What Are My Legal Options After a Brain Stem Injury From An Indiana Car Crash?

Posted on behalf of Pfeifer Morgan & Stesiak

on November 3, 2023

. Updated on December 14, 2023


Suffering a brain stem injury in a car crash is rare, but potentially life-altering. Since this part of the brain controls many vital body functions, victims who survive may be left with permanent physical and cognitive damage.

Below, Pfeifer Morgan and Stesiak discuss the effects of brain stem injuries, as well as what treatment may be available. We also discuss why victims facing lengthy recoveries and extensive medical care should seek legal help.

We recommend working with a skillful South Bend auto crash attorney. Having legal representation can make a significant difference in helping you to recover the compensation you need for your medical costs, lost wages and other damages.

What Body Functions Are Regulated by the Brain Stem?

The brain stem, which sits at the base of your brain, connects to your spinal cord. This stalk-like structure makes it possible for your brain to communicate with the rest of your body to regulate many vital body functions, such as your ability to breathe and swallow.

There are three brain stem sections, which include:

  1. Midbrain –transmits information necessary for vision, hearing and motor control
  2. Pons – handles unconscious tasks, such as breathing and the sleep-wake cycle
  3. Medulla oblongata – controls vital processes like heart rate, breathing and blood pressure

Someone who does not have any function to this part of the brain is considered brain dead.

What Signs Could Suggest an Injury to The Brain Stem?

Brain stem injuries can look different depending on the severity of the damages. Common brain stem injuries include:

  • Weakness/paralysis
  • Impaired breathing functionality
  • Altered heart rate
  • Dizziness / Balance issues
  • Loss of consciousness/coma
  • Jerky or repetitive eye movements
  • Slurred speech
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Coughing
  • Sensory changes, such as loss of a sense of smell
  • Sleep Interruptions
  • And more

What Are The Long-Term Effects of Brain Stem Injuries?

Crash victims with brain injuries are likely to suffer from long-term, permanent medical conditions, such as:

Motor Function Impairment

Motor function impairment can cause physical disability such as weakness, fatigue, and poor coordination.

Sensory Impairments

Some brain stem injuries can alter sight, hearing, touch and taste depending on the brain injury location.


Someone in a coma is unconscious and has minimal brain activity. In some cases, the damage could be temporary or permanent. Those who recover from a coma may wake up without any side effects. However, some individuals may develop conditions like bedsores, blood clots, urinary tract infections.

Stages of improvement during a coma:

  • Unresponsive, vegetative state: Victims in this stage are unable to respond verbally or physically.
  • Minimally conscious state: During this stage, victims are not fully conscious. However, they may respond to sound, touch, or sight. They may also blink or make facial expressions.
  • Confusional state: Victims in a confusional state have full control of their body movements. However, they could be confused about their surroundings and be unable to engage in a full conversation.
  • Fully conscious state: Victims can complete tasks on their own. Yet, they may struggle with problem solving, judgement calls, and decision-making.

Impaired Speech

Some victims coming out of a coma may struggle with verbal challenges, such as slurred speech or changes in the quality of their voice. Impaired speech can be a result of damages to the nerves that control the vocal cords.

Difficulty Swallowing

The medulla controls functions like swallowing food and drinks. Damages to this part of your brain stem may prevent proper functioning between your brain and various muscles.

How Are Brain Stem Injuries Treated and Diagnosed?

Getting immediate medical attention is vital for any victim with a potential brain stem injury. The sooner a victim is properly diagnosed, such as through an MRI or other diagnostic imaging tests, the sooner he or she can start receiving treatment.

The reality is that treatment options are often limited for brain stem injury victims. In some incidents, surgery may help. For instance, surgical intervention may be used to repair damaged blood vessels, relieve pressure on the brain or remove blood clots.

It is still possible for a victim to recovery from a brain stem injury. However, they will need rehabilitation and a treatment plan, as some victims may need speech or physical therapy.

Call Our South Bend Office for Legal Assistance.

After being injured in a car crash, it is vital that you seek legal help for your damages as soon as your injuries have been stabilized.

At Pfeifer, Morgan & Stesiak, we are prepared to guide you throughout the legal process. While we understand no compensation can change what has happened, it can help to cover the costs of your medical care and other losses.

There are no upfront costs when you hire our services. We only accept car crash cases on contingency, which means we only get paid if you do.

Not sure if you have a case? Call our law offices anytime, night or day, for a free initial consultation.

Experienced Lawyers. Proven Results. Call (844) 678-1800 today.

Pfeifer, Morgan & Stesiak

Serious Attorneys for Serious Cases