Car accidents are one of the main reasons for head injuries in the United States. Airbags, seat belts and other safety features attempt to lower the risk of a head injury, but accidents are violent, chaotic and unpredictable. These serious injuries still happen all the time.

They can change the course of your entire life. Even non-fatal head injuries may have lasting ramifications. To understand what shape this may take, consider the following five major types of head injuries:

1. Skull fractures

When the impact is hard enough, it can fracture your skull, breaking this incredibly hard layer of bone protection and potentially putting you in serious danger. The brain is so well-protected for a reason. Skull fractures can lead to serious issues like swelling or bleeding on the brain.

2. Concussions

Even when the impact does not break the bone itself, a lot of force still gets exerted on your brain. When the brain moves violently against the inside of your skull, the skull itself can cause bruising and bleeding. This is how you end up with a concussion. You may not have any external signs, but you could still suffer tremendously.

3. Edema

This is the medical term for swelling of the brain. If you have injured other parts of your body, one natural reaction is for that tissue to expand and swell as it heals. That’s fine when the tissue has room to move, but the brain is encased in the skull and cannot move much at all. Swelling puts incredible pressure on your most fragile organ and can lead to brain damage or death.

4. Diffuse axonal injury

This type of brain injury, like a concussion, can be hard to diagnose from physical issues alone. Typically, the tissue doesn’t bleed at all, but brain cells still get injured or even killed. It can lead to edema and swelling. The brain cannot always regenerate like other tissue, so any loss of cells may become permanent.

5. Brain hemorrhage

This happens when the brain starts bleeding and will not stop. Like swelling, this type of bleeding puts pressure on the brain when it has no room to expand. When the bleeding is around the brain tissue, medical professionals call it a subarachnoid hemorrhage. When it happens within the brain itself, they call it an intracerebral hemorrhage. Either one can lead to serious damage or death.

Your legal options after a head injury

If you suffer a head injury in a car accident, even if it is not fatal, you may wind up dealing with the ramifications for the rest of your life. Make sure you know if you have a right to financial compensation.