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What is the Injury Severity Score, and How Does It Affect a Claim?

Updated on April 13, 2017

Numerous factors are considered when an attorney and insurance claims adjuster are considering how much compensation your injury deserves. One that is commonly overlooked is the information and assessment provided during initial trauma treatment at a hospital.

If your injury is severe enough for you to seek help from an emergency room, then the injury severity score (ISS) is used and noted in your chart.

While the ISS varies by hospital, the principle and original scoring of this system are important to know. What an emergency room physician categorizes your injuries, treatment, and prognosis as will significantly influence your case.

What is the Injury Severity Score?

The ISS is a medical score used by emergency room personnel to assess a trauma’s severity. It examines the mortality, morbidity and treatment time associated with an injury. If your overall ISS score is more than 15, then you have suffered a significant trauma.


How the ISS Scoring System Works

ISS uses the Abbreviated Injury Scale, which is a global severity score that classifies injuries by chapter, then injury category.

Chapters are what refer to areas of the body that sustain injury. Each chapter is provided an AIS score to assess the full extent of your wounds. If you were in a car accident, for example, multiple chapters of your body are likely to have an injury. However, they are not all catastrophic; therefore, the physician would use the scale to measure the AIS for each area.

The chapters for the body include:

  • Head and Neck - This includes the cervical spine, skull, and tendons/ligaments. If you suffered from whiplash, the head and neck category is where your ISS score would be placed.

  • Face - Face includes all facial skeletal bones, nose, mouth, eyes, and ears. Dental injuries are also placed in the face category.

  • Chest or Thorax - Any injuries to the chest, including the thoracic spine and diaphragm, are listed in this category.

  • Abdomen and Pelvic Contents - This includes all abdominal organs, muscles, and the lumbar spine.

  • Pelvic Girdle - This includes all pelvic skeleton injuries, including the hips.

  • Lower Extremity - All lower extremities, including legs and feet.

  • Upper Extremities - This includes all appendages to the upper body, including arms, hands, and fingers.

The scoring system for each category is as follows:

  • Minor - Scores a 1.

  • Moderate - Scores a 2.

  • Serious - Scores a 3.

  • Severe - Scores a 4.

  • Critical - Scores a 5.

  • Maximal - Scores a 6. A maximal injury is untreatable and potentially fatal.

Example of ISS scores (chest injuries due to seat belt)

When the seat belt was not used and the airbag did not deploy or was not equipped, all the chest injuries were ascribable to the steering wheel. When the seat belt was used and the airbag deployed, the chest injuries were attributed to the seat belt.
When the seat belt was not used and the airbag did not deploy or was not equipped, all the chest injuries were ascribable to the steering wheel. When the seat belt was used and the airbag deployed, the chest injuries were attributed to the seat belt. | Source

How Does an ISS Score Affect My Claim?

Catastrophic injuries, which are those in the severe and critical stages, are ones that often result in long-term damage. They could also lead to permanent disability; therefore, the serious nature of these injuries requires higher compensation than areas with a minor or moderate score.

Even if you have a new car equipped with the latest safety features you can still suffer traumatic injuries in a car accident. A personal injury attorney in Florida, David M. Benenfeld, P.A., states in his blog article Can New Car Safety Features Harm Instead of Help Motorists? that “although some of the new [auto] technologies sound impressive and can help improve safety on the road, technology can also be overwhelming and lead to drivers crashing their new vehicles.”

Your attorney can take all scoring per category to help establish that level of trauma your body endured in your accident. Naturally, if you have injuries to all classes, most likely the accident itself was incredibly traumatic.

Explore Your Compensation Options

After a serious injury, contact an attorney who will fight for your right to compensation. Many attorneys will offer free consultations for personal injury cases. Find out what your case could be worth.


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