What Significance Does the Glasgow Coma Scale Scores Have in a Brain Injury?

In our experience, survivors of mild traumatic brain injury, or concussion, will typically have a Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) reading of 15 in their medical records from the date of the accident.  The reason for that is pretty simple.  A concussion, or mild traumatic brain injury ("mTBI"), is characterized by just a brief, or momentary loss of consciousness, alteration of  mental state, or feeling of being "dazed."  If the patient lost consciousness for some period of time, it is unusual for there to be a third-party witness available who saw the person in an unconscious state who can testify to that fact. 

By the time a medical professional, such as an EMT, gets to the scene of an accident and administers the GCS test, the person is awake, alert, and is often oriented to time, place, and person.  They can walk, respond to commands, and their eyes are open.  This is not at all unusual, even in patients who suffered a concussion in an accident.  And in those situations, the GCS score will always be 15. 

Does that mean the person did not have a concussion?  No, it does not.  It just means that, at the time the GCS test was administered, the person had a score of 15.  That is all.  Later on, when the person goes to the emergency room at the hospital, it is not uncommon for another GCS reading to be taken.  And, once again, it is to be expected that the score will be 15 in a mild traumatic brain injury patient.  And that is what it invariably is.  Importantly, the Glasgow Coma Scale is useless in ruling out the presence of a mild traumatic injury in a patient.

Traumatic Brain Injury Attorney Can Help You Today

Although the GCS is not useful in cases involving mild traumatic brain injury, defendants always point to the GCS reading of 15 as evidence of there having been no brain injury.  For that reason, a lawyer who represents traumatic brain injury survivors must be prepared to offer testimony from their own medical experts who can explain that the GCS does not rule out the presence of a mild traumatic brain injury, and to help the jury understand what the GCS is, and is not.

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