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Concussions and the Impact on Driving

Concussions are serious injuries, and they can affect a person’s ability to drive safely. When it comes to motor vehicle collisions caused by driver negligence, most of us think about issues such as drunk driving, aggressive driving, distracted driving, or drowsy driving. Yet driving an automobile after you have sustained a concussion—even if several days or even weeks have passed since the diagnosis—it may still be dangerous to get behind the wheel of a car. Many motorists who sustain concussions do not realize how the brain injury is impacting their cognitive abilities, and it is critical to avoid driving.

If you were injured in a crash caused by a driver with a concussion, or you are concerned about your ability to seek financial compensation after a collision caused by another driver because you were suffering from a concussion at the time of the accident, our firm can assess your case today. An experienced Las Vegas car accident attorney can evaluate the particular facts surrounding your collision and can help you to determine your eligibility for financial compensation. In the meantime, we want to ensure that you understand the impact concussions can have on driving.

What is a Concussion?

A concussion is a type of mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) that can affect the way a person’s brain functions. While the effects of a mild TBI tend to be temporary and most patients do recover from concussions, the effects can be long-lasting in some patients and may result in problems such as headaches, concentration and memory issues, and problems with balance or coordination, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Concussions typically result from a blow or a jolt to the head, or any action that results in violent shaking of a person’s upper body. There are many different situations in which a person can sustain a concussion, but car crashes, sports, and falls are the most common causes of mild TBIs.

How Do Concussions Affect a Person’s Ability to Drive a Motor Vehicle?

You might not realize it, but the effects of a concussion can last for days, weeks, and sometimes even months. To be sure, a concussion patient’s symptoms might subside, but that person may still have difficulty driving safely. According to WebMD, a recent study published in the Journal of Neurotrauma showed that concussion patients can continue to have difficulty driving even days—or longer—after their symptoms have subsided. That study evaluated concussions patients on a driving simulator two days, or 48 hours, after they reported any concussion symptoms or other noticeable effects. That study determined that, “despite feeling like they had recovered from their head injuries, the patients were still likely to drive erratically.” Indeed, “at times, their skill levels were similar to driving after drinking,” according to the authors of the study.

After 48 hours of having no concussion symptoms, patients generally are considered to have recovered. However, this study makes clear that risks still remain. According to one of the authors of the study, the drivers “had less vehicle control while they were doing the driving simulation, and they swerved more within the lane.” As such, the study intimates that motorists should not be permitted to drive until well after concussion symptoms have cleared. Otherwise, those people recovering from concussions could put themselves and others at serious risk on the road.

When Is It Safe to Drive After Being Diagnosed with a Concussion?

It is never safe to drive while you are experiencing symptoms of a concussion. If you have recently been diagnosed with a concussion and you are experiencing symptoms of the concussion, you should never plan to drive anywhere—even a short distance. This question becomes more complicated, however, once a concussion patient’s symptoms subside but research suggests that driving may still be quite hazardous.

Research suggests that anyone who suffers a concussion likely needs to wait longer than 48 hours after their symptoms have subsided. It may be difficult to know precisely when it is safe to get behind the wheel of an automobile again, especially if you do not feel as though you are experiencing symptoms of the concussion. The important thing to remember is that concussions can impact driving even days after a concussion patient’s symptoms end. Accordingly, it is not usually safe to drive until your healthcare provider has reassessed you and has determined that it is again safe for you to drive.

What to Do After a Concussion

If you experience a bump, blow, or a jolt to your head or your upper body, it is important to seek a medical assessment from a healthcare provider as soon as possible. In particular, any signs of a concussion should be evaluated and, if necessary, treated by your doctor. The Mayo Clinic identifies the following as common signs and symptoms of a concussion:

  • Headache;
  • Ringing in your ears;
  • Nausea;
  • Vomiting;
  • Fatigue;
  • Drowsiness;
  • Blurred vision;
  • Confusion or feeling foggy;
  • Amnesia surrounding the event that caused the concussion;
  • Dizziness;
  • Temporary loss of consciousness;
  • Slurred speech;
  • Delayed response to other people’s questions;
  • Appearing dazed;
  • Forgetfulness;
  • Problems with concentration;
  • Problems with memory;
  • Irritability;
  • Personality changes;
  • Sensitivity to light;
  • Sensitivity to sound;
  • Sleeping too much;
  • Sleeping too little;
  • Depression;
  • Problems with taste; and/or
  • Problems with smell.

For some concussion patients, the signs or symptoms of the traumatic brain injury will be obvious or knowable to them. In some situations, however, a concussion patient might not realize she has certain symptoms, but others around her might see those signs and recognize the need for medical treatment.

Comparative Fault in a Concussion-Related Car Accident

What will happen if you were injured in a collision caused by a clearly negligent driver (such as a drunk driver or a driver who was texting while driving), but you were still experiencing the effects of a concussion and likely should not have been behind the wheel?

If you file a car accident lawsuit, the defendant might raise the issue of comparative negligence under Nevada law. Comparative negligence is a defense that the at-fault driver might try to use to reduce his or her liability, arguing that you were partially to blame for the collision because you were experiencing the effects of a concussion. Nevada follows what is typically described as a “modified” comparative fault or comparative negligence law, which means that a plaintiff can still recover damages as long as she is not 51 percent or more at fault or negligent. Once a plaintiff is 51 percent or more to blame, the plaintiff is barred from recovery. However, if a plaintiff is less than 51 percent to blame due to her concussion, she will recover damages from the defendant, but the damages award will be diminished by her percentage of fault or negligence.

A defendant may be able to successfully use a comparative negligence defense if a plaintiff in a car accident lawsuit drove after receiving a concussion diagnosis. However, it is important to seek advice from an attorney about the particular facts of your case before you draw any conclusions.

Contact Our Las Vegas Car Accident Attorneys

Whether you were injured in a motor vehicle collision caused by a driver who was recovering from a concussion at the time of the crash or you were struck by a negligent driver while you were behind the wheel and recovering from a concussion, our experienced las Vegas car accident lawyers can help you with your auto accident claim. It is critical to focus on your right to financial compensation and to speak with an aggressive personal injury attorney about your options for seeking financial compensation.

Our firm focuses on car accident cases, and we can speak with you today about your options for moving forward with an auto insurance claim or a car accident lawsuit. Contact Naqvi Injury Law to have your case assessed and to learn more about getting started on your auto accident case.