What is the Glasgow Coma Scale?

Accidental injuries can cause serious harm to any part of the body, but there are significant concerns when a victim suffers a concussion, traumatic brain injury (TBI), or other types of catastrophic head injuries. Because time is of the essence, healthcare providers use a scoring method to assess the level of consciousness of the victim following a TBI: The Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS). The National Institutes of Health (NIH) explains that the analysis is a reliable, effective way to determine a person’s cognitive awareness at the scene of an accident, in the emergency room, and in hospitals. The GCS scoring method is also applied afterward to evaluate progress or deterioration during recovery. 

If you or someone you love suffered in an accident, you will probably encounter the GCS frequently during the course of treatment. Fortunately, the scoring system can be useful as evidence when pursuing legal remedies after a vehicle crash, slip and fall, sports injury, or other accident. Your Miami catastrophic injuries attorney will determine how to best leverage the information, but understanding the GCS is helpful.

Three Areas of Assessment

An accident victim’s GCS score is comprised of points that are assigned by the healthcare provider conducting the evaluation. There are three factors that the practitioner will analyze:

  • Eye opening or failure to open in response to sound or slight pressure;
  • Verbal responses, which may range from orientated and conscious to confused, incoherent, or nonexistent; and,
  • Motor skills through assessment of muscle flexion and extension.

Points are assigned in each of these categories, with a maximum of 4, 5, and 6, respectively.

Classifications in the GCS

From the above, you can see that GCS scoring can range from 3 to 15 points, with the lower values being the most concerning. This method of assessing TBI and other head injuries results in the following classifications:

  • Severe head injuries involve a GCS score of 8 or less.
  • A person who scores between 9 and 12 points on the GCS suffers from a moderate TBI.
  • If the victim’s GCS score is 13 to 15, this is considered a mild head injury – usually a concussion.

Additional Points to Note

The GCS has been used effectively since the test was developed in 1974, but there are some issues that impact scoring. For one, children are evaluated according to a different set of criteria. There are still the three classifications mentioned above, but the verbal responses are adjusted to allow for a child’s lack of language skills. In addition, GCS scoring may be inaccurate if the victim is:

  • Intoxicated:
  • Under the influence of drugs, whether illegal or by prescription; and,
  • In shock, a condition that alters consciousness even when there is no head injury present.

Consult With a Miami Catastrophic Injuries Lawyer Today 

For more information on your rights and remedies after suffering serious injuries, please contact Gerson & Schwartz, PA, at (305) 371-6000 or via our website. We can set up a complimentary case review at our offices in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, or West Palm Beach, FL.


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The National Center for Victims of Crime
outh Florida Legal Guide
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