If I told the EMT that I did not lose consciousness, do I have a case for my traumatic brain injury?

One of the standard questions a first responder (emergency medical technician, or "EMT") will ask a person who has been involved in an accident is whether they "lost consciousness."  Depending on the answer, the EMT will put that information in their report.  Then, when the injured person gets to the emergency room, they will again be asked whether they lost consciousness.  Once again, the answer given by the patient will be put in the emergency room report.

This raises the question: "What if I told the EMT and the emergency room doctor that I did not lose consciousness?  Does that mean I have no case for a traumatic brain injury from the accident?"

No, it does not.

A person who loses consciousness is not aware of having lost it.  Therefore, they're not able to accurately respond to that question.  Only if a third person was there observing what happened (rarely the case) can loss of consciousness be accurately determined by simply asking the question.  Loss of consciousness means that the person has a gap in their ability to recall a period of time.  That lost period of time may be only a few seconds.  If a person responds to a question about loss of consciousness by saying that they "don't know" or "no," that fact does not medically rule out the possibility that a concussion occurred.  Determining whether a concussion, or mild traumatic brain injury, occurred, requires the medical provider to dig a little deeper into investigating what happened. 

Another factor that plays into this issue is that emergency personnel, including EMTs and emergency room doctors, are typically more focused on other problems with a patient than they are with investigating whether a concussion occurred.  To illustrate the point, let's assume a patient was in a car accident in which they broke their leg and suffered a nasty gash on their hand, which is bleeding profusely.  When they arrive at the emergency room, they are fully awake and oriented.  They are as conscious as a person can be.  But they're bleeding and in a lot of pain.  The ER doctors are going to focus, first, on stopping the profusely bleeding hand and, second, on getting down to fixing that broken leg.  They'll most certainly ask whether a loss of consciousness occurred.  The answer will in most cases be "I don't know" or "no," at which point the medical personnel will check that box off in their report and move on.

This sort of dynamic is why a recent study showed that more than 50% of mild traumatic brain injuries (concussions) are not diagnosed in the emergency room.

Here at The Mottley Law Firm, most of the traumatic brain injury cases we handle involve a person who either responded "no" or "I don't know" to the question, "did you lose consciousness."  That is the fact pattern we see most of the time in mild TBI cases.

If you or a loved one have suffered a mild traumatic brain injury or concussion due to some sort of accident or mishap, feel free to contact us about the matter.  We focus a significant portion of our practice on helping people in this position with their legal needs.

Kevin W. Mottley
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Kevin W. Mottley, Richmond, VA trial lawyer dedicated to handling brain and other serious injury claims