How to Recognize a Brain Injury and What You Should Do About It

Identifying concussions, contusions and other TBIs

It can be difficult to identify a brain injury; sometimes it can just look like a bad mood or a particularly sleepy person. But once you know the signs, you’ll see that something just isn’t quite right. Learn what brain injuries look like and be ready, because they’re all too common.

It’s been quite a bad day: You’ve been in a car accident that slammed your head against the side window. As the emergency medical services team extracts you from the vehicle, you notice that you can’t see straight, your stomach is turning and your head is throbbing.

brain injuries concussions

You try to tell EMS about these symptoms, but you can’t focus long enough to form the words.

Someone is shining a penlight into your eyes; the light is blinding. Then, with no warning, you vomit everywhere.

While no one should ever ignore their body’s signals, this becomes doubly important with these types of symptoms, which indicate a potential brain injury. Concussions are undoubtedly the most popular, given the countless ways that a person can become injured. In this case, the driver’s head hitting the window caused an internal brain injury.

If the trauma occurred at work or on the road, speedy diagnosis and treatment are incredibly important. Intracranial bleeding is a serious concern and can lead to memory loss, the inability to speak, vision loss, stroke, paralysis or even death if not dealt with in a timely manner.

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Additionally, in a legal context, workers’ compensation claims and car insurance policy disbursements are subject to a statute of limitations, which means they have to be filed in a timely manner or else you may lose the chance to file. A personal injury attorney can inform you of your rights in these situations. See our list of resources for brain injuries.

How most brain injuries occur

Picture an egg. The shell protects the yolk the same way your skull protects your brain.

Shake an egg vigorously enough and even though the shell stays intact the yolk will break. Your skull is the shell; your brain is the yolk.

Concussion is probably the most widely known cranial trauma, and it is usually caused when the brain bounces against the inside of the skull. It’s not always as obvious as it is with an “open” head injury, which is when an object penetrates the skull and enters the brain.

“Closed” head injuries, on the other hand, are less apparent because they don't always result from direct trauma and no damage can be seen from the outside.

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However, any time your brain is shaken around inside its shell, you are at risk. What seems like simple whiplash after a car accident could carry unseen complications. You can’t see what’s happening inside your head where the brain sits suspended in fluid.

Not all of these injuries result from trauma, however. In an acquired brain injury the cause is simple oxygen deprivation. This can occur after suffocation, drug overdose or chemical exposure. If the chemical exposure occurred at work, look into your rights under workers’ compensation law.

In any of these situations you should seek treatment immediately, but if the trauma resulted from a car accident or workplace injury, take care to keep copies of every document relating to your treatment. Your personal injury attorney will need this supporting evidence.

Recognizing brain injuries in yourself and others

Headaches, dizziness and nausea can indicate a brain injury, as can cognitive changes like loss of memory and trouble concentrating. If you find yourself unusually tired, or find that you are having difficulty with normal activities like reading or even carrying on a simple conversation, you may also be at risk. Blurriness and other vision impairments are telltale signs of brain-related issues.

Enjuris tip: Watch for headaches, dizziness, nausea, personality changes, loss of memory or trouble concentrating – these are indicative of brain injury!

If someone else —a child who was involved in a car accident with you, for instance— has potentially experienced injuries, look for the above symptoms, and watch for the person to be listless or more short-tempered than usual. 

Personality changes are indicative of brain injuries as well.

Spotting brain injuries in a child


  • Change related to diet
  • Loss of appetite
  • Change in playtime activities
  • Disinterest in toys
  • Loss in learned abilities (e.g., can no longer tie shoes)
  • Loss of balance
  • Vomiting after trauma
  • Listlessness
  • More short tempered than usual
  • Other personality changes

With children specifically, look for any change related to diet or playtime activities. A child who is suddenly uninterested in toys and activities he previously enjoyed, has lost his or her appetite, is having apparent balance issues or seems to have lost learned abilities like tying his shoes may be in danger. Vomiting after a trauma is another telltale sign of brain injury.

A child exhibiting any of these symptoms should be taken to a doctor immediately.

A doctor has confirmed your brain injury. What to do next:

If the trauma resulted from a workplace injury or car accident, consider contacting a personal injury attorney.

Car insurance policies and workers’ compensation benefits might cover your treatment, but restitution isn't always easy to obtain without legal assistance.

In all cases of brain injury, follow your physician's instructions to the letter. In terms of the legal work, consider speaking with one of the attorneys in the Enjuris law firm directory so that you can focus on healing while letting them handle the personal injury case.

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