Glascow Coma Scale and Mild, Moderate and Severe Traumatic Brain Injuries


Every year thousands of North Carolinians suffer traumatic brain injuries caused by a variety of incidents. Car accidents, motorcycle crashes, tractor-trailer collisions, and industrial incidents are among the more common ways residents of North Carolina can suffer a traumatic brain injury. When emergency personnel respond to the scene of an accident, one of the first things they do is assess the patient’s score on the Glascow Coma Scale (GCS). The GCS is a neurological assessment that can be useful in describing the conscious state of the patient at the time of the assessment. Notably, the GCS is not necessarily determinative or indicative of the long term symptoms the patent will experience. Even folks who have a perfect 15/15 on the Glascow Coma Scale at the time of assessment can suffer long-term consequences of a traumatic brain injury.

There are three physical areas that are evaluated when an emergency or medical provider makes a GCS assessment. The maximum score that can be given is a 15/15. The lower the score, the lower the patient’s state of consciousness. The higher the score, the more conscious the patient is at the time of the assessment. A lower score tends to indicate a more severe brain injury.

Glascow Coma ScaleThe first category looked at with a GCS assessment is how the patient’s eye opens. If the patient opens his or her eyes freely, a perfect score is given. If the patient’s eyes open only to someone speaking or only to pain, the score is lower. If the eyes cannot open at all, this indicates a very severe loss of consciousness and, likely, a severe brain injury.

The next categories looked at are verbal responses and motor responses. If a patient is orientated, meaning he or she understands where they are and what is going on, they receive the maximum score. If they are confused or giving inappropriate or incomprehensible responses to questions, a lower score will be given.

The motor response section of the evaluation is the final portion. If a patient can physically respond to commands, they receive the highest score, indicating a higher level of consciousness. Depending on how a patient responds to pain, a lower score is given.

Again, one of the most important things to understand about the Glascow Coma Scale is that it does not predict the outcome of any particular brain injury. A patient with a more severe loss of consciousness may not necessarily end up with worse brain injury symptoms than a patient who suffered no loss of consciousness and who, instead, simply suffered an “altered mental state” at the time of the crash or incident. Automobile and trucking insurance companies often place unreasonable weight on the GCS.

If you or a family member has suffered a mild, moderate or severe traumatic brain injury because of the negligence of a third-party, the Raleigh attorneys of Maginnis Law may be able to help you recover fair compensation, including damages for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and permanent disability. We provide free consultations to all prospective brain injury clients and will travel to meet with you and discuss your case. We also offer a contingency fee arrangement, whereby you owe no attorneys’ fees unless and until we recover a settlement or verdict on your behalf.

To speak with a Maginnis Law attorney regarding your traumatic brain injury case, please email us at or visit our contact page. You may also call our lead personal injury attorney, T. Shawn Howard, at 919.526.0450.