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What Is a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury? [Glasgow Coma Scale]

De Caro & Kaplen partner Michael V. Kaplen, a three-term president of the Brain Injury Association of New York State, and professorial lecturer at law, teaching a course in brain injury law at the George Washington University Law School, discusses the term “mild traumatic brain injury”, how it is defined by the Glasgow Coma Scale, and how it is an inappropriate way to categorize brain injury.

The term “mild” traumatic brain injury is a misnomer.  All brain injuries can cause severe lifetime consequences. All concussions are brain injuries

New York brain injury attorney Michael Kaplen says, “A mild traumatic brain injury is if it’s someone else’s brain and not yours.”

What is the origin of the term mild traumatic brain injury?

The tern mild traumatic brain injury finds its origin in The Glasgow Coma Scale. A scale used by emergency personnel to evaluate the acute needs of a brain injury victim at the scene of the accident, or when they first arrive at the hospital.

What does the Glasgow Coma Scale Measure?

The scale goes from 3 to 15 and measures such things as:

  • the ability to open one’s eyes
  • the ability to speak
  • the ability to breathe unassisted

What is the scoring scale for the Glasgow Coma Scale?

Each observation which is part of the score receives a point. The score ranges from 3 to 15. A dead individual receives a score of 3. If all milestones are passed, the individual receives a score of 15.  Between these scores of 3 and 15, brain injuries are determined to be mild, moderate, or severe.

What does the Glasgow Coma Scale reveal about long term consequences of a mild traumatic brain injury?

The scale does not tell inform about the effects of the brain injury. It is only useful to determine the care that’s needed when the person arrives in a hospital’s emergency department.

What type of questions are answered by using the Glasgow Coma Scale?

  • Should the individual be evaluated by a neurologist?
  • Should the individual be evaluated by a neurosurgeon?
  • Should a CT scan be ordered?
  • Should other precautions be taken for the individual?
  • Can they be discharged from the emergency department, or should they be admitted for further observation?

Why is the Glasgow Coma Scale and its reference to mild traumatic brain injury a curse to those suffering from a concussion and to brain injury attorneys?

The scale is not useful in determining the repercussions of a concussion. It is misused and misapplied for individuals who sustain a concussion, also known as a mild traumatic brain injury. Brain Injury attorneys do not refer to brain injury or brain damage as being mild, moderate, or severe. It is an emergency medical term.  Nontheless, in the courtroom during the trial of a mild traumatic brain injury case, the term needs to be explained so jurors do not misunderstand what a mild traumatic brain injury is.

About The Author

Michael V. Kaplen

Michael V. Kaplen represents victims of vehicle collisions, unsafe buildings and construction sites, and medical malpractice, and is a preferred attorney of The Brain Injury Association of America.

Michael is board certified as a Civil Trial Advocate and board certified in medical malpractice litigation. He is a Professorial Lecturer in Law, The George Washington University Law School, The Legal Aspects of Traumatic Brain Injury.

Michael is past chairman of the American Association for Justice (AAJ) Automobile, Highway and Premise Liability Section, past chairman of the AAJ Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, three term president of the Brain Injury Association of New York State served two terms as chair of the New York State Traumatic Brain Injury Services Coordinating Council and vice-president, New York State Academy of Trial Lawyers.

He was invited by President Obama to participate in the White House Healthy Kids & Safe Sports Concussion Summit.

He is admitted to courts in New York, Florida, and Washington, DC. He has been selected as a New York Super Lawyer and recognized by Best Lawyers of America and U.S. News and World Report in personal injury law.

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