An anoxic brain injury happens when the brain fails to receive sufficient oxygen for its appropriate functioning. Oxygen is important 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 severe, permanent, and even life-threatening injury, cognitive issues, and disabilities.
Anoxic brain injury is also called by other names, such as cerebral hypoxia or HAI (hypoxic-anoxic injury). The more prolonged and more significant the oxygen deprivation, the more severe the damages will be. Anoxic brain injuries can sometimes be categorized as traumatic brain injuries, though technically, they might not involve physical trauma or contact.
There are different 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 poison or toxic substance;
- Stagnant Anoxia: blockages in the body stop oxygen from reaching the brain; and
- Other less common types.
Symptoms and signs of anoxic brain injury, or anoxia, may include loss of consciousness, a lack of motor coordination, and other comparable symptoms.
What Are Some Common Causes of Anoxic Brain Injury?
There are countless causes of anoxic brain injury. In essence, though, any element or condition that causes a loss of oxygen to the brain can cause anoxic brain injury. In many circumstances, these have to do with breathing, though other causes can also be a factor.
Some common causes of anoxia include:
- Birth injuries;
- Use of illicit drugs;
- High altitude;
- Respiratory arrest;
- Fire-related accidents;
- Chemically-induced conditions;
- Drowning or suffocation;
- Toxic conditions (such as a gas leak or a gas accident in an enclosed space); 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 cases can result in a damages award for the injured party or the survivors in a wrongful death suit.
Liability in an anoxic brain injury lawsuit can be based on diverse legal theories, such as:
- Negligence: Occurs when the defendant breaches their duty of care, and their breach directly results in measurable damages.
- Intentional torts: Occur when the defendant willfully causes the individual’s anoxic brain injury. These can result in severe criminal consequences and damages. For instance, the plaintiff may have a battery claim if the defendant struck the plaintiff and caused the injury.
- Medical malpractice: Occurs when a person or medical professional disregards their duty of care, resulting in measurable injuries to the individual. The liable party will likely be the medical professional responsible for the injury. Examples of this can be when a medical professional fails to administer CPR correctly or if they committed an error during surgery that directly resulted in the plaintiff losing blood flow to the brain and causing an anoxic brain injury.
- Product liability: For instance, when using a defective product results in an anoxic condition. These are typically categorized into warning label defects, manufacturing defects, and design defects. Depending on the situation, the liable party here can range from the manufacturers to distributors and retailers of the defective product.
Accordingly, different parties can be responsible, depending on the circumstances. State regulations may differ regarding injury liability and the number of damages recovered.
What Are the Legal Remedies for an Anoxic Brain Injury?
Anoxic brain injuries can be severe and may require a lawsuit. The legal penalties will typically involve a monetary damages award in these lawsuits.
The damages may be suitable to compensate the individual for losses like:
- Further medical treatment;
- Hospital bills;
- Surgery expenses;
- Lost wages and lost earning capacity;
- Pain and suffering; or
- Loss of consortium.
In addition, many anoxic brain injuries may lead to fatalities. If a death was involved, the damages could sometimes cover losses associated with the wrongful death incident.
What Is Considered to Be a Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death refers to a lawsuit brought by a family member of a deceased victim against the individual who caused the victim’s death. To be deemed a wrongful death, the victim must have died due to another individual or organization’s wrongful action or negligence. A wrongful death lawsuit may also be brought against government agencies, businesses, or organizations. Each state in the U.S. has its laws concerning wrongful death.
In a wrongful death lawsuit, the plaintiff claims that the victim’s death resulted from the defendant’s actions or negligence. Once again, each state has its laws regarding wrongful death suit requirements.
Nevertheless, most states require the following elements to be present for a wrongful death claim:
- A human being perished;
- As a result of another’s negligence or intent to cause harm; and
- The survivors of the deceased have suffered financial loss due to the victim’s death.
To expand upon those elements, the party bringing the wrongful death claim will likely need to demonstrate:
- That the defendant caused the victim’s death;
- That the defendant intentionally, recklessly, or negligently caused the victim’s death, or that the defendant was strictly responsible for the victim’s death;
- That there are surviving beneficiaries or dependents; and
- The victim’s death has caused financial damages to the surviving beneficiaries or dependents.
Both criminal charges against the individual or entity accountable for the victim’s death and a civil wrongful death suit are permitted to be brought against the guilty party. One does not preclude the other. The plaintiff is not prevented from bringing civil and criminal charges for the same happening. A wrongful death action would be a civil lawsuit, for which the standard for proof is lower than that needed for establishing a criminal action.
Are There Any Defenses to an Anoxic Brain Injury Claim?
There may be legal defenses available in an anoxic brain injury case, depending on the exact circumstances. For instance, if the plaintiff knew of dangerous circumstances yet continued their conduct, the defendant might not be held responsible under an “assumption of risk” defense.
An example is when people knowingly expose themselves to chemical substances, fully understanding the hazards and dangers involved. In such circumstances, they may be precluded from collecting damages, or their damages award may be affected (reduced) since they understood the risk yet persisted in their conduct.
The plaintiff may also not be able to file suit if the injury happened because the defendant protected themselves from the plaintiff’s attack. Suppose the plaintiff attacked the defendant and refused to stop. In that case, the defendant using self-defense (at an appropriate level) that happens to result in an anoxic brain injury will likely face no penalty. Why? Fundamentally, the defendant does not owe a duty to the plaintiff to take the attack. So long as the defendant used a reasonable level of force to protect themselves (or others), they are likely free from liability.
Nonetheless, keep in mind that it doesn’t mean the defendant cannot face any criminal penalty. It is still possible the defendant can be arrested and charged with battery and assault, and the court will need to determine the events to see if self-defense was proper.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance with an Anoxic Brain Injury Lawsuit?
Anoxic brain injuries can be severe and even life-threatening in some examples. You may need to hire a personal injury lawyer in your location if you need assistance with any brain injury legal claim.
Your lawyer can research the injury laws in your state to resolve what types of legal remedies are available for you. Also, if you need to appear in court to testify, your attorney can provide representation for you during those times as well.