Left turn

Can a Car Accident Cause a Stroke?

It is rare but possible for a car accident – or any traumatic injury to the head and neck – to cause a stroke. It’s important to note that the stroke isn’t caused by the adrenaline surge often felt in such a situation; it is caused because of structural damages that prevent the brain from receiving enough oxygen. A blow to the head may cause a brain bleed; a damaged artery as a result of a whiplash injury may cause a blood clot or a person with an already weakened or blocked artery may be trapped upside down, causing pressure in blood vessels.

Any of these situations could cause a stroke. In most cases, the stroke that was precipitated by the car accident doesn’t occur for some time. This may be weeks or even months after the crash, which makes it extremely difficult to prove to insurance companies that the accident was indeed responsible. You will need extensively detailed medical records and the help of an experienced Indiana head and brain injury lawyer to prove your claim. 

Strokes: An overview

Strokes affect 795,000 people each year and are the 5th leading cause of death in the United States. If a blood vessel going to the brain is damaged and either ruptures or is blocked, the brain cannot get the oxygen and nutrients it needs. This causes brain cells to die. The sooner a person receives treatment, the better, so warning signs should never be disregarded. 

According to data from Northwestern Medicine, stroke prognosis statistics look like this:

  • 10% recover completely or almost completely
  • 25%  recover but with minor impairments
  • 40% recover with significant impairments and require special care
  • 10% require long-term care
  • 15% die soon after their stroke

Although 35% of those who suffer from strokes are able to recover enough to continue their lives with little to no changes, others find their lives to be significantly changed. They may not be able to work or even live independently. Finances are often a problem because stroke survivors incur tremendous initial and ongoing medical bills.

Stroke symptoms

Certain types of strokes sometimes need surgery, but the most common types are usually treated with thrombolytic medicines. These are drugs that break up blood clots and they increase the chances for a full recovery, free from disabilities. Unfortunately, they are only effective within a 3-hour time window, so people need to be familiar with the symptoms of a stroke. It is especially important for the friends and loved ones of someone who has been in a recent car accident to be aware of these symptoms. 

Since 1998, the mnemonic known by most people (and championed by the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association) is F.A.S.T.

Face: You may notice that the person’s face or mouth droops on one side. Ask them to smile if you are unsure.

Arms: If you ask the person to raise both arms at the same time, one may drift downwards.

Speech: Often people who have had strokes are unable to repeat phrases accurately. Sometimes when they speak, their words are garbled or slurred. 

Time: This is a reminder not to waste time. Call 911 immediately. 

Types of stroke


These types of strokes are the most common; in fact, according to the American Stroke Association, 87% of all strokes are ischemic. They occur when blood clots (or plaque) block the blood vessels going to the brain. An American Heart Association study reported in Science Daily found that patients younger than 50 who have suffered an injury to their head or neck (such as in a motor vehicle accident) are three times more likely to suffer from an ischemic stroke than those who haven’t. 


In these types of strokes, the brain is deprived of oxygen because of ruptured blood vessels that cause a brain bleed. There are many causes, such as brain tumors, high blood pressure, physical malformations, or head injuries (such as those received in a motor vehicle accident).

Car accidents and strokes

  • A Boston University study found that people over the age of 65 were at an increased risk of having a stroke within 180 days after being injured in a vehicle accident. 
  • 25% of strokes in children happen because of tears in the carotid artery or vertebral (spine) artery. Whiplash can cause these types of tears that trigger strokes. 
  • Strokes can often occur weeks or months after an accident. One study described a 50-year-old taxi driver who died from a stroke two months after a severe whiplash injury.
  • It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally after a rollover accident, people can be trapped in awkward positions, perhaps caught by their seatbelts. According to Wendy Wright, assistant professor of neurology and neurosurgery at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, “Hanging upside down could cause blood to pool in the skull and pressure could build up inside the brain and eyes. This may result in congestion in the blood vessels causing strokes, or even rupturing of blood vessels causing bleeding.”

Consequences of strokes

All strokes are different, and the level of recovery depends on how long the brain was without oxygen, where in the brain the stroke occurred, what type of stroke it was, how quickly treatment was administered, and how effective rehabilitation is. 

The CDC lists the following as typical aftereffects:

  • Paralysis (inability to move some parts of the body), weakness, or both on one side of the body.
  • Trouble with thinking, awareness, attention, learning, judgment, and memory.
  • Problems understanding or forming speech.
  • Trouble controlling or expressing emotions.
  • Numbness or strange sensations.
  • Pain in the hands and feet that worsens with movement and temperature changes.
  • Trouble with chewing and swallowing.
  • Problems with bladder and bowel control.

Since strokes typically don’t occur until some time has passed since the initial accident, insurance companies will not easily accept that one caused the other. If this has happened to you or a loved one, you may be overwhelmed with the difficulty of coping with the “new normal” in your life. At the same time, you will be facing loss of income, a host of medical expenses, rehab expenses, the cost of assistive devices, or the cost of full or part-time care. 

If you suffered a stroke after being in a car crash caused by a negligent driver, let the experienced Indiana car accident lawyers at Crossen Law Firm fight for you. Filing injury claims for a car accident in Indianapolis can be a complex and confusing process that is only made more difficult when a stroke occurs days, weeks, or even months after your accident. We have the skills and knowledge necessary to effectively negotiate with insurance companies to obtain maximum compensation.

Call 317-401-8626 or Contact Us online.