Coma in Car Accident Injury Lawsuits
A coma is a state of unconsciousness. It renders an individual unresponsive to things going on around them as well as tactile touch and speech. During a coma, the level of responsiveness and consciousness can vary. There are several reasons why a person enters a coma, including a doctor-induced state.
Table of Contents:
- What Is a Coma?
- How an Attorney Can Help When a Loved One Is in a Coma
- Diagnosis of a Coma
- Reasons a Coma Happens
- Types of Coma
- Glasgow Coma Score
- Diagnostic Tests
- Treatment in the ICU
- What Visitors Can Do to Help
- Why Legal Options Are Important
- Wilshire Law Firm
- More Resources
If you or a loved one are in need of immediate legal assistance after a car accident involving a coma or other serious injuries, contact Wilshire Law Firm 24/7 to get started on a Free case review. We’re here to answer your important questions. Call (800) 522-7274.
What Is a Coma?
A coma is defined as a state of extended unconsciousness. It renders an individual unresponsive to things going on around them as well as tactile touch, pain and speech. During a coma, the level of responsiveness and consciousness can vary. There are several reasons why a person falls into a coma, including a doctor-induced one that is medically necessary. Let’s take a look at this state of unconsciousness and give you a better understanding of this medical emergency, its symptoms, the treatments available and the prognosis.
How an Attorney Can Help When a Loved One Is in a Coma
If a family member is in a coma, a lawyer helps by providing guidance on the legal options available and by representing the family’s interests in any court proceedings. A lawyer also helps to ensure that the family receives any financial compensation to which they may be entitled.
At the Wilshire Law Firm, we have a long history of fighting for our client’s rights. We believe that no one should suffer both physical and financial injury due to a negligent person or entity. Let us help by calling (844) 316-8657. We’ll be able to answer your questions and provide information about your legal options going forward during a free case review. You won’t pay us unless we win. Guaranteed.
Diagnosis of a Coma
A coma can be challenging to diagnose, and it is usually graded using specific attributes. The signs of a coma might appear suddenly or evolve over hours. For example:
- The person’s eyes close, and they appear to be sleeping
- The individual is unresponsive to stimuli (either pain or environmental) and remains
comatose despite any efforts to rouse them
- When the doctor examines the comatose person’s eyes with a light source, the pupils do not respond as they usually would, indicating depression of the brainstem response
- Arms and legs do not move voluntarily or respond to stimuli
- Irregular breathing may be present
Reasons a Coma Happens
The reasons for a coma vary from one case to another. The one thing they do have in common is that an injury to the central nervous system or the brain occurs. The following are the most common causes of a coma:
- Traumatic head injuries: Injuries to the brain that occur in a traffic collision, an assault or sports trauma all can result in a coma. The injury can cause brain swelling or bleeding that shrinks the free area within the skull. Eventually, this can result in a downward descent of the brain stem, damaging the RAS or reticular activation system that supports consciousness.
- Lack of oxygen: Individuals who suffer oxygen deprivation whether in a traffic collision, a diving accident or a heart attack, can enter into a coma. When the brain is deprived of oxygen, cells begin to die within several minutes.
- Toxic substances: Many substances can induce a coma, including drugs and carbon monoxide. Exposure to chemicals carried on a tanker truck can cause severe toxicity and even coma due to a leak.
- Seizures: A coma can occur after seizure activity. Depending on the situation, some seizures are life-threatening. For example, repeating seizures, called status epilepticus, can cause severe brain injury and death.
- Drugs or alcohol: High levels of drugs or alcohol can result in a coma. This can happen in conjunction with a traffic collision caused by a DUI.
- Infections: Many infections of the central nervous system such as encephalitis can result in a seizure and coma.
- High and low blood sugar: Hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia can cause a coma. However, these are often reversible.
Types of Comas
There are three common types of coma:
- Medically induced: Doctors use this type of coma to prevent brain swelling. By injecting an anesthetic in the intensive care unit where a patient is observed, inducing a coma makes them unaware of their environment.
- Metabolic encephalopathy: Usually caused by illness, organ failure or other reasons, it can be reversed with treatment of the underlying condition.
- Vegetative state: If a coma does not resolve within a short period of time, a patient may enter a vegetative state. Although they may wake up, their cognitive powers might be compromised.
Glasgow Coma Score
This is a way for doctors to evaluate impaired consciousness. The eyes, verbal responses and physical and mobile reactions are ways to determine a final score. For example, the person’s ability to open their eyes or communicate are valuable tools as are limb movements away from a painful stimulus.
Diagnostic Tests for Coma
The following are diagnostic tests doctors use on an unresponsive patient:
- Medical history: A thorough examination of the person’s past medical history, their current prescriptions, whether they had signs of an impending stroke or coma and if it evolved slowly or quickly are evaluated.
- Physical evaluations: This shows if the person responds to physical touch or is capable of movement. It can include using a sliver of cotton to touch the eyeball to make them blink, touching the back of the person’s throat to see if they gag or shining a light in their eyes to see if their pupils respond.
- Diagnostic labs: These test for toxic substances or high levels of alcohol or drugs. Electrolytes, a regular blood count, glucose levels or high liver enzymes are also checked.
- Brain scans: To check for damage to the brain or erratic electrical activity, an MRI, a CT scan or an EEG can be used.
- Lumbar puncture: This is a test where the doctor withdraws some of the cerebral spinal fluid to test for infections or other problems.
Coma Treatment in the ICU
Doctors will check the following:
- The person’s blood pressure is carefully monitored.
- Intracerebral pressure is also monitored to determine if swelling is occurring.
- Mannitol or hypertonic saline is used when swelling occurs.
- Glucose is administered if a diabetic shock occurs.
- Narcan is used if a narcotic overdose is suspected.
- Alcohol toxicity can be treated with vitamin B1.
If the patient wakes, cognitive function will be checked. Initially, they may appear confused and unable to ambulate. With rehabilitation, this may improve, and if damage occurs, occupational and physical therapy are ways to improve functionality. Minimally conscious states may improve over time with assistance. Even a vegetative state may resolve with time; however, for some, it does not.
What Visitors Can Do to Help
Generally, visitors must act as if the patient in a coma is conscious and in the room aware of their surroundings when they visit. Many survivors say that they hear what is going on around them and, if positive, this can be supportive. Take the opportunity to stimulate their senses, which can help them recover in the long run. An example might be playing recorded music they liked during the visit.
When visitors arrive, it is good to say who they are before talking to the comatose patient. Use a normal voice to tell the person about your day as you usually would. Telling them how much you care for them and holding their hand is also helpful. They may not be able to see you, but there is evidence that they can hear everything you say.
Why Legal Options Are Important
If negligence is responsible for the coma, it is easy to see why legal options are important. The level of care during and after a coma can be expensive, and most families cannot pay out of pocket. In addition, household bills continue to mount, and the family should not be required to pay for something another person or entity caused. Finally, a coma results in lost wages, which can take a toll, especially if the injured party helps the family financially.
Contact Wilshire Law Firm after a Car Accident Involved Coma
It takes experience to provide legal advice and evaluate a claim for coma. Our firm’s investigators are dispatched to the accident site to establish liability. They look for proof that a negligent party caused the person’s injury and is liable for costs associated with it.
The Wilshire Law Firm has more than 50 attorneys to do just that. We’ve won more than $1 billion for clients in the past and are still going strong as we deal with catastrophic injuries. Let us help you. Call us at (800) 522-7274. to schedule a free, no-obligation case review. You can also contact us online if that is more convenient for you.