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What Does It Mean to Be Brain Dead? Insight from the Best Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyers

Brain death is defined as the irreversible loss of brain functions. Enduring a severe impact on the brain could potentially result in a blockage for the body’s blood supply to reach the brain. To make an appropriate diagnosis of brain death, a doctor must conduct tests.

A clinical examination will be done to confirm if the individual is not having any brain reflexes, along with having a difficult time trying to breathe on their own. In some cases, there could be spinal reflexes, which is normal after an individual’s brain is dead. As these tests are being done, the victim will be placed in a ventilator, which is a machine that helps them breathe to keep their heart beating.

Additionally, there are special medications administered to help keep blood pressure under control. Before the doctor confirms that the individual is brain dead, they will do whatever it takes to prevent the individual from passing away. If there is nothing left to do, the victim will have no chance of making a recovery. They will be declared legally dead.

Causes Of Brain Death

Illnesses and accidents may cause brain death. These include:

  • Brain tumor,
  • Severe trauma impacting the brain,
  • Stroke,
  • Aneurysm, or 
  • Anoxia.


  • No reaction to pain. 
  • No response to light. 
  • No blinking after the eye surface is touched. 
  • No movement in the eyes when the head is moved.
  • No eye movement when water is poured into the ear. 
  • No breathing done by the individual after the ventilator is turned off. 
  • No signs of gag-like reflexes when the back of the throat is touched.

The electroencephalogram test will confirm if there is no brain activity occurring.

Brain Death Vs. Coma

  • Brain death. The individual is no longer alive. Both the brain and the brain stem endure irreversible loss of brain functions. Reflexes may be noticeable around the spinal cord area even after the individual has been declared legally dead. Additionally, they need a ventilator to help them breathe in order for their hearts to beat. 
  • Coma. The individual is still alive. However, they are suffering from depressed consciousness while their eyes are closed. They may still be able to breathe and have motor responses. In certain circumstances, if the brainstem has been damaged, the patient will be required to use a ventilator to help them breathe.

Overall, an individual who is in a coma may come out alive, depending on their circumstances. If an individual gets out of a coma, then they may get medical treatment to help them with the recovery process. Those who suffer brain death will be declared dead with no chances of making it out alive.

Available Damages

Accidents happen. If you were injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. Below is a brief explanation of damages. Damages are a type of monetary award that is determined by a court of law to help compensate an aggrieved individual for any losses or injuries sustained as a result of someone’s negligence.

Economic Damages

Economic damages are intended to compensate a plaintiff for losses that a dollar amount can readily be attached to. Economic damages are calculated by determining the amount of out of pocket losses an aggrieved individual has or will expect to incur as a result of their injuries. 

A few examples of economic losses include:

  • Loss of Earning Capacity
  • Medical Bills
  • Lost Wages

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are essentially intended to cover losses that are thought of as subjective and will not necessarily cover out of pocket losses. Non-economic damages may include compensation for:

  • Emotional Distress
  • Pain and Suffering
  • Loss  of Enjoyment of Life
  • Other Non-Economic Damanges

Punitive Damages

The third type of damages a California court may award are known as punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended as punishment and are only awarded when a defendant’s behavior is especially harmful. Punitive damages are relatively rare and in fact are only incorporated in 5% of all verdicts.

Furthermore, there is no real set standard for calculating and awarding punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded at the court’s discretion and will vary depending on the specific circumstances of a case.

Contact West Coast Trial Lawyers For A Free Consultation

If your loved one has passed away from brain death due to the negligent actions of another individual, West Coast Trial Lawyers has brain injury attorneys that focus on complex litigation, including catastrophic injuries to the brain. Our attorneys will provide you with legal advice, guidance, and handle every aspect of your case. We will also fight to get you the justice and compensation you deserve for your losses. Our firm offers a free, no-obligation consultation. No fees are paid until we win your case. Reach out to our staff 24/7 by calling (213) 927-3700 or emailing [email protected]


If you have been injured in an accident, you can count on the legal team at West Coast Trial Lawyers to fight for your rights every step of the way. Contact us today to schedule your free case evaluation with a personal injury attorney.
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