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Seeking Compensation for Brainstem Injury

Michael Agruss

Written and Reviewed by Michael Agruss

  • Managing Partner and Personal Injury Lawyer at Mike Agruss Law.
  • Over 20 years of experience in Personal Injury.
  • Over 8000+ consumer rights cases settled.
  • Graduated from the University of Illinois Chicago School of Law: Juris Doctor, 2004.

Brainstem injuries are very serious in nature, often resulting in devastating impacts that can alter someone’s life completely. In some cases, injury victims do not survive an injury to the brainstem. Brainstem damage can be caused by many types of accidents, though the common denominator is trauma to the head.

If you or a loved one suffered a brainstem injury due to the careless or negligent actions of another person, you can seek brainstem injury compensation. Since these types of legal scenarios are complex, it is of utmost importance that you work with an experienced brainstem injury lawyer.

Agruss Law Firm, LLC, is a personal injury law firm with experience in representing brainstem injury claims. Our compassionate and dedicated legal team understands the challenges faced by brainstem injury victims and their families and has a strong track record of success in advocating for their legal rights. We strive to seek fair compensation for the suffering you have endured at the negligent hands of others. In this comprehensive blog post, we shed some light on brainstem injuries and how a Chicago personal injury lawyer from our legal team can help you in this type of case.

Understanding Brain Stem Injuries

Understanding brainstem injuries requires understanding how this portion of the brain functions. The brainstem features three components – the midbrain, pons, and medulla oblongata. The midbrain is part of the central nervous system, responsible for hearing, vision, motor control, temperature regulation, sleep, and alertness. The hypothalamus is also in this portion of the brain, which is what controls the body’s automatic functions. Damage to this area of the brainstem usually means that a person loses the ability to control these functions on their own.

The pons is also in the midbrain area, and even though it is only an inch in length, it contains the neural pathways that send signals from the brain to the medulla and cerebellum. Damage to this area can cause brain death, making the person’s survival impossible.

The medulla oblongata resides at the bottommost portion of the brain. This is where the brain and spinal cord connect, and injuries to this part of the brain can impact some of the most important systems in the body. It controls reflexes like sneezing, your cardiovascular system, breathing, and much more.

The brainstem is one of the most vital parts of the body, and when damage to this area is extensive, the outlook for one’s survival is not good. Those who do survive these injuries will be left with debilitating effects. They may not be able to speak, walk, or breathe on their own ever again, requiring the need for ongoing and constant medical care.

Accidents that involve brainstem injuries are devastating in nature, and if someone else has caused this to happen to you or a loved one, you deserve brainstem injury compensation to supply you with the financial coverage for this type of medical care. A brainstem injury lawyer can be instrumental in guiding you through the legal process after these life-altering events.

How Are Brainstem Injuries Caused?

An injury to the brainstem is most often caused by severe types of accidents where the victim’s head has been impacted by a traumatic blow. Any catastrophic type of collision involving motor vehicles can lead to brainstem injuries. Car accidents, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, and pedestrian accidents may leave victims with damage to this vital organ.

However, it should be noted that brainstem injuries can occur from something that may appear as a minor bump on the head, such as from a slip and fall or construction accident. It will depend on the force of the impact to the head and the portion of the head that took this impact as to whether or not someone would suffer a brainstem injury.

These injuries are tremendously serious and often lead to tragic outcomes. If you or a loved one have been in a serious car accident, you should get the medical attention you need to check for brainstem injuries and contact a Chicago car accident lawyer to help you determine your legal options.

Signs and Symptoms of Brainstem Injuries

Since the brainstem is vital for so many functions in the body, it is important to spot the signs of brainstem damage and get prompt treatment. The first indication that there may be damage to this part of the brain is that you will notice the lack of being able to function as normal.

After an accident of any kind, every person should be evaluated to rule out a brainstem injury. In many cases, accident victims feel fine in the moments after a crash. Hours or days later, they may begin to show certain symptoms that should never be ignored. These symptoms include slurred speech, balance or coordination issues, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, decreased motor function, abnormal breathing, impaired vision, and difficulty eating, drinking, or swallowing.

Head injuries can range from mild to severe, and a brainstem injury would be considered a severe medical situation. If a loved one was in a serious auto accident, monitor them closely afterwards and take them to the hospital if you spot any of these symptoms. It is always best to get immediate medical attention after a major accident event, whether it is a car crash, construction accident, or a slip and fall accident.

Delaying medical treatment can cause brainstem injuries to worsen, and the result may be that your loved one will require continuous, around-the-clock medical care, or they may not survive these injuries.

Common Effects of Brainstem Injuries for Accident Victims

Many brainstem injuries are the result of a blow to the head where the other portions of the brain swell, leading to the brainstem being forced against the skull. This is why ignoring a head injury can have such tragic consequences. When damage is incurred in this part of the brain, it will affect basic life functions.

However, what is affected will depend on the part of the brainstem that is affected as well as the severity of the injury. Below are the most common effects of brainstem damage.


The reticular activating system is housed in the brainstem, which controls states of consciousness. This is what gives you the ability to wake up every day, and when brainstem damage has occurred, if the damage impacts this system, the result will be that the victim falls into a coma.

Comas after brainstem injuries are very tricky because they are the result of swelling. They tend to last until the swelling goes down, and then a person will move into different phases of consciousness before they become alert. These stages of consciousness will first involve a vegetative state where the person can open and close their eyes but are incapable of doing anything else.

The next stage of consciousness after a coma is the minimally conscious state. Victims in this stage can blink in response or even smile, but they continue to fade in and out of consciousness. The final stage is a state of confusion where the victim is awake as well as aware; however, they lack the ability to take full control of their behavior.

Generally, when a victim moves quickly through these stages of consciousness after a coma, the outlook for their recovery is good. Those who persist in a vegetative state for six months or more are less likely to ever move beyond this stage.

Watching a loved one go from bright, vibrant, and full of life to comatose is one of the most painful experiences. Families wait vigilantly, sometimes getting the results they hope for while many must make the difficult decision to end life support for someone who has not got out of the vegetative state for months or years.

The medical expenses of caring for someone in a coma are expensive, and there is no good reason why you should be stuck with these bills when someone else caused this to happen to your loved one. If a loved one is in a coma, you deserve to be compensated for this tragedy. It is wise to consult an Aurora injury lawyer to find out more about the next steps to take in your situation.

Locked-In Syndrome

Injury to the brainstem could result in locked-in syndrome, a condition that causes a person to have no control of their movement except for their eyes. It is named as such because they are essentially locked into their bodies.

Only the eyes remain unparalyzed for these victims. It is strictly a motor issue, meaning that victims can still hear, think, and understand what is happening around them. In essence, they become bystanders in their own lives. Even though software exists that can track eye movements, allowing people with this syndrome to communicate, living life in this way is difficult and will require constant medical care.

Issues with Swallowing

If the medulla oblongata is the portion that has suffered the injury in an accident, there may be issues with swallowing for the victim. Dysphagia is a common result of these brainstem injuries, impairing the gag reflex and ability for automatic swallowing.

Someone with dysphagia is in great danger of choking on their own saliva. The good news is that treatment through specific exercises and working with a speech therapist can help a victim recover.

Respiratory Problems

Since the medulla oblongata is also responsible for controlling breathing, respiratory issues could arise with brainstem damage. It works by sensing the level of carbon dioxide present in the blood and then automatically adjusts the respiratory rate. When this portion of the brain is damaged, it can’t detect the carbon dioxide present in the blood, resulting in an array of breathing problems.

Victims may experience hyperventilation, which is breathing too much too fast. Conversely, they could experience hypoventilation, which is breathing too little too slowly. They may have trouble exhaling air, or may not be able to breathe on their own. Your loved one may require a ventilator to help them until they can recover their respiratory function.

Motor Difficulties from Brainstem Damage

Impaired motor skills can occur with damage to other areas of the brain, but when medical treatment is ignored, these other areas can cause the brainstem to swell. Since the cerebellum is connected to the pons, damage to the cerebellum could impact balance and coordination. This is just one example among many that can arise when someone has had any type of head injury.

It is absolutely imperative for you to speak with a brainstem injury lawyer if your loved one has been in any kind of accident that resulted in a head injury. If the brainstem is damaged and this injury was caused by another person’s or entity’s negligence, it may be possible to recover brainstem injury compensation to help cover the extensive damages suffered.

Can Brainstem Injuries Be Treated?

In order for doctors to treat brainstem injuries, it is imperative that medical attention is sought immediately following the accident. Doctors will first work to stabilize the brain, reducing pressure on it through brain surgery.

Once they achieve this step with success and a patient is stabilized, they can begin the long road to rehabilitation. Every brain and brainstem injury is different, and the needs of each patient will vary greatly.

The secondary effects caused by the injuries are from nerve cells in the brainstem that have incurred damage. These damaged cells cannot be recovered, but the amazing capabilities of the brain allow it to rewire itself, which creates new neural pathways that allow victims to relearn the functions they may have lost. This is called neuroplasticity.

When you or someone you love loses functions such as breathing or swallowing, they can be relearned through neuroplasticity and rehabilitation treatments. It takes effort on the part of the victim to work through rehabilitation to achieve neuroplasticity.

Here is a look at the kinds of rehabilitation therapies used to help accident victims with brainstem damage.

Speech Therapy

When brainstem injuries cause damage that impacts the ability to swallow, a speech language pathologist will be engaged to help recovery. This expert will evaluate the need for a feeding tube or if the person would benefit from trying different textures of food and swallowing exercises to relearn this automatic bodily function. Additionally, speech therapists can assist with cognitive or language issues that have arisen as a result of these types of brain injuries.

Physical Therapy

When motor skills have been impacted through brainstem injuries, physical therapists can help regain these functions. Physical therapy is most successful when patients work in sessions with these therapists and continue the specified exercises at home.

Physical therapy can also be used for those suffering from locked-in syndrome as the therapists can move their arms and legs to promote blood circulation and flexibility. These passive movements may help achieve neuroplasticity for further recovery.

Occupational Therapy

Many people do not realize that physical therapy and occupational therapy are two different things. Physical therapy involves regaining the physical strength and movement patterns while occupational therapy involves focusing on the specific skills an accident victim needs to regain their independence.

In addition to these types of therapies for brainstem injuries, these devastating types of injuries can cause psychological impacts. When a person goes from being active to disabled after a traumatic accident, the pain and suffering they endure along with coping with these new changes to their lives will require the need for mental health therapies.

If you or someone you love has endured these types of injuries, it is essential to get all medical care required for treatment for the best possible outcome. Brainstem injury compensation can help you recover financially from the mountain of expenses that someone else caused you to incur from these injuries.

Understanding Your Legal Rights and Options for Brainstem Injuries

Since brainstem injuries are usually severe and life-altering, brainstem injury claims are complex to navigate. A brainstem injury lawyer can help ensure a smooth process and will know how to establish liability to hold the at-fault party responsible for your devastating injuries.

The first step involves proving negligence, much like in any other personal injury case. It must be proven that the defendant who caused these serious injuries owed you or your loved one a duty of care, such as driving safely on the road if the injury was caused by a motor vehicle accident.

When a duty of care is established, the next step is to prove that the defendant breached their duty, such as by drinking and driving or texting while speeding down the highway. These actions on the defendant’s part must be shown to have caused the accident in question, which resulted in the consequential injuries. If there are multiple defendants, which is often the case in trucking accidents, the liability of each party must be proven to hold them accountable for the damages incurred by the plaintiff.

Brainstem Injury Compensation: What Damages Can Victims and Their Families Receive?

Recovering compensation for these injuries will depend on the outlook of the specific case. Doctors may expect the injured party to make a full recovery in some cases while in others, the family may wind up losing their loved one to this tragedy. All the factors of your case will be regarded when determining a fair amount of compensation.

As in any personal injury case, medical expenses will be an obvious part of the financial award from your lawsuit. These amounts should satisfy the expenses for emergency treatments, brain surgery, life supporting devices, medications, rehabilitation, and lifelong or ongoing medical care. The need for life care plans is also more likely in legal scenarios involving brainstem damage, and families will be required to make modifications to the home or rely on assistive technologies.

Most people who suffer brainstem damage are unlikely to be able to work again. This will impact the entire family when the victim was the primary breadwinner. Without the ability to work, lost wages and lost earning potential will be a part of the requested settlement.

Pain and suffering is one of the many non-economic damages that a victim of such an incident can seek. They will also be most likely to win awards for loss of enjoyment of life or loss of consortium when they can no longer participate in things that once made their lives whole.

The Role of Expert Testimony and Medical Evidence in Brainstem Injury Claims

Winning a settlement or trial verdict for an injury to the brainstem requires a highly detailed case with strong evidence. Expert testimony is instrumental in securing maximum compensation for those with brainstem injuries.

An array of medical experts will be called in to testify. These will typically include esteemed neurologists, brain surgeons, and rehabilitation specialists who will share their insights into the victim’s prognosis. Economic experts will be needed to provide quantification of economic losses relative to the victim’s inability to return to work coupled with vocational experts who may be needed to prove a victim is unable to work again.

Since the medical evidence in these types of cases is complex, brainstem injury cases often take a long time to resolve. If the case goes to trial, it will require proper explanations of these injuries and impacts in layman’s terms for the jury to fully understand this situation.

There is also much uncertainty in many brainstem injury cases, which means these complications or even potential improvements must be considered. Cases involving brainstem damage may be among the most complex. If you or a loved one are currently facing this situation, do not move forward without strong legal representation to protect your legal rights.

What to Do After an Accident That May Involve Injury to the Brainstem

After any kind of accident on the road, in construction, or a slip and fall on a property, it is crucial that you know what steps to take next. These steps are important for your health and vitality and for safeguarding your legal rights when you choose to file a personal injury claim.

The first thing that should be done is to contact the police in the event of an accident on the road or notify the management at a worksite or property. Brainstem injuries are often the result of serious impacts, but even in a scenario that seems minor, it is always imperative to get immediate medical attention.

In the event of a brainstem injury, the quicker that medical care is provided, the better the chance of a positive outcome in recovery. Getting this treatment will also establish medical records that prove the injuries occurred and fully document them for your case.

Most people with brainstem damage may be unconscious at the time that emergency medical teams arrive. During this time, it will be impossible to collect valuable evidence from the scene or speak to witnesses. If you are unable to gather evidence because of your injuries, a brainstem injury lawyer can be of assistance.

Hiring an attorney promptly allows them to launch an investigation immediately. They will contact all witnesses listed on the police report. They will visit the accident scene and take photos, request traffic camera footage, gather black box data from the vehicles, and ask nearby businesses to review their surveillance footage.

What Happens with Insurance Companies During Brainstem Injury Claims?

Another complexity that will arise with brainstem injury claims is dealing with the insurance company. Illinois is an at-fault insurance state that follows a modified comparative negligence model, meaning that the at-fault party or their insurer will be responsible for your damages. While you or your loved one are in your worst possible state, the insurance company for the defendant will likely attempt to pin some of the blame for your injuries on you.

They may try to claim you had some fault in the accident so that you are assigned over 50% of the blame, which would bar you from recovering compensation. Even if they do readily accept the responsibility, they may offer a very low sum that will not come close to covering all the costs you’ve already incurred or will continue to experience for the rest of your life.

Dealing with the insurance companies is difficult enough, and when you factor in all the complexities of brainstem injury cases, it is ultimately best to hire a brainstem injury lawyer.

How a Brainstem Injury Lawyer Can Help You Recover Brainstem Injury Compensation

There is little doubt that the events you’ve endured, either personally or due to these injuries happening to your family member, have been difficult. The stress of worrying about the outcome of these injuries along with the pain and financial fallout are simply too much to bear on your own.

Agruss Law Firm, LLC has successfully navigated complex brainstem injury claims before and will advocate for you and your family with the compassion you deserve. Contact us today to speak with a brainstem injury lawyer who will listen intently and provide viable legal solutions for you.

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