loss of consciousness for longer period of time, positive brain scans and longer-lasting impairments
  • Severe – coma, vegetative state or locked-in syndrome


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