What is a Coup-Contrecoup Brain Injury?

When an external force causes the brain to hit the inside of the skull repeatedly, causing damage to the brain in multiple areas, it is called a coup-contrecoup (pronounced “coo” and “contra coo”) brain injury. A coup injury refers to the damage from the initial point of impact, whereas contrecoup describes the injury that occurs on the opposite side of the brain at the additional point(s) of impact.

What Causes a Coup-Contrecoup Injury?

There are certain types of accidents known for commonly causing coup-contrecoup brain injuries. Those include:

Motor Vehicle Accidents

For instance, in a rear-end car accident, the head is often forcefully thrown or “whipped” forward then back into the headrest. The strength of the impact can cause the brain to move forward and hit the skull, then rebound and strike the back of the skull.


Falls are a leading source of traumatic brain injuries. Examples include slipping and falling on a slippery surface, tumbling downstairs, falling from a ladder or while working at heights, rolling off a bed, etc. Older adults and young children are at a particularly high risk of suffering a coup-contrecoup injury in a fall.

Being Struck by or Against an Object

When a person’s head is violently struck by or against an object, the brain can easily suffer widespread damage. These cases often involve falling objects, being hit by heavy equipment while on the job, getting struck by a vehicle, or intentional acts of violence.

Symptoms of a Coup-Contrecoup Brain Injury

When the brain collides with the skull, it can disrupt and potentially damage neurons, blood vessels, axons, and other important neural structures. Symptoms of a coup-contrecoup brain injury may include:

  • Severe or worsening headaches
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness or disorientation
  • Lack of coordination
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Memory loss
  • Vision problems
  • Sensitivity to light or loud noises
  • Slurred speech
  • Difficulty concentrating

Depending on the location and severity of a coup-contrecoup brain injury, the victim can suffer permanent cognitive disabilities and complications. In severe cases, coma, a permanently vegetative state, or death.

Legal Options for Coup-Contrecoup Brain Injury Accident Victims

When another party is responsible for causing a coup-contrecoup brain injury, the victim may be able to recover the following types of compensation:

Medical Bills & Expenses

Current and future bills for any medical care, such as emergency treatment, surgeries, hospitalizations, physical and occupational therapy, prescription medications, medical equipment, in-home care, and more.

Lost Income

With a severe coup-contrecoup brain injury, a victim may never be able to work again, or they may be forced into a different line of work. Damages can be recovered for both current and future lost wages, as well as lost earning capacity for the difference in income they can make now compared to before the accident.

Pain and Suffering

Compensation for the physical pain caused by the brain injury, and any resulting emotional distress (e.g., depression, anxiety, insomnia, PTSD, etc.)

Loss of Consortium

Compensation that a spouse or family members can recover if the brain injury caused a loss of love, affection, companionship, comfort, society, or sexual relations.

Property Damage

If the accident that caused the coup-contrecoup brain injury resulted in property damage, victims are entitled to payment for its repair or replacement. (e.g., vehicle, clothing, cellphone, laptop, etc.)

Punitive Damages

If the at-fault party’s behavior was extremely reckless or intentional, the court may award punitive damages to the victim but also as punishment for the defendant and to deter others from similar behavior.

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