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Symptoms of Brain Injury After a Car Accident

Car accidents can be incredibly stressful; not only because they cause injuries but also because of the mental and emotional trauma they bring. If you feel fine, you may want to put off visiting the doctor in favor of emotionally recovering from the accident, fixing your car, or handling insurance claims. However, putting off a trip to the doctor can worsen your condition.

Even if you don’t think you were injured, it is always wise to visit a specialist. They will confirm that you are injury-free or diagnose your condition early, letting you start treatment much sooner than you would have if you had waited to make an appointment. That can improve your prognosis, prevent your condition from worsening, and even help ensure your insurance properly covers all of your medical claims.

One of the potential injuries from a car accident that can be incredibly serious is a brain injury. Take the time to learn the brain injury symptoms in New York City, so you can recognize the warning signs after an accident. Then, if you notice any of these symptoms, see a certified brain injury specialist in the Bronx, Queens, Staten Island, Manhattan, or Brooklyn as soon as possible. 

What Is a Traumatic Brain Injury?

Before getting into the symptoms of a car accident brain injury, you should make sure you understand what the term traumatic brain injury (TBI) means. As the name implies, it is an injury affecting your brain tissue. TBIs are usually caused by jolts or blows to the head or body, such as a car accident or slip and fall. They can also be caused by an object going through your brain tissue, from a shattered bit of skull to a bullet.

What Is a Traumatic Brain Injury

There are mild traumatic brain injuries and traumatic brain injuries. Mild TBIs may only temporarily affect your brain cells. The more serious TBIs can lead to physical brain damage, such as torn tissues, bruising, and bleeding. Do not be fooled by the term “mild,” however. “Mild” simply means that it is not quite as bad as “moderate” or “severe,” but it is still a dangerous situation and a serious injury. Even mild TBIs require prompt diagnosis and treatment. 

It’s crucial to treat TBIs as soon as possible as they can lead to long-term consequences. In severe cases, they can even lead to death. When it comes to car accidents and brain injuries, you will likely hear the terms TBI, and brain injury used almost interchangeably. 

Symptoms of a Mild TBI

As mentioned, there are varying degrees of TBIs. As such, it should come as no surprise that the symptoms will vary based on the severity. The following are some of the mild brain injury symptoms. You will notice that the term “mild” is relative and the symptoms can still significantly interfere with your daily life. 

Symptoms of a Mild TBI

The following are some of the physical symptoms you may notice: 

  • Dizziness
  • Loss of balance
  • Issues with speech
  • Drowsiness or fatigue
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Headache

You may also notice some sensory symptoms, such as: 

  • Sensitivity to sound
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Sensory issues in general
  • Bad taste in the mouth
  • Changes to your olfactory senses
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Blurred vision 

And there may be mental, behavioral, or cognitive symptoms, such as the following: 

  • Loss of consciousness (several seconds to several minutes)
  • Feeling disoriented, confused, or dazed without loss of consciousness
  • Mood changes 
  • Mood swings
  • Concentration issues
  • Memory issues
  • Feeling anxious or depressed
  • Sleeping more than normal
  • Difficulty sleeping 

Symptoms of a Moderate to Severe TBI

If you have a moderate to severe car accident brain injury, you may notice any of the already-mentioned symptoms. But you may also notice some additional ones. These symptoms should appear within a few hours or days of your head injury.

Symptoms of a Moderate to Severe TBI

Additional physical symptoms can include: 

  • Loss of coordination
  • Weakness or numbness in toes and fingers
  • Inability to wake up from sleep
  • Dilation of at least one pupil in the eye
  • Seizures or convulsions
  • Repeated nausea or vomiting
  • Persistent or worsening headache
  • Loss of consciousness (several minutes to several hours)
  • Clear fluids draining from the ears or nose 

You may also notice the following mental or cognitive symptoms: 

  • Slurred speech
  • Profound confusion
  • Agitation or combativeness
  • Unusual behavior
  • Comas or other consciousness disorders 

Symptoms of TBIs in Children

While children experience many of the same symptoms as adults, they frequently aren’t able to communicate them. And according to the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA), symptoms may manifest when the child gets older. This is especially true in the case of younger children who still can’t talk. Even older children may not have the words to describe how they are feeling, especially if the TBI has resulted in cognitive impairment. 

Symptoms of TBIs in Children

Be on the lookout for the following symptoms of a TBI in children following a car accident: 

  • Easy or unusual irritability
  • Change in sleeping habits
  • Drowsiness 
  • Change in nursing or eating habits
  • Persistent crying 
  • Inability to be consoled
  • Loss of interest in activities and toys
  • Change in their ability to pay attention 
  • Depressed or sad mood 
  • Seizures 

Symptoms of Potential TBI Complications

In addition to all of the above symptoms, brain injuries can also lead to some serious complications. So, in addition to all of the brain injury symptoms, you should be on the lookout for potential symptoms of complications. They vary in both severity and likelihood. 

Behavioral Changes

A certified brain injury specialist is also likely to ask about changes to the patient’s behavior. Some examples of potential changes include: 

  • Physical or verbal outbursts
  • Problems with social situations
  • Lack of awareness of their abilities
  • Self-control issues
  • Risky behavior 

Cognitive and Executive Functioning Problems

A significant TBI can lead to various cognitive and executive functioning issues. These can include issues with the following: 

  • Learning
  • Memory
  • Judgment
  • Attention or concentration
  • Reasoning
  • Decision-making
  • Planning
  • Organization
  • Problem-solving
  • Multitasking
  • Beginning and completing tasks

Communication Problems

It is very common for patients with traumatic brain injuries to have issues communicating. They may have problems with the following: 

  • Understanding writing
  • Understanding speech
  • Speaking
  • Writing
  • Organizing thoughts or ideas
  • Following or joining conversations
  • Reading cues from listeners
  • Turn taking
  • Choosing conversation topics
  • Changes to tone, emphasis, or pitch
  • Nonverbal signals
  • Stopping or starting conversations
  • Using muscles to form words 

This can lead to frustration for the patient, as they feel they can’t express themselves. It can also lead to misunderstandings and conflict. Caregivers, family, and friends can also feel frustrated and misunderstand the patient. 

Emotional Changes

Some of the potential complications of a brain injury include the following emotional changes: 

  • Anger
  • Lack of empathy
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings 
  • Insomnia 

Sensory Issues

Some of the sensory issues that can result from a TBI overlap with those already mentioned, but they are still worth mentioning. These can include: 

  • Difficulty recognizing objects
  • Double vision or blind spots
  • Persistent ringing of the ears
  • Impaired hand-eye coordination
  • Tingling, itching, or pain in the skin
  • Dizziness or issues with balance
  • Bitter states, bad smells, or problems smelling 

Blood Vessel Damage

A TBI can damage some of the brain’s blood vessels, including either small or large ones. This could potentially lead to other issues, like blood clots or a stroke. 

Cranial Nerve Damage

If the traumatic brain injury happens at the base of someone’s skull, it can damage the cranial nerves. These are the nerves that come right from the brain. This type of nerve damage can lead to symptoms such as: 

  • Changes to or loss of senses of taste and smell
  • Double vision or vision loss
  • Hearing loss
  • Ringing in the ear 
  • Loss of sensation in face or facial muscle paralysis
  • Dizziness
  • Troubles swallowing 


It is very common for people with a traumatic brain injury to experience headaches. They typically start within the week following the accident. Unlike common headaches, these can last for months. 



Hydrocephalus is the buildup of fluid in the brain. In the case of TBIs, it will be cerebrospinal fluid building up in the cerebral ventricles (spaces in the brain). If this happens, the brain will swell and experience increased pressure. 


If the TBI includes a penetrating wound or skull fracture, then an infection can be a risk. The wound may tear the protective layers around the brain. This opens a path for bacteria to get into the brain, leading to infection. If this infection (meningitis) isn’t treated, it can spread throughout the nervous system. 


It is possible for people dealing with TBIs to develop seizures. These can occur at nearly any time. Sometimes, they only happen early on after the injury. Other times, seizures take place years after the injury. Sometimes, people develop post-traumatic epilepsy, which is recurring seizures from a TBI. 


Vertigo is a feeling of dizziness, and TBIs are one of many potential causes. 

Potentially Increased Risk of Degenerative Diseases

Experts are still looking into the connection between brain injuries and degenerative diseases. Early research shows that having a TBI may increase the risk of a degenerative brain disease later in life, but there is no way to predict an individual’s risk. Some potential diseases with an increased risk following a TBI include: 

  • Alzheimer’s disease: This leads to progressive loss of thinking skills, including memory. 
  • Dementia puglistica: This is more likely from repeated TBIs instead of a single one. It can lead to movement issues and dementia. 
  • Parkinson’s disease: This leads to tremors, slow movements, and rigidity, along with other movement problems. 


People in a coma are unconscious, unaware of their surroundings, and cannot respond to stimuli. This happens if the brain has widespread damage across all parts of it. Comas can last a few days or weeks or longer in cases of serious injuries. 

Vegetative State, Minimally Conscious State, or Brain Death 

A coma may worsen and become a vegetative state. This is the result of widespread brain damage. People in a vegetative state aren’t aware of their surroundings, but they might make sounds, open their eyes, or respond to reflexes. Most people in a vegetative state will move to a minimally-conscious state. Sometimes, however, a vegetative state is permanent. 

In a minimally conscious state, patients have severely altered consciousness. They have some signs that they are aware of their environment or themselves. A minimally conscious state can be a transitional state that leads people to recovery from comas or vegetative states. 

Brain death is irreversible and it occurs if the brain and brainstem don’t have any measurable activity. When a brain-dead patient is removed from ventilator support, they may not be able to breathe on their own and their heart will fail. 

Persistent Post-Concussive Symptoms

If you experience a combination of those symptoms for a long time after the car accident, this is called persistent post-concussion symptoms. 

Who Has a Higher Risk of a TBI?

Anyone can get a car accident brain injury, but some people are more likely to have this type of injury in New York City than others. 

The most at-risk categories include: 

  • Children, especially four years old and younger
  • Young adults, especially between 15 and 24
  • Adults older than 60 years old
  • Males, regardless of age group 

What to Do If You Notice Brain Injury Symptoms 

If you notice any of the above symptoms of a TBI following a car accident (or any other blow to the head), visit a certified brain injury specialist. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, you may want to get emergency medical care. 

What to Do If You Notice Brain Injury Symptoms

Calling emergency services will frequently be your first step. They will be able to determine if your condition is urgent or if you can wait for an appointment with a neurologist. In some cases, EMTs may decide you need immediate treatment at the ER followed by treatment from your neurologist. 

Expect your neurologist to perform a range of tests, including a physical examination. Importantly, not all TBIs appear on MRIs and CT scans. That being said, your neurologist may still recommend these tests in case your TBI does appear on the scans or to rule out other conditions. 

Choose Neurodiagnostics Medical P.C. to Treat Your Brain Injury 

If you suspect that you or someone you love has a traumatic brain injury, consider Neurodiagnostics Medical P.C. Our team takes a personalized approach that is patient-focused in the Bronx, Manhattan, Staten Island, Brooklyn, and Queens

Choose Neuro Injury Care Institute to Treat Your Brain Injury

Take Advantage of Our Expertise 

When you schedule an appointment for brain injury services at Neurodiagnostics Medical P.C., you take advantage of our vast expertise. Dr. Malhotra is a lifelong New Yorker who is part of the brain injury community and is dedicated to using his knowledge and experience to help patients. One of his specialties is traumatic brain injuries and he is part of many medical societies. He did his academic internship in internal medicine at Stony Brook University Hospital and holds a professional license in both New York and New Jersey.

When it comes to finding a doctor to treat brain injury, certification and sufficient qualifying experience is essential. Our doctors are certified brain injury specialists, a nationally recognized credential, which means they have had the training, formal supervision, and 500 hours of verifiable direct contact experience with brain injury victims necessary to be considered a specialist in the field.

We Aim to Prevent Long-Term Disability and Permanent Injury

Our primary goal at Neurodiagnostics Medical P.C. is to diagnose and treat you promptly to prevent long-term complications, such as disabilities or permanent injury. The key to this is a fast diagnosis, which is why we encourage you to schedule an appointment as soon as you suspect you have a TBI or another neurological problem following a car accident. We also treat patients with TBIs and other neurological injuries from other causes. 

We Offer Free Diagnostic Evaluations

As part of our dedication to preventing long-term injuries and disabilities, we offer advanced diagnostic evaluation for all patients. This is conducted via telemedicine and is designed to educate you about your potential diagnosis and treatment. We want you to fully understand the severity of your condition as well as what to expect from diagnosis and treatment.

This diagnostic evaluation is covered by most insurance places, including no-fault and workers’ compensation. We want you to get the treatment for your TBI that you need, even if it isn’t with us. Of course, we make it easy to book an appointment if you choose to let us handle your recovery. 

We Personalize Your Treatment 

At Neurodiagnostics Medical P.C., we never take a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment or diagnostics. Every situation is different, depending on your medical history, symptoms, and even the details of the accident that caused your injury. We keep all of that information in mind both during treatment and diagnosis. 

If there are multiple treatment options for your symptoms and TBI, we will give you an overview of all of the options, from physical therapy to surgery. We will use our expertise to suggest which one is the best option for your situation, but the ultimate decision of which treatment to follow is up to you. We are here to ensure you are fully aware of all treatments available and to provide the best possible care. 

Let Neuro Injury Care Center Treat Your TBI

Traumatic brain injuries can vary in severity, and in severe cases, they can even lead to complications which have their own symptoms. If you notice headaches, nausea, sensory issues, loss of consciousness, memory issues, or any other symptoms mentioned above following a car accident, schedule a diagnostic evaluation with us. 

We will be with you through every step of your journey to recovery. Our team of certified brain injury specialists can explain your diagnosis and treatment options to you in as much detail as you need. Our neurologist accepts workers’ compensation, no-fault, PIP (personal injury protection), medical liens, and most health insurance plans. Our goal is to help you achieve a speedy recovery while preventing long-term injuries, so you can return to your normal lifestyle as fully and quickly as possible. 

Book your appointment today

About The Author

Picture of Ashwin Malhotra, M.D.

Ashwin Malhotra, M.D.

Ashwin Malhotra, M.D. is a highly respected neurologist based in New York City. With over 20 years of experience in the field of neurology, he has earned a reputation as a leading expert in the diagnosis and treatment of neurological disorders and traumatic brain injuries. In addition to his clinical work, Dr. Malhotra is also a dedicated educator and researcher. He has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed medical journals and has presented his research at national and international conferences.