Scientists refer to a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) as a concussion. Unlike more serious brain injuries, concussions do not typically cause permanent brain damage. Instead, the symptoms of a concussion usually go away within two months of the injury.
One of the more disorienting and concerning symptoms of a concussion is amnesia. Memory loss can result from physical injury to the brain, loss of consciousness, or even mental distress in response to the traumatic event. Whatever the cause, this memory loss can affect your ability to work or perform necessary activities like shopping.
How Does the Memory Work?
Your brain controls your cognition and memory. When you perceive something through your senses, your brain processes that perception using memories. When you smell something sour, your brain reaches into your memory to identify the smell as lemon juice.
Your brain encodes memories in your brain, as well as how and where they are encoded. Memories are encoded by creating a connection between a set of neurons. This circuit is different for every memory.
More importantly, the more you use the memory, the stronger the connections become. The brain cells will even build protein bridges to hardwire important memories so you do not forget them. This strengthening of connections over time represents the learning process.
Memories get encoded differently depending on their significance. Unimportant memories, like the phone number you called to order a pizza, get stored in short-term memory.
Short-term memory performs the same function as your computer’s RAM. Information is stored here briefly while you use it. These memories last only a few minutes and contain only about seven pieces of information. Looking up a phone number you have never called will probably occupy your short-term memory.
Long-term memory performs like your computer’s hard drive or solid-state drive. Information gets stored here until it gets erased. Long-term memories have greater significance. They also have stronger connections, so you can carry them for the rest of your life.
Your brain recalls memories when they are needed. Stronger connections get recalled more readily, while weaker connections in short-term memory disappear quickly. If you take too long to recall information from short-term memory, you may find that the memory has disappeared.
What Causes Concussions?
Concussions happen when your brain gets jostled. The word concussion comes from a Latin word that means to “shake violently.”
This word captures how concussions happen. A layer of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) surrounds the brain. When the brain shakes violently, the CSF cushions it from hitting the inside of your skull. But in cushioning the brain, the pressure exerted by the CSF damages it.
Some common causes of concussions include:
When you hit your head, your brain rattles in your skull. Head injuries can happen in falls. In an elevated fall or slip and fall accident, you can hit the back of your head when you fall backward.
Sharp Start or Stop
When you start or stop suddenly, your brain will whip back and forth even if you do not hit your head. For example, in a car accident, your body will whip forward into your seat belt. But even after your body stops moving, your head will continue to whip forward. This whiplash motion will stress your neck. It will also cause your brain to move around.
Explosions create pressure waves that compress your skull. This pressure gets transferred to your brain when the CSF squeezes it.
These injuries are common in combat veterans. Workers in occupations that use explosives can also suffer these injuries. Thus, people who work in demolition, mining, and oil and gas extraction could get a concussion during an explosion even when they do not suffer any other injuries.
What Types of Memory Loss Can Result from Concussions?
Brain injuries often produce memory loss in three ways. These forms of memory loss happen for different reasons, produce different effects, and have different prognoses. The three types of memory loss from a concussion include:
Post-Traumatic Retrograde Amnesia
Post-traumatic retrograde amnesia happens when an accident victim loses memories immediately preceding the brain injury. This injury is very common. It happens because your brain briefly shuts down when it suffers a concussion. As a result, it cannot encode the memories from just before the injury.
Some examples include:
- Not remembering how the injury happened
- Failing to recall what you or the at-fault party were doing before the injury
- Losing memories about where and when the injury occurred
This type of amnesia happens because the brain did not have a chance to encode the memories before its processes got disrupted. You cannot recall these memories because they never made it into your brain.
Dissociative amnesia happens when your brain blocks you from consciously recalling memories. When you suffer a traumatic event, your mind will try to protect you from emotional distress caused by the event by cutting off those memories.
Suppose that you were in a car accident that killed your child. You might not be able to remember the details of the crash due to dissociative amnesia. In these cases, the memories are encoded, and your brain is capable of recalling them. But it refuses to do so.
Post-Traumatic Anterograde Amnesia
Post-traumatic anterograde amnesia happens when your brain injury damages the memory centers of your brain. As a result, you have trouble encoding new memories or recalling them. In either case, you will have memory lapses that continue after your accident. They may even last the rest of your life.
How Can You Get Compensation for Memory Loss After a Concussion?
Memory loss can have a profound effect on your life. Amnesia can interfere with your ability to recall the events that resulted in your injury. It can interfere with your ability to perform tasks like driving and shopping since you might have difficulty forming and recalling short-term memories.
If your amnesia affects your long-term memory, you might not be able to work. You might even become unable to be trained since you cannot learn new information or skills.
You can pursue compensation for these effects by proving your concussion resulted from someone else’s intentional or negligent actions. Once proven, the at-fault party will need to compensate you for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Contact us today at (904) 396-1100 one of our experienced attorneys at Baggett Law Personal Injury Lawyers will provide a free consultation to discuss your memory loss and the compensation you can seek for it.