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Can you get a Concussion in a Car Accident without Blacking Out?

Two cars impacting each other in a car accident that is fairly serious

Can you get a Concussion in a Car Accident without Getting Knocked Out?

According to the CDC, approximately 1.7 million people suffer a concussion each year. Of these, about 17% are attributed to car accidents. Therefore, each year, around 289,000 concussions can be linked to motor vehicle collisions.  So not only can you get a concussion in a car accident without hitting your head or blacking out, it happens often.

The common misconception is that a car accident cannot cause a concussion unless you were knocked out. People will ask questions like “Did you hit your head?” Or “Did you black out?”  Those are good questions but if the answer is “No, I didn’t lose consciousness” this does not mean you did not suffer a concussion.

Concussions can result from sudden acceleration or deceleration of the head. It is your brain matter being moved around and suffering injury that causes the concussion. Certainly hitting your head is a way to quickly stop the skull from moving while the soft brain tissue continues to accelerate but .... a sudden stop can do the same thing.

Also don’t fall into the trap of the false belief that severity of injury tells you all you need to know about the concussion. In some people (and we don’t know why) even mild concussions can cause significant issues.

To better understand this, here is how the brain gets hurt in a way we label it has being damaged by a "concussion".  The brain is surrounded by cerebrospinal fluid and protected by the skull. When an external force (such as a blow to the head or rapid acceleration/deceleration) occurs, the brain moves inside the skull.

So the "concussion" is not the force on the outside striking the skull.  The concussion is what happens to the brain itself.  We look for a sudden movement that causes shearing forces within the brain tissue. These forces stretch and strain the delicate neural connections, leading to microscopic damage.  There is much more but this makes the point.

So if you have been in a car accident where there was sudden stopping, look for these concussion symptoms.

Headache: This counts if it is continuous or a throbbing headache.

Ringing in the Ears: A ring or buzz type sound that is noticeable even when you are not actively listening for it.

Nausea: (Self explanatory)

Vomiting: (Self explanatory)

Fatigue or Drowsiness: Feeling excessively tired or having difficulty staying awake.

Blurry Vision: Blurriness or difficulty focusing. Also floaters or other visual issues may indicate a detached retina. These are serious symptoms and you should be checked out immediately (if not sooner!)

Feeling Sluggish or Hazy: A haze or fog or exhaustion.

Confusion: Difficulty concentrating, forgetting things. If you have watched the Presidential campaign in 2024 you have heard a lot about impairment. It takes a medical expert to separate anxiety, normal forgetfulness and other lapses. Don’t self diagnose if you are seeing these symptoms they can be nothing or they can be serious.

Balance Problems or Dizziness: Not from muscle pain but more balance oriented.

Sensitivity to Light or Noise: Discomfort when exposed to bright lights or loud sounds.

Emotional Changes: Car accidents cause upset so this alone can cause the same symptoms as a concussion including Mood alterations, feeling down, or irritability.


Our experienced car accident attorneys will screen you for a full assessment of your injuries including a concussion. We have in house medical professionals and experienced injury lawyers whose job is to maximize your recovery.

Daniel Horowitz’ main office is in Lafayette (Contra Costa County). We handle accident cases throughout the Bay Area and if your accident is more remote in location we can assist you in finding the best personal injury attorney in your area.

There are many excellent personal injury attorneys in Walnut Creek, Contra Costa and the surrounding areas.  We hope we can earn your trust so that you select Daniel Horowitz to represent you.  There is never any fee unless and until we recover for you.