An anoxic brain injury occurs when the brain fails to receive adequate oxygen for its proper functioning. Oxygen is vital for brain functions, and brain cells can begin to die if oxygen levels are low for 4-5 minutes or longer. This condition, called anoxia, can cause serious, permanent, and even life-threatening injury, as well as cognitive problems and disabilities.

Anoxic brain injury is also called by other names such as cerebral hypoxia or HAI (hypoxic-anoxic injury). The longer and greater the deprivation of oxygen, the more serious the injuries will be. Anoxic brain injuries can sometimes be classified as traumatic brain injuries, though technically they might not involve any type of physical trauma or contact.

There are various types of anoxic brain conditions, such as:

  • Anemic Anoxia: when the blood cannot carry oxygen to the brain;
  • Toxic Anoxia: when the brain is deprived of oxygen due to the presence of a poison or toxic substance;
  • Stagnant Anoxia: blockages in the body prevent oxygen from reaching the brain; and
  • Other less common types.

Signs and symptoms of anoxic brain injury, or anoxia, may include loss of consciousness and a lack of motor coordination, and other similar symptoms.

What are Some Common Causes of Anoxic Brain Injury?

There are numerous causes of anoxic brain injury. In essence though, any factor or condition that causes a loss of oxygen to the brain can cause anoxic brain injury. In many cases, these have to do with breathing, though other causes can be a factor as well. Some common cause of anoxia include:

  • Birth injuries;
  • Use of illegal drugs;
  • High altitude;
  • Respiratory arrest;
  • Fire related accidents;
  • Electrocution;
  • Chemically-induced conditions;
  • Drowning or suffocation;
  • Toxic conditions (such as a gas leak or a gas accident in an enclosed space); and/or
  • Various other causes.

Who Can Be Held Liable For an Anoxic Brain Injury?

Anoxic brain injuries can often lead to a lawsuit or legal claim. Such lawsuits can result in a damages award for the injured party or for the survivors in a wrongful death suit. Liability in an anoxic brain injury lawsuit can be based on various legal theories, such as:

  • Negligence: This occurs when the defendant breaches their duty of care, and their breach directly results in measurable damages.
  • Intentional torts: These occur where the defendant intentionally causes the person’s anoxic brain injury. These can result in serious criminal consequences and damages.

    • For example, the plaintiff may also have a battery claim if the defendant attacked the plaintiff and caused the injury.
  • Medical malpractice: This occurs when a person or medical professional disregards their duty of care, resulting in measurable damages to the person. Here, the liable party will likely be the medical professional responsible for the injury.

    • Examples of this can be is when a medical professional fails to administer CPR correctly or if they committed an error during surgery which directly resulted in the plaintiff losing blood flow to the brain and causing an anoxic brain injury.
  • Product liability: For instance, when the use of a defective product results in an anoxic condition. These are generally categorized into three types: warning label defects, manufacturing defects, and design defects. The liable party here can range from the manufacturers, to distributors and retailers of the defective product, depending on the situation.

Thus, different parties can be liable, depending on the circumstances. State laws may vary regarding injury liability and the amount of damages recovered.

What are the Legal Remedies for an Anoxic Brain Injury?

Anoxic brain injuries can be serious and may require a lawsuit. In these types of lawsuit, the legal penalties will generally involve a monetary damages award. The damages may be suitable to compensate the person for losses like:

  • Additional medical treatment;
  • Hospital bills;
  • Surgery costs;
  • Lost wages and lost earning capacity;
  • Pain and suffering; and/or
  • Loss of consortium.

In addition, many anoxic brain injuries may lead to fatalities. In cases where a death was involved, the damages can sometimes cover losses associated with the wrongful death incident.

Are there any Defenses to an Anoxic Brain Injury Claim?

Depending on the exact circumstances, there may be legal defenses available in an anoxic brain injury case. For instance, if the plaintiff knew of dangerous circumstances involved, yet continued with their conduct, the defendant might not be held liable under an “assumption of risk” defense.

An example of this is where a person willfully exposes themselves to chemical substances, fully knowing the risks and dangers involved in doing so. In such cases, they may be prevented from collecting damages, or their damages award may be affected (reduced), since they knew the risk yet continued in their conduct.

The plaintiff may also not be able to file suit if the injury occurred due to the fact the defendant protected himself from the plaintiff’s attack. If the plaintiff attacked the defendant and refused to stop, then the defendant using self-defense (at an appropriate level) that happens to result in an anoxic brain injury will probably face no liability. Why? Fundamentally, the defendant does not owe a duty to the plaintiff to take the attack. So long as the defendant used appropriate level of force to protect themselves (or others), then they are likely free from liability.

However, keep in mind that it doesn’t mean the defendant cannot face any criminal liability. It is still possible the defendant can be arrested and charged with battery and assault, and the court will need to determine the circumstances to see if self-defense was appropriate.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance with an Anoxic Brain Injury Lawsuit?

Anoxic brain injuries can be very serious and even life-threatening in some instances. You may need to hire a personal injury lawyer in your area if you need assistance with any type of brain injury legal claim. Your attorney can research the injury laws in your state to determine what types of legal remedies are available for you. Also, if you need to appear in court to testify, your lawyer can provide representation for you during those times as well.