Anyone can suffer a traumatic brain injury during a car accident, and the ramifications are often serious and long-lasting. They can change your life forever. All it takes is one driver who is drunk behind the wheel or distracted by a cellphone and you could wind up in the hospital with significant injuries.
That said, parents need to especially watch out for signs and symptoms of a brain injury in a child after an accident. Children do not always explain their symptoms the way adults would. Some lack the vocabulary or awareness to do so. Changes may appear more subtle, or potential issues may get written off as developmental differences.
For instance, if an adult loses the ability to speak correctly and clearly after an accident, the change is obvious. If a child loses that ability at a young age, it's far harder to tell. The child's ability to speak may have been underdeveloped to begin with because of the child's age. Other issues could be similarly hidden. Is a fussy child dealing with a constant headache or is he or she fussy from hunger?
Watching for changes
If you get into an accident with your child in the car, what you really need to watch for is any significant change. This could be a change in your child's:
- Temperament and attitude
- Sleeping patterns and schedule
- Eating habits
- Nursing schedule
- Ability to focus and pay attention
- Tendency to cry over little things
- Frequency of crying or fussing
- Irritability levels
- Energy levels
The benefit of watching for changes is that this can work at any age. If you have a one-year-old who goes to sleep at 8 p.m. like clockwork and doesn't wake up until 7 a.m., and then they suddenly start waking up two or three times at night, the change is very clear.
If you have a 9-year-old who likes to read and can focus on a book for hours at a time, and they suddenly stop reading and can't even get through a chapter in a sitting, you know something is wrong.
The downside, of course, is that children do change for a variety of reasons. Interests shift. Patterns change. The mere fact that a child no longer sleeps through the night may not indicate a head injury. It could be a natural change or regression. That's common with young kids.
Therefore, while parents need to pay attention, you do not have to panic at the first potential symptom. Just make sure you get the child proper medical treatment and keep a close eye on their development after the crash. If they do have a brain injury, it can be life-changing, so you need to know all of your legal options.