Traumatic brain injury (TBI)  is a highly common injury in auto accidents. Many TBI victims will spend time unconscious or in varying states of consciousness due to their injuries. The following in some information about how a TBI can affect consciousness.
Coma and Medically Induced Coma – Coma is perhaps the most commonly-known state of unconsciousness. If a person is in a coma, they are asleep and cannot be awakened, even due to pain or other extreme stimuli. A typical coma lasts for a few days to a few weeks. However, some people never emerge from a coma and other emerge with serious cognitive issues. Many victims of moderate to severe brain injury will spend some time in a coma and the seriousness of the injury is often gauged on the length of unconsciousness. Even if a TBI victim is not in a coma, doctors give them anesthetics to medically induce a coma to limit brain function and reduce life-threatening brain swelling until they are stabilized.
Persistent Vegetative State – When a person wakes up from a coma, they may be in various states of consciousness, one of which is the persistent vegetative state. In this state, a victim can sleep and wake up, however, they have little to no awareness when they are awake. Though their eyes may move and they may appear to jump at a loud noise, they are not able to consciously respond to stimuli in the environment.
Minimally Responsive State – Like the persistent vegetative state, a victim in a minimally responsive state has a sleep-wake cycle. While they still have highly limited awareness of their surroundings and limited ability to respond, they may be able to follow instructions for very simple tasks to blink or nod, for example. However, they often will not be able to follow commands every time, as their responsiveness level may be inconsistent. They may also appear to cry or smile, but not necessarily in response to anything in their environment.
Locked-In Syndrome – The is one of the most frightening potential effects of brain injury and is also rare, though possible. A victim with locked-in syndrome  has no control over any voluntary muscle movement, including their vocal chords, so they cannot move or speak apart from often being able to move their eyes. They are, however, fully cognitively aware of their self and their surrounding though they cannot independently communicate thoughts or respond. Victims with locked-in syndrome can live for a long time like this as their organs often continue to function properly. They may require costly equipment and computers to translate eye movements into words if they want to communicate and will require full-time care for their basic needs.
Brain Death – Brain death  occurs when all of the brain functioning stops and is deemed irreversible. Victims will not regain consciousness, are often pronounced dead, and their organs are able to be donated at this point.
Many brain injury victims who are in a coma or another state of unconsciousness suddenly emerge from that state and wake up. Some have almost full awareness and others will need time to improve. However, there is often no telling whether a particular victim will be unconscious for a short period of time or whether they will never wake up. This puts family members in an extremely difficult position, especially if their loved one is in a coma or a persistent vegetative state. The quality of life for their loved is extremely low and they may want to consider taking them off of any life support. However, this is a very difficult decision to make due to the possibility they may someday wake up. Care for an unconscious loved one can be very costly.
At The Levin Firm, we understand that having a loved one in a coma or unconscious state can be extremely difficult. We also know that, if another person caused the brain injury and related losses, that person should be held fully liable for their actions. You may be confused on how to proceed if your loved one is still unconscious, however, we can advise you of their legal rights and help you decide how to best proceed to ensure they do not lose their right to financial recovery.
Cases involving auto accidents and brain injuries can be very complex, but we have the resources to successfully seek compensation on your behalf. Please feel free to call our office in Philadelphia at 215-825-5183 for a free consultation with an experienced auto accident lawyer today.
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