Skip to Navigation

Brain Damage Overview

  • Email this page

Brain damage can occur in conjunction with any injury to brain structures that interrupts healthy brain development or prevents normal brain function. The brain can sustain injury before birth (congenital brain injury) or after birth (acquired brain injury).

Many of the accidents leading to brain damage are caused by negligence on someone's part. For example, a driver who falls asleep at the wheel, rolls his vehicle and inadvertently causes an accident leaving one of his passengers with trauma to the head may be liable for negligence. If you suspect your brain injury or that of someone you love was caused or made worse by someone else's negligence, contact a personal injury lawyer to evaluate your specific situation and determine whether you can file an injury claim. Your attorney can provide you with examples of settlements related to brain injuries, and help you determine whether you should file a lawsuit seeking compensation for your losses.

In this article you will find information about different types of brain injury and their symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and prognosis.

Congenital Brain Injury

Congenital brain injury can be caused by infection, trauma, genetic defects, toxic poisoning, hypoxia or anoxia. It may appear in the form of several conditions, including epilepsy, dyslexia, cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus, Down syndrome and fetal alcohol syndrome.

Cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy can be traced to several causes, including infection, birth trauma, premature birth, inadequate oxygen or blood supply to the fetus, or diseases during infancy such as meningitis or encephalitis. It may strike during fetal development, during birth or just after birth. Cerebral palsy may manifest in any number of developmental neurological disorders. To learn more about cerebral palsy, refer to our section on this subject, and contact a birth injury attorney to learn more about obtaining compensation for your child's injuries. We can help you find a lawyer for doctor mistakes who can speak with you in greater detail about birth negligence.


Down syndrome. An incurable birth disorder caused by the existence of an extra chromosome 21 in each cell, Down syndrome is characterized by mental retardation, heart problems and gastrointestinal disorders. It is more common among children of women over 40 years of age at the time of pregnancy.

Epilepsy. An incurable neurological disorder that can develop even prior to birth, epilepsy causes the brain's electrical system to produce intense, intermittent bursts of electrical energy that adversely affect other brain functions. Epilepsy is characterized by convulsions and unconscious spells. It can be caused by a brain development problem or birth injury (potentially the result of doctor mistakes) but also can be acquired during childhood or adulthood.

Autism. One of the fastest growing developmental disorders, autism usually appears before 3 years of age. While the causes are unclear and the subject of much controversy, the effects are readily apparent: autism affects a person's ability to think, communicate and interact. Certain therapies have proved effective in improving quality of life in some patients.

Dyslexia. The most common learning disability in the United States, dyslexia affects the brain's ability to interpret what the eye sees and translate it into written and spoken language; those with dyslexia cannot recognize letters and words and therefore have difficulty reading.

Congenital hydrocephalus. Congenital hydrocephalus is an excessive accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain during the birth process. It can be caused by genetic disorders, prenatal bleeding and other infections. Congenital hydrocephalus is often associated with other birth defects.

Fetal alcohol syndrome. This incurable brain disorder is caused by alcohol intake during pregnancy. Fetal alcohol syndrome is characterized by mental retardation, low birth weight and stunted growth. Patients suffering from this disorder often have behavioral and central nervous system problems.

Acquired Brain Injury (ABI)

Acquired brain damage, or brain damage that occurs after birth, comes in two forms: traumatic brain injury (TBI), a common type of car injury, violent acts and sports; and non-traumatic TBI, which results from internal conditions such as anoxia, and from neurodegenerative diseases.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). There are two types of traumatic brain injury that can result from damage to the head during an accident: open head injury and closed head injury. An open head injury occurs when the skull is pierced by a penetrating object. Closed head injuries do not involve penetrating objects.

A traumatic brain injury may be accompanied by a variety of conditions and complications, including concussions, skull fracture, hematoma (blood pooling), hemorrhage (excessive bleeding), contusion (bruising) and diffuse axonal injury. Secondary injuries include infection, ischemia, vasospasm, epilepsy, hydrocephalus, and increased intracranial pressure (ICP). For more information on these injuries, visit our article on acquired brain injuries.

Symptoms of head injuries (closed and open head injury) include cognitive and behavioral changes as well as physical symptoms. A patient's symptoms may be very subtle or quite obvious.

Diagnosing a traumatic brain injury can be difficult because many of the symptoms are similar to those that accompany other conditions. However, trauma to the head combined with a period of unconsciousness is a good indicator of a TBI. Tools used to diagnose TBI include the Glasgow Coma Scale, the Rancho Los Amigos Scale and imaging tests.

Traumatic brain injury treatment can range from bed rest to extensive surgery and life-long rehabilitation, depending on the severity of the injury.

Mild TBI patients often experience a full recovery, while those suffering from moderate to severe TBI may remain in a coma or vegetative state, be permanently disabled, or die from the injury.

Non-traumatic Brain Injury. Non-traumatic brain injuries are caused by damage to neurons due to an internal condition or neurodegenerative disease. Internal conditions include infection, tumor, stroke, alcohol abuse, anoxia and hypoxia. Non-traumatic brain injuries stemming from neurodegenerative diseases can lead to a deterioration of brain functions such as memory, speaking, problem solving and muscle control. Examples include Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Supranuclear Palsy and Huntington's disease.

Filing a Lawsuit

Brain damage often occurs as a result of an accident caused by negligence. If you or a loved one has suffered brain damage due to another person's careless behavior, contact a personal injury lawyer for examples of personal injury settlements, and to evaluate your case and help determine if you are eligible for compensation.