How Does a Brain Injury Affect Your Ability to Drive?

by Staff | May 24th, 2021

Brain injuries come in varying levels of severity, causing minor impairments with coordination and memory to patients who cannot care for themselves. If you’ve suffered from a traumatic brain injury (TBI), it may affect your reaction time, depth perception, peripheral vision, and coordination when you drive. If you’ve suffered from TBI seizures in the last year, you may have your license suspended.

However, with time, physical and occupational therapy, and medication, you may be able to drive normally one day. Here’s what you need to know about how a brain injury affects your ability to drive and when you can expect to hit the road again.

What is a TBI?

Traumatic brain injuries occur due to an impact or force that damages the brain. They typically occur from sports injuries, violence, slips and falls, and car accidents. A TBI occurs due to direct blunt force trauma to the head or the head changing direction suddenly and violently, causing the brain to hit the skull.

Some TBIs can heal after several weeks, months, or a year. Any TBI that lasts for more than a year is likely to be a permanent impairment, although you can learn to compensate with proper physical rehab interventions. Some drivers may need adaptive equipment to get behind the wheel again.

For those who received their TBI in a car accident, you may require some counseling to help you overcome anxiety and PTSD from the crash and to regain your confidence.

TBIs can impact your cognitive, visual, and physical abilities when you drive, which can be dangerous and lead to an accident. If you experience any of these impairments, it’s important to seek medical clearance before driving again.

Cognitive Impairments

TBIs to the frontal or temporal lobe can cause cognitive issues in the accident or fall’s immediate aftermath. Common symptoms of cognitive impairments following a TBI include:

  • Disorientation and confusion
  • Problems with decision-making, planning, impulse control, memory, problem-solving, and communication
  • Distraction and difficulties concentrating
  • Inability to cope with unexpected weather events or construction detours

While these injuries typically resolve in three to six months, severe damage may cause issues to persist. Aggressive physical, occupational, and psychological therapy can help you overcome many of these challenges and give you critical coping mechanisms.

Physical Impairments

Damage to the cerebellum, parietal lobe, and brain stem can cause physical challenges when you want to return to your normal life. In addition to the damage your brain has sustained, other areas of your body may have been seriously injured in an accident or fall. You may need to learn a new way of moving your body and utilizing new adaptive tools to get around. Your brain is also healing and can cause impairments such as:

  • Hearing loss
  • Poor hand-eye coordination and muscle coordination
  • Limited muscle strength
  • A loss of sense of balance, or vertigo

Visual Impairments

Damage to the occipital lobe causes vision challenges that can make driving difficult or impossible. Many of these issues resolve with time, but some persist and may make getting back behind the wheel impossible. Visual impairments after a TBI include:

  • Loss of peripheral vision
  • Development of blind spots
  • Blurred vision, double vision, trouble focusing
  • Difficulty controlling eye movement
  • Slow processing of road signs or potential hazards

Getting Back to Driving

If your license was suspended as a result of your TBI, you will need to go to the DMV and participate in a re-examination interview or a physical and mental hearing.

An experienced personal injury attorney from Berg Injury Lawyers can help you prepare for these steps and provide documentation from your doctors to support your case for license reinstatement.

Alternatively, if you are deemed unable to drive again safely due to a permanent traumatic brain injury, you may need financial assistance for transportation costs and medical bills. Not being able to drive severely limits your ability to earn a living wage, and you may have dependents who count on you for transportation. These are calculable damages you may be eligible to recover if your TBI resulted from another person’s negligence.

The Final Word

If you or a loved one have sustained a traumatic brain injury, don’t give up hope. With time and medical interventions, many TBI patients can heal and get back on the road again safely. Let our experienced California brain injury lawyers help you get back your wheels and your independence. We can also file a claim for damages from the negligent party, so you are financially secure.