View Full Version : Memory Around Car Wreck

10-31-2010, 03:17 AM
My character was in a wreck; she rolled the truck she was driving and had one passenger. I've known people who were in car wrecks who don't remember the actual accident even though it's been years. (Too bad I don't know these people anymore to ask them). I've also read that memories from shortly before and/or after can be affected.

So here's my question: how much of a gap in her memory can I reasonably have around the accident before or after? It's years later in my story and she's forced to deal with this. Thanks for any help/insight you can give me. :)

ETA: I guess what I'm looking for is time-wise how much of a gap.

10-31-2010, 04:16 AM
It depends on the person's injuries. If she struck the right portion of her head, then it could prevent the memories from forming. Instead of "forgetting" them, they're never there, so they can't be recovered.

If you want localized memory loss, rather than non-formation of memory, what you want is Lacunar Amnesia.

See if this wiki article helps: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lacunar_amnesia

10-31-2010, 04:49 AM
Retrograde anesia is common with head injuries. I've had it from coming off my horse. Knew things I knew from college, but I'd moved states that onth and absoltely did not know where I was. The mountains looked wrong, as they weren't the same mountains I'd been looking at before the move. Certainly didn't know my phone number. Had it all back the next day.

I've dealt with numerous car wreck patients w/ retrograde amnesia who don't remember the wreck they will ask what happened. Ya tell 'em they were in a car wreck, you're taking care of them, gonna be fine, on our way to hospital x, yada yada. They're all reassured. One minute later, they ask what happened. Ya do the whole reassurance spiel again. See? Some retrograde amnesia patient's cannot retin the last two minutes in addition to the wreck itself. So you have to repeat the last two minutes with a smile and patience.

Drachen Jager
10-31-2010, 05:51 AM
Retrograde amnesia can be caused simply by shock too. But...I have to say, it's a really overused plot device. It's too easy, more TV show than novel material if you ask me.

Maybe that's just snobby of me but I think it's right up there with, "Oh, what a relief, it was all just a dream."

10-31-2010, 06:41 AM
Drachen, I agree with you that it is overused and it's too convenient often. It's not a key thing in my piece by any stretch. If the only memory she has lost is the moment of impact to waking up in the ambulance, that works to. But if she's blocked out/lost storming out of the house and getting into the wreck, that may slightly change things. The accident was 15 years earlier.

10-31-2010, 05:19 PM
Our daughter was in a serious car accident when she was 18. She had no head injuries at all. Her memory stops at what she estimates to be about 30 seconds before impact, and resumes at what we estimate to be about 15 minutes after, in an ambulance.

The accident was in 2003, and none of that missing time has returned to her, either waking or in dreams, when taking Rx painkillers that got her high, or when she's had a fair amount of alcohol. Those minutes are just gone, and I'm grateful for that. It was pretty bad, with one gruesome death.

Maryn, sobered

10-31-2010, 05:33 PM
I remember all too well the roll over accident I was in about 17, 18 years ago but I have also known quite a few people who had memory gaps before and after serious accidents. Some did not remember anything from several hours before the accident occured.

10-31-2010, 07:09 PM
I was a front seat passenger in a car that hit a parked van at somewhere between 40-60mph. whilst, nothing anywhere near as horrific as some of the descriptions above, it still shook me up quite badly.

It was my first ever car crash, I was about 22 at the time and my memories of the incident are a bit strange.

Whilst physically I was fine apart from wrenching and twisting my back I distinctly remember Maria jamming the brakes on hard having discovered she didn;t have room to get round the van, then the next thing I remember is standing next to my car looking at it embedded in the back of a post office van.

It was whilst I was standing next to the wreckage that I then saw the crash and then the mad scramble to undo my seatbelt, open the door and get out.

Strangely, even when I think back now, it's as if for a few moments, events happened out of sequence since I clearly remember standing by the side of the road before I remember the impact. I know it didn;t happent hat way... It's impossible, but know matter how much I try to tell myself that it happened differently, my memories insist that it happend the wrong way round.

Shock does funny things to the mind. Anything is possible with something so fragile.

10-31-2010, 07:20 PM
Luckily I've only been in one accident, knock on wood. I remember every second in slow motion.

This was before seatbelts were required. I remember smacking the windshield with my forehead, bouncing back to the seat and my mother slamming one arm across my chest to hold me there. My brother was asleep in the back seat so, he remembers nothing except ending up on the floorboards.

I'd say it depends on the severity, injuries and possibly the individual.

Kathie Freeman
10-31-2010, 08:35 PM
Any loss of conciousness can produce a memory gap of up to 30 minutes prior to the incident, simply because that's how long it takes on average for the brain to process short-term memory into long-term. Any unprocessed information is simply lost, and can never be recovered.

11-02-2010, 05:53 AM
Oh man. I wish the memories of my car accident were lost. It's been 19 years and I still remember every second in vivid, excruciating detail--the tree I uprooted in mid-air, every single tree the car bounced off of, the crunching metal, the choking smells, the guy with a flashlight at the edge of the road telling me to "walk towards the light" (which made me totally panic thinking I was dead), the realization that my passenger had been thrown out--ugh, I used to have nightmares and flashbacks pretty severely.

My dad, on the other hand, remembers much less about his. He remembers the entire day and the beginning of the drive (about 10:30 pm). He remembers approaching the light and making the decision to go through the yellow. Then he remembers waking up in the car as the EMTs were trying to get him out. His memories of the next ten days are pretty fuzzy, as he was in the hospital on major medications.

11-02-2010, 05:12 PM
So it appears that the conclusion we authors can draw is that you can have as much or as little memory gap as suits your story. Win-win, yes?

Maryn, who needs to go vote