Types of Brain Injuries and Their Severity

February 28, 2023 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
Types of Brain Injuries and Their Severity

If you or a loved one has suffered a traumatic brain injury due to the careless actions of another person or entity, you are probably overwhelmed by the damages your injury has caused. Traumatic brain injuries are life-changing which is why you need need a brain injury lawyer on your side to help you obtain the compensation you need through a personal injury lawsuit.

The information below covers the different types of traumatic brain injuries, as well as the different levels of severity of brain injuries. Understanding these details is essential when undertaking a personal injury case involving a brain injury. These terms will be used by both doctors and insurance adjusters when handling your case. Our experienced brain injury lawyers at Dolman Law Group want to make sure you understand the entire process of obtaining that compensation through a personal injury claim.

For any other questions you might have and to further discuss your brain injury accident, please do not hesitate to contact our attorneys at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, at 866-426-1037 or fill out our confidential contact form for more information for a free, no-obligation consultation.

What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?

The term "brain injury" covers a wide range of conditions and injuries relating to the brain, skull, and scalp. A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a severe brain injury that usually results when the head or body suffers from a violent blow or jolt. This injury typically results in swelling, bruising, bleeding, or tearing of the brain tissue.

The brain is central to your body functioning properly and any damage to it has the potential to change the way your body operates. That is why brain injuries often result in life-changing conditions for the victim and their family. These injuries can include a mild concussion, with symptoms such as headaches and temporary confusion, or in more severe cases, coma or even death.

Levels of Severity in Traumatic Brain Injuries

While there are levels of severity in brain injuries, the same injury in one person might produce different symptoms in another. Even if you believe your brain injury is mild, you may still suffer serious and long-lasting effects. Unless you seek medical attention, there is no way to know for sure whether you or somebody else has suffered a TBI or may be in danger due to one.

Depending on the medical professional's assessment of how severe the injury to your brain is, TBIs can usually be placed into one of three categories:

  • Mild Injury: mild TBI is characterized by loss of consciousness for a few seconds or minutes, if at all. Loss of consciousness doesn't need to occur and a victim may only appear to be confused or disoriented. With mild TBIs, medical tests may show that the brain was not injured, although this can be untrue. This is why doctors look closely at the victim's mental functioning in diagnosing mild TBIs and concussions.
  • Moderate Injury: A moderate TBI is characterized by loss of consciousness that may last up to a few hours and confusion that can last up to weeks. With a moderate TBI, complications can last for months and could be permanent. These complications can be physical, cognitive, or behavioral. Many treatment programs will be needed to address these complications.
  • Severe Brain Injury: The most severe TBIs come from crushing blows or penetration to the skull and brain. This level of injury is life-threatening and the victim is not likely to return to the life that they once had. While closed head injuries can result in severe brain injury, typically severe head trauma is from an open head injury where the skull has been seriously damaged.

Types of TBIs Suffered After an Accident

A traumatic brain injury can come in many different forms. Possible complications and required treatments will greatly depend on how the injury is acquired, the location of the injury, and the severity of the brain damage. Types of traumatic brain injuries that often occur after an accident include:


concussion is a minor brain injury that is caused by an impact to the head, shaking, or a sudden change in movement, like whiplash. Oftentimes, concussions cannot be seen through an imaging test, but they should still be considered serious and should be treated as so.

Concussions can cause headaches, problems with concentration, memory loss, and disorientation. Concussions are especially dangerous if more than one is sustained over time, or if a second one occurs before the first one heals ("second impact syndrome"). 

Brain Contusions

A brain contusion is a bruise of the brain tissue, just like one might have a bruise on their skin. And like any other bruise, they are caused by the breaking and leaking of small blood vessels. On the skin level, this leaking blood under the skin is what causes the blue coloring; on the brain, the leaking causes a plethora of issues that mostly relate to a building of pressure.

Brain contusions can be caused by any impact to the head. For example, a contusion may occur in a car accident when the head hits the steering wheel, a slip, and fall when the head hits the ground, or in a sports-related accident in which the brain takes a significant impact.

During the impact that causes a brain contusion, it's possible for the brain to be damaged directly under the site of impact, on the opposite side from the point of impact as the brain is slammed into the opposing side of the skull, or both.  These differences in the site of injury are classified under coup and contrecoup injuries.

Contusions, like concussions, can range dramatically from minor to extremely severe. Severe contusions may cause a loss of consciousness, confusion, tiredness, emotional distress, or agitation. More severe contusions may cause the brain to swell, could prevent proper oxygenation, and other serious consequences.

Penetrating  Brain Injuries

Penetrating brain injuries occur when some type of object pierces through the skull. This may cause the object, or hair, skin, or fragments of the skull, to make contact with the brain. This contact with and force on the brain can cause serious injury to a concentrated, or large, part of the brain.

Penetrating brain injuries may be caused by any external force or object that is strong enough to break through the skull, such as:

  • A slip-and-fall that causes the skull to crack
  • A motor vehicle accident in which something penetrates or breaks the skull
  • A gunshot wound to the head, which is the leading cause of death by TBI
  • A sports-related injury due to excessive force

Anoxic Brain Injuries

An anoxic brain injury occurs when the brain does not receive enough oxygen to operate properly. After just four to five minutes without a proper amount of oxygen, brain cells will begin to die and brain injury will occur. Since oxygen is carried to the brain by blood, anoxic brain damage most often occurs because of a blockage of this blood flow.

diffuse axonal injury (DAI) is similar to a concussion in that it results from the brain moving, but it is often much more serious. With a DAI, the head so violently moves that the brain stem cannot keep up with the rate of movement, causing tears in the connections of the brain to the spinal cord. These tears can be microscopic, producing varying degrees of brain damage, or they can be quite large.

Tears that are sufficient may cause extremely serious, life-long effects or they can even be fatal. The severity of symptoms with this type of injury is largely dependent on the brain areas affected, the severity of the tears, and whether any other injuries—such as a contusion or concussion—were also sustained.

Subdural Hematomas

Blockage can occur as a result of a blood clot, stroke, heart attack, or serious trauma, among others. It may also be possible the blood flow to the brain, in quantity, is normal, but that the blood itself is not carrying enough oxygen. This can occur as a result of poisoning, drowning, carbon monoxide poisoning, choking, suffocation, or anything that prevents the lungs from taking in a normal amount of oxygen molecules.

Hypoxic Brain Injuries

One type of traumatic brain injury is a hypoxic brain injury, which occurs when the brain receives some but not enough oxygen and suffers damage as a result. This is usually achieved by incomplete reduction of oxygen to the lungs or blood to the brain via some form of inefficient suffocation like:

  • Near-drowning
  • Near-hanging
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Exposure to poisonous gasses

One version of hypoxic brain injury is a hypoxic-ischemic brain injury, also called stagnant hypoxia or ischemic insult.

Second Impact Syndrome

Just as a scab that is reopened takes longer to heal, a second brain injury when you've already sustained a first can cause even more catastrophic damage. Sometimes called a recurrent traumatic brain injury, the effect of second impact syndrome depends on the location of the injury, the severity of the first injury, and the degree of trauma sustained.

A second impact is more likely to cause severe brain damage than a first, even if the victim does not lose consciousness. If you suffer a blow to the head in the months following a brain injury, seek prompt medical care, even if you feel fine. Often, second concussions are a silent killer, since both impacts can appear minor at the time.

Recovering Damages Caused By a Traumatic Brain Injury

Due to the fact that traumatic brain injuries have the tendency to cause permanent and debilitating issues, the economic damages caused by traumatic brain injuries tend to be severe. Medical expenses including doctor's appointments, drugs, and therapy are some of the economic damages people experience after a TBI. Potentially lost wages as a result of taking time off of work to recover from your accident may also be recovered.

If your brain injury results in permanent disability or impairment, you will need compensation for loss of future earnings, as well as extensive long-term medical care and treatment.

Non-economic damages may be awarded compensation as well because injuries from TBIs can negatively affect a person's mental health, relationships, and enjoyment of life.  This can include compensation for scarring, disfigurement, pain and suffering, or any other special damages that might apply to your case.

Why Should You Hire a Brain Injury Lawyer?

Brain injuries happen in all kinds of ways, for a variety of reasons. Those that suffer from these types of injuries are at risk for a number of debilitating symptoms or in more severe cases, even death. After an accident, the last thing on your mind should be worrying about how you will pay for all of your medical expenses. By hiring a lawyer you have the potential to maximize the compensation you may receive for your accident so you can have one less thing to worry about.

An experienced brain injury lawyer will have the necessary skills and resources to pinpoint whose decisions or actions led to the harm you have suffered. When your lawyer is able to pinpoint the party whose negligence led to your injury, you have a better chance of being able to recover the compensation you deserve. Failure to understand the procedures that come with these complex cases can lead to mistakes that have the potential to harm your case.

By hiring an attorney with experience handling brain injury claims and lawsuits, you can rest easier knowing you have someone on your side who is looking out for your best interests. Your lawyer will represent your best interests and ensure that you are not taken advantage of. After suffering a brain injury of any type, the compassionate lawyers at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA want to help you.

The Consequences of a TBI

Traumatic brain injuries are to be taken seriously and have a reputation for destroying lives. Since traumatic brain injuries involve direct physical damage to the brain there are terrible consequences both physical and mental. Our law firm has experience handling all types of brain injury cases and we have helped injured accident victims obtain millions after suffering a brain injury.

Cognitive function, personality, and mental state, in general, can be affected by serious impairment. This can take the form of memory loss, emotional issues, speech problems, sensory impairment, psychological disorders, and much more. What is worse is that the damage caused by traumatic brain injuries can often be permanent.

There is not much that can be done to repair the damaged tissue of the brain. People often struggle with the effects of a brain injury for the rest of their lives. That is not to say that there is no hope. There are many things that can be done to manage symptoms and help people live with the effects of a severe traumatic brain injury.

Contact  Dolman Law Group for Help With Your Traumatic Brain Injury Lawsuit

No two TBIs are the same, and many require specialized care and rehabilitation services. People who believe they may have sustained a minor TBI like a concussion should be aware that often new symptoms develop in the weeks following the accident. These new symptoms should not be disregarded and should be addressed by a healthcare professional.

Contacting a skilled brain injury lawyer can help you get the treatment you need while also helping you to litigate your TBI case. An attorney who focuses on traumatic brain injuries will be able to look out for your best interests. Contact the Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA today for a free initial consultation by calling (727) 451-6900 or by completing our online contact form.


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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