Friday, May 15, 2015

Brain Injuries and Bicycle Cases

By Jim Freeman

We see brain injuries over and over in our bicycle cases.  The severity of theses injuries varies widely from a headache to permanent functional brain damage.  My experience is that there is no bulletproof preventative when it comes to brain injuries.  Although helmets may help to reduce injury, bicyclists who use helmets suffer brain injuries too.  If the hit is hard enough you may still sustain a brain injury despite proper helmet use.

Rural collisions tend to yield a higher percentage of head injuries than collisions in town.  Speed limits on rural roadways tend to be much higher than speed limits in town.  In my experience, speed of the automobile at time of impact is directly correlated with the likelihood that a given accident will result in catastrophic injuries.  The faster the vehicle, the more likely that injuries sustained by a bicyclist will be severe. 

Your brain has the consistency of gelatin suspended in fluid.  It is cushioned from everyday jolts and bumps by the cerebrospinal fluid in which it floats.  In an accident you may experience a blow to the head causing your brain to bounce forcefully against your skull.  This can result in bleeding in or around your brain and damage to nerve fibers.  Common symptoms of a brain injury are loss of consciousness, memory loss, headaches, nausea or vomiting and slurred speech.

Concussions are fairly common brain injuries.  People who have had a concussion in the past are at higher risk of having concussions in the future.  The concern after a concussion is that the blow to the head may have caused serious bleeding or swelling inside the skull. Symptoms of such injuries may not appear until hours or days after the injury.

If you experience symptoms of a concussion it is best to see a doctor.  Neurologists typically specialize in such injuries.  A doctor may prescribe a CAT Scan or conduct a neurological exam.  Such an exam usually includes checking your memory and concentration, vision, hearing, balance, coordination and reflexes.  People who suffer concussions often suffer from post-concussion syndrome in which concussion symptoms last for weeks or months following the accident.  I often hear client who have suffered a head injury complain of "fogginess" or an inability to concentrate.  Such injuries should be taken seriously and examined by a specialist.

A common story we hear when a bicyclist is struck by a car goes like this;

The last thing I remember I was riding my bike down the street, then I woke up in the hospital with my family around me.

When a bicyclist is struck by a car and they hit their head it is common to experience some loss of memory around the time of the accident.  In such a case it is important that you conduct a independent investigation to determine how the accident happened before you speak to the driver's insurance company.

You should understand that some insurance companies will take advantage of your loss of memory.  We see time and time again that negligent drivers are all too prepared to lie about the events of an accident because they are worried about their own liability or an increase in their insurance rates.  The driver will give a statement to his insurance company that blames the bicyclist for the collision.  If you can't remember how the accident happened the insurance company will defend the case based on their insured's version of the events.  Your claim may be denied outright.

At my law firm we have years of experience investigating collisions in which the bicyclist can't remember what happened.  We conduct our own investigation and do not depend on the police or driver statements for a determination of fault.  It is always best if the client calls us before calling the insurance company in such an instance.  It is also best if we get the case as soon as possible.  Evidence starts to disappear or be destroyed the moment the accident occurs, so it's best if we can start our investigation as soon as possible.   


  1. Interesting review of helmet studies (one of her links list motorcycle helmet studies however):

  2. "The last thing I remember I was riding my bike down the street, then I woke up in the hospital with my family around me."

    It's been 7 years since I just fell while riding, woke up after 5 days in intensive care, spent another week in the hospital and took a long time to recover at least a partial use of my brain.

    Today, I still have memory loses, sometimes can't remember words, and can solve simple logic problems.

    There is a lot of good information in this column. Don't try and 'fix' a brain injury by yourself. Do see competent medical and legal advice if you need it.


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