Background concept wordcloud illustration of Glasgow coma scale GCS

Brain Injury After a Car Accident: What is the Glasgow Coma Scale?

Brain injury caused by a car accident can range in seriousness from a mild concussion to a severe traumatic brain injury. For some, life may never be the same after a major car accident. Brain injury lawyers at our firm have considerable experience handling car accident claims involving traumatic brain injuries of all types. A factor that medical professionals and personal injury lawyers consider when evaluating the severity of a brain injury is the “Glasgow Coma Scale” (or “GCS”). In this post, we will discuss what the Glasgow Coma Scale is and what it tells us about a brain injury.

Car accident lawyer FAQ: What is the Glasgow Coma Scale?

The Glasgow Come Scale is a widely used system for gauging the severity of a brain injury.  It is an objective and reliable 15-point scale used by emergency medical services, doctors and nurses to assess a person’s level of consciousness after a brain injury. The GCS is typically evaluated immediately after the car accident (for example, by first responders) and again during subsequent assessments, and as such will be recorded in ambulance crew report, emergency room records, and other hospital or physician notes. Because the GCS score is taken at different intervals it allows for improvement or worsening in a person’s condition to be quickly communicated among health professionals. It is also used to help medical practitioners categorize the severity of a brain injury after a traumatic event such as a car accident.

Elements of the GCS and how it is used

The GCS measures three categories of functions – eye opening, verbal response, and motor response – based on the brain injured person’s response to stimulus and assigns a value in each category. The individual values within each category are considered, as is the total or final GCS score, which is the sum of the values in each of the three categories. The highest total GCS score is 15, which means that the injured person is able to open their eyes spontaneously, is alert and oriented (for example, the injured person answers appropriately to questions such as name, age, where are you and why, date, etc.), and is able to fully obey motor response commands (in other words, is able to make simple movements when asked). The lowest GCS score is 3, which means the brain injured person is deeply unconscious and does not open their eyes, make sounds, or make any movements.

What does the GCS tell us about the severity of a brain injury?

As discussed, a lower GCS score indicates a more serious brain injury,  which typically suggests a poorer prognosis and greater likelihood of permanent disability. Generally speaking, total Glasgow Coma Scores relate to the following classifications of brain injuries:

  • Severe brain injury: GCS of 8 or less.
  • Moderate brain injury: GCS between 9 and 12.
  • Mild brain injury: GCS in the range of 13 to 15.

Mild traumatic brain injuries can cause physical and cognitive impairments which may resolve over time, particularly where the brain injured person has the benefit of proper rehabilitation and necessary treatment.  Moderate or severe brain injuries are more likely to cause permanent impairments and in the most serious cases, may result in life-long disability or even death.


Suffered a brain injury in a car accident? Lawyers at our firm are here to help

Contact Simpson, Thomas & Associates on (604) 689-8888 if you or a loved one has suffered a brain injury. Car accident lawyers at our firm have extensive experience handling ICBC claims involving traumatic brain injuries, ranging from mild concussions to severe traumatic brain injuries. Request a free consultation to find out how our highly skilled car accident lawyers can assist you in getting the help you need for rehabilitation and the compensation you deserve for your injuries.


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