Loss of Consciousness in Brain Injury: A Myth
By John Tiwald | Attorney
A common, yet untrue, belief about brain injury is that a person cannot possibly have suffered a brain injury without losing consciousness or having been knocked unconscious. Defense attorneys, medical doctors, and neuropsychologists hired by insurance companies to defend against injury claims try to minimize the extent of the damage done to a brain injury victim’s brain. They do this by making the claim that no loss of consciousness means no brain injury.
Nothing could be further from the truth. It is now widely known through decades of research, and is reported widely in medical and scientific literature, that brain injuries which are diagnosed to be mild, moderate, and severe in nature occur in victims who experienced no loss of consciousness at the time of injury.
The American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine clearly defines Traumatic Brain Injury as an alteration in brain function, or other evidence of brain pathology, caused by an external force and that loss of of consciousness often does not occur.
A confirming article in the September 30, 2010 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine reports that each year more than 1.5 million Americans sustain traumatic brain injuries with no loss of consciousness and no apparent need for hospitalization; an equal number sustain brain injuries sufficient to impair consciousness but insufficiently severe to necessitate long-term institutionalization.
I do believe it is important to recognize that there are different levels of consciousness which an injured person may experience. These may range from seeing stars and feeling confused, dazed, or “out of it” after suffering a brain injury, including a period of amnesia concerning events prior to and/or after the injury, to being in a stupor or completely unconscious. There are a wide range of symptoms a brain injured person may experience and none are absolute requirements for a serious injury to the brain to have occurred. In fact, serious brain bruising, contusions, and bleeding can occur without loss of consciousness. This may be true of severe penetrating injuries as well.
About half of brain injuries result from motor vehicle crashes, and brain injuries occur in more than 70% of severe motor vehicle crashes. Other common causes are falls, physical assaults, work place accidents, sports mishaps, fire arms and exposure to explosives, toxic chemicals, and electrical shock.