Personal Injury Lawyers

The Glasgow Coma Scale; a Valuable Test in Diagnosing Brain Injuries

Diagnostic tools used to diagnose suspected brain injuries are considered as complex as the brain itself. However, a simple low-tech test called The Glasgow Coma Scale when performed immediately following a brain injury can prove invaluable in helping to diagnose the extent of the injury and in determining whether the injury reaches the level of a catastrophic impairment under Ontario’s No-Fault Benefits system.

Damage to the brain can be one of the most difficult injuries to prove. Depending on the extent of the injury, a great deal of money may be at stake including the very real possibility that the victim may require long term care. Every piece of medical evidence is crucial and will be scrutinized by both sides in a potential legal claim.

Emergency responders often use The Glasgow Coma Scale as an initial diagnostic reading of the extent of a victim’s head injury. The test examines three main areas to gauge the victim’s level of consciousness; motor response, such as obeying verbal commands, verbal response or accessing the level of coherence in a person’s speech and the victim opening their eyes on command. Individual scores are added together to determine a score between 3 and 15. The Glasgow Coma Scale is used under the Ontario Statutory Accident Benefit Schedule for motor vehicle accidents, as one of the tests to determine which brain injuries result in a catastrophic impairment.

Section 1 of Ontario’s Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule lists catastrophic impairment in cases of brain injury, in part, as a score of nine or less on the Glasgow Coma Scale, according to a test administered by trained personnel within a reasonable amount of time following the accident. The test may be administered several times after an injury occurs to determine the progression of the injury. In fact, in a precedent-setting brain injury case (LIU v. 1226071 Ontario Inc.,) the appellate judge found that repeated tests yielding increasingly higher numbers on the Scale as time passed should not nullify the initial lower score. Despite the progress in recovery, the plaintiff’s injury should still be deemed catastrophic.

Some issues have called into question the reliability of the Glasgow Coma Scale in determining evidence of a catastrophic impairment, such as scores following intubation and those involving accident victims who have been consuming alcohol. Even straightforward scores of nine or less may now need to be litigated by a lawyer with extensive experience in this area. At Futerman Partners LLP, we have over 30 years of experience in handling complex catastrophic brain injury claims. Our initial consultation is free and you only pay us if you win your claim. Call us today at 416-925-4100.