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Expert Witness: How Brain Death Affects Personal Injury Claims

Personal injury claims are difficult enough with an experienced and knowledgeable lawyer, but when the victim of the incident becomes brain dead, the problems multiply. Many are unsure what to do next, how this affects the case and what may be needed due to these severe consequences.

There are numerous individuals that believe that brain dead patients are actually dead due to the lack of activity inside the brain. This means that the individual affected will not come out of the coma. When brain death occurs, the victim is considered dead by the medical community. For a personal injury case, an expert witness may be necessary to explain the differences of a usual brain injury to when there is no activity inside the brain.

Personal injury cases may turn into wrongful death claims once the victim’s brain dies. Unfortunately, those that have no activity in the brain remain on feeding tubes and ventilators to remain alive as the body is no longer capable of sustaining itself. This may cause any litigation to become both complicated and more complex due to the possible alteration from personal injury to wrongful death. While the compensation
that may be obtained through both of these claims is often similar, the circumstances of a successful case may be different. A personal injury lawyer that understands wrongful death and brain injuries is important, but an expert witness in the field of biology and anatomy is essential for higher chances of a positive outcome.

Brain Activity and Medical Knowledge

Even though families are grieving and feel the need to keep those with no brain activity plugged into machines, to the medical world, these patients are no longer alive. For the body to have any continued function without the use of machines or to provide a quality life, the individual must have some brain activity. Even if the person that has been injured is in a vegetative state, there is usually some lower and higher brain function still detected. In these cases, the patient is considered alive and could revive at some point. However, when there is nothing visible through scans, this individual has no connection of mind to body.

In certain situations, there is so little brain activity that the individual may be considered brain dead but that is not actually the case. In some of these events, it is important to seek the advice of another doctor or professional. This may mean that a lawyer is needed to prevent the hospital from unplugging machines, because the patient is still alive only with little brain activity. In these situations, an expert in brain function and how it affects the person with the brain injury is needed so that these issues may be understood by the average person. While there is at least some activity with sensors and monitors, the individual may be considered alive just grievously injured. However, some of these circumstances eventually lead to fully monitored brain death after so many months or years.

How an Expert Witness Assists in Brain Injury Cases

An expert in the field of neurological problems and brain injuries is often necessary when someone has been harmed through an accident, incident or through intentional damage. This is to provide an explanation that the individual is either actually dead or that he or she is only barely hanging on. It is important to know the distinction as a personal injury case is different than a wrongful death claim. Those involved in the legal processes must file different motions, complete dissimilar processes and in certain instances, file an injunction or restraining order to the hospital to ensure the injured person is not unplugged from machines when he or she is still living.

The expert witness explains how the lack of brain activity means that the person that was injured in the incident is no longer alive. Once additional physicians have been contacted to confirm the condition of the patient, the professional may give details about the differences of the two different problems. In some situations, it is important to explain that more time is needed to make the decision if someone should be disconnected from those life giving machines. It is vital that both the family and court know that brain death means there is no function in the brain. It is almost always irreversible, and it is considered by the medical community to be a naturally occurring death across the country. Additional tests may be necessary to test for reactions, but when they do not occur, it is time to realize the individual has passed on.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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