Understanding post-traumatic amnesia after a TBI

A blow to the head that causes a traumatic brain injury (TBI) can leave a victim with a wide range of physical and mental issues. Some resolve relatively soon as the swelling in the brain subsides. Others can take longer to fade and may require treatment and therapy.

Symptoms depend on what part of the brain was injured. A frightening and disconcerting outcome of a TBI can be memory loss, or amnesia. This is most common if an injury affects the hippocampus, amygdala and/or prefrontal cortex. These areas of the brain help people process memories. Amnesia following a brain injury is called post-traumatic amnesia (PTA). It can last for a few minutes, days or much longer.

The most common types of PTA

The most common kind of PTA is called anterograde amnesia. A person with this type of amnesia can remember the minutes leading up to the injury but not what happened immediately (or maybe longer) afterwards. Retrograde amnesia is the second most common. This is where someone doesn’t remember what happened just before the injury, but they can remember what occurred afterwards.

People can have some combination of both kinds. Singer Amy Grant has talked extensively about the memory loss she suffered after a bike crash last year left her unconscious for ten minutes. Grant said she has no memory of how she fell off her bike or her initial days in the hospital. She said journaling helped her remember people’s names and other memories she had initially lost.

It’s crucial to be careful whom you talk to about an injurious incident

If you or a loved one has suffered PTA or other memory loss after a crash or other incident that was the fault of another party, it’s critical that the compensation you seek covers wages for lost work time, money you have to pay others to help with chores you can’t handle (like driving) and, of course, the costs of treatment.

It’s also important that a person who doesn’t have a clear memory of an event or the circumstances surrounding it not talk with insurance representatives or others who are not specifically on their side. It’s too easy to accept someone else’s view of an event that may not be accurate, and anything you say can work against you in getting a fair settlement. Obtaining sound legal guidance is a good first step to helping to protect your rights.