You were on your way to pick up your kids after school and slowed down when you reached the school zone. Unfortunately, the distracted driver behind you wasn’t paying attention and rear-ended you.

You count yourself lucky. There was only minor damage to your car, and just a bump on your head. It could’ve been much worse.

However, even a minor accident can be more serious than you might initially realize. If your head is thrown forward or back in the car—or if you hit your head on the steering wheel or anything else—you should see a doctor. You may have traumatic brain injury (TBI) and not even realize it.

Each year, there are around 286,000 reported cases of TBI from motor vehicle accidents. That statistic could actually be much higher, since many people don’t recognize that something is wrong with the brain until well after the accident.

Recognize the signs

Symptoms of TBI may take hours or even days to present. If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident—however minor—it’s important to be alert to the warning signs of TBI. These include:

  • Disorientation or loss of consciousness
  • Unusual sleep—either sleeping more than usual or trouble sleeping
  • Dizziness or balance problems
  • Headache
  • Sudden change in mood (mood swings, anxiety)
  • Changes in vision, hearing, taste or smell
  • Light or sound sensitivity

Anytime you bump your head, it always pays to err on the side of caution. Have a medical evaluation to check your cognition. Early detection of TBI is key to recovery—and to seeking compensation for your brain injury.