When is a Brain Injury “Catastrophic”?

Last week, we wrote about catastrophic impairment. In simple terms, this is a legal term that determines what benefits a person may be entitled to if they are injured in an automobile crash. Not surprisingly, a person that is “catastrophically impaired” is entitled to a higher level of medical and rehabilitation benefits.

There are many types of catastrophic impairments. The most complicated arise when the person suffers a brain injury.

The Glasgow Coma Scale (GSC) is the most common measure of catastrophic impairment as a result of a brain injury. The GCS is a test designed to measure states of consciousness. The person administering the test (usually an ambulance attendant or emergency room doctor) asks the patient to open and close his or her eyes and make a sound. The person also measures the patient’s response to pain. The scale is out of 15 – any score of 9 or lower taken within a reasonable time after the incident by a person trained to administer the test means the person is catastrophically impaired.

A person with a brain injury will also be catastrophically impaired if they suffered from a class four marked impairment or class five extreme impairment as that term is defined in the 4th Edition of the American Medical Association’s Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment. Determining whether a person suffers from such an impairment is a complex exercise requiring specific medical and legal expertise.

People with catastrophic brain injuries often require very expensive care and supervision. Determining early if the person is catastrophically impaired can provide access to much needed benefits to aid in their recovery. It is important that you talk to someone that can help.

About the Authors

Brian Cameron joined Oatley Vigmond in 1999 after obtaining his law degree from Western University. Beginning his journey in an articling position, fresh out of law school, the first case he argued in court was a small claim’s trial for the firm’s then-senior partner, who was suing a dry cleaner who’d lost three of his dress shirts. Brian won that action for $285 plus costs, and has been with the OV team ever since. He became a partner in 2008.

To learn more about Brian, please click here.