Classifying a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) as Mild, Moderate, or Severe
While every traumatic brain injury, or TBI, is serious, doctors, therapists, and insurance companies use various systems to classify an individual person’s TBI. The classification guides treatment and long-term care decisions. How a TBI gets classified also indicates whether the person who suffered the traumatic brain injury may experience permanent physical, cognitive, and emotional disabilities.
What causes a TBI?
TBIs can have many causes. As Columbus personal injury attorney, we at Agee Clymer Mitchell & Portman most often help clients who sustained brain injuries in car crashes. On-the-job accidents are another frequent cause. Errors made by doctors and nurses during pregnancy and delivery can leave a newborn with a TBI, and a physical assault can inflict a TBI on a person of any age.
Impacts, lack of oxygen, and exposure to toxic chemicals can all result in TBIs. Whether a TBI sufferer has grounds for filing a personal injury, workers’ compensation, or intentional tort claim will depend on why the problem occurred and the severity of the brain injury.
How Are TBIs Classified?
For many years, the gold standard for classifying TBIs was the Glasgow Coma Scale. This system uses the distinctions mild, moderate, and severe, and it relies mostly on the symptoms a person experiences within the first day of receiving a blow to the head, suffocating, or being poisoned.
Using the Glasgow Coma Scale, a person will be diagnosed with mild TBI if he or she can
- Keep his or her eyes open,
- Follow a light or pen tip with their eyes while not moving their head,
- Respond appropriately to questions,
- Recall lists of names or objects correctly,
- Maintain balance while standing and walking, and
- Perform tasks like drawing the correct time on a blank clock face.
A moderate TBI diagnosis indicates good performance on most assessments of brain function, while a severe TBI diagnosis indicates that the person has significant mental and physical impairments. To put the classifications into more-familiar terms — while also simplifying the reality somewhat — a concussion that resolves quickly would generally be considered a mild TBI. Losing consciousness for more than 30 minutes and not being able to recall details right before and for some time after the injury could be considered a moderate TBI. A severe TBI could be one that puts the victim into a coma and creates lifelong disabilities.
The Mayo Classification System for Traumatic Brain Injury Severity is also in wide use. It, too, relies on symptoms such as losing consciousness, suffering a skull fracture, experiencing bruising around the face and head, experiencing temporary amnesia, and bleeding inside the skull. Two or more of these problems places a person in the moderate-to-severe TBI category. The other Mayo classifications are probable TBI and possible TBI.
Regardless of how severe a traumatic brain injury is when it first occurs, lingering problems can make the victim’s life almost unlivable. Blinding headaches, uncontrollable mood swings, loss of muscle coordination, blurred vision, poor decision-making, speech difficulties, and long- and short-term memory loss can all persist for months or years after a brain injury. Often, the real adverse effects of a TBI do not become clear until long after any physical wounds have healed.
How Can a Lawyer Help a TBI Victim?
Anyone in Ohio who has suffered a TBI or a possible TBI due to an accident or attack should contact a Columbus personal injury attorney to discuss options for holding the negligent, reckless, or criminal party financially accountable. An insurance settlement or court judgment can cover past medical bills, lost wages, and future health care needs.
Daniel Tan is a professional blogger and currently working with Finduslawyers.org. Find US Lawyers offers articles, news, and guest post on a wide range of legal topics.