Strangulation Deaths and Lawsuits

A wrongful death lawyer, like from Mishkind Kulwicki Law, CO., L.P.A., has handled a number of strangulation deaths. Strangulation occurs either by compromise of an individual’s airway or by obstructing the flow of blood to the brain.  Stated otherwise, strangulation is a form of asphyxia characterized by the closure of the blood vessels or the air passages or both as a consequence of the application of external pressure applied to the neck. Asphyxia is any condition in which human tissue is deprived of oxygen. Brain cells are the most sensitive cells in the entire body to lack oxygen and will begin to die within seconds when deprived of oxygenated blood. The application of pressure to the neck is by definition a strangulation assault and deadly force. The occlusion of the arteries that supply blood to the brain creates an anoxic environment within the brain, meaning no oxygen is being supplied to the tissues of the brain. The human brain dies and respiratory efforts cease between one and 2 minutes of continued pressure on the carotid arteries.

The application of pressure to the carotid arteries is well known in the medical and forensic literature to carry a risk of serious injuries, brain damage and death. The amount of pressure needed to compress and occlude the vessels in the neck is minimal. Only 4.4 pounds of pressure is required to occlude the jugular veins and only 11 pounds of pressure will occlude the carotid arteries. Only 15 pounds of pressure will occlude the vertebral arteries which supply blood to the back portion of the brain. The brain ceases to function and the cells of the brain will die when they are deprived of oxygenated blood.

The application of a carotid restraint through compression of the carotid arteries occludes 80 to 85% of blood flow to the brain the bilateral carotid artery compression used with a vascular neck restraint, also called a carotid restraint, will render an adult male unconscious in 5 to 13 seconds. In the 1944 study conducted by the National Institutes of Health, male subjects were rendered unconscious in an average of 6.8 seconds.

There are certain pathologic signs of asphyxia caused by a chokehold or excessive force applied to the neck. Petechial hemorrhages are the rupture of capillaries from an increase in venous pressure. These hemorrhages occur when the jugular vein is blocked in arteries and continue to pump blood to the head. Petechial hemorrhages can be seen in both fatal and nonfatal strangulation when large areas of petechial hemorrhages become confluent within the white portions of the eyes, they are called scleral hemorrhages. However, there are patients who are fatally strangled and exhibit no petechial hemorrhages. The lack of petechial hemorrhages in a fatal strangulation indicates that 100% of blood flow to the brain has been occluded.

Wrongful death lawyers have investigated a number of strangulation injuries that result in a civil lawsuit. For example, strangulation may occur in the setting of a group home or police arrest when a care provider or police officer applies excessive force to the individual’s neck.  It can also occur in an institutional setting where an individual is restrained by hand restraints or side rails and becomes entangled in those restraints.  If you or a loved one suffered severe brain injury or wrongful death as a result of excessive force applied to someone’s neck, you should contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.