One of the most serious injuries suffered in a motorcycle crash involves the brain. Because a motorcycle does not offer the stability of four-wheeled vehicles or the protective features of automobiles, such as a steel frame, seat belts, and airbags, there is a high likelihood of the rider being ejected during a crash. Once he or she is ejected, any object that his or her head or body comes in contact with can potentially cause serious injury or death.
Traumatic brain injuries are a disruption of the brain’s function caused by a sudden or violent blow to the head or body, often caused by a rider being ejected from his or her motorcycle during an accident. The only equipment currently available to protect a rider from sustaining this type of injury during a motorcycle crash is a helmet.
Read on for more information about what can happen to your brain in a motorcycle crash.
About Traumatic Brain Injuries
The brain is responsible for controlling all of the body’s voluntary and involuntary responses. The brain contains several lobes, with each lobe being responsible for specific bodily functions. Once damaged, there is only a limited ability of the brain to recover, meaning that many of the deficits created by the initial injury will be permanent.
Here is a look at the different lobes of the brain and how they can be impacted by injury:
- Frontal lobe: The frontal lobe controls such functions as attention, concentration, the ability to speak, control of emotions and behavioral impulses, personality, planning, and judgment. Injuries to the frontal lobe can result in difficulty with communication, lack of behavioral or emotional control, and difficulty recalling events.
- Temporal lobe: The temporal lobe is responsible for functions such as memory, the ability to understand spoken language, sequencing, and organization. Injuries to this part of the brain can result in difficulty remembering and communicating.
- Occipital lobe: The occipital lobe’s main responsibility is vision. Injuries to the occipital lobe can cause blindness or difficulty perceiving the size and shape of objects.
- Parietal lobe: The functions of the parietal lobe include the sense of touch, depth perception, and identification of sizes, shapes, and colors. Damage to this portion of the brain can impact the five primary senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell.
- Cerebellum: The cerebellum is responsible for functions such as balanced movement and skilled motor activity. An injury to this part of the brain can lead to the inability to balance or to move in a coordinated manner.
- Brain stem: The brain stem controls the body’s involuntary responses, such as breathing, heart rate, arousal, and consciousness. Damage to this part of the brain can lead to consciousness disorders, or even death if the body cannot survive without mechanical assistance to carry out involuntary responses.
The impacts caused by a brain injury also depend on the side of the brain where the damage occurred.
- The right side of the brain is responsible for moving the left side of the body, as well as traits such as creativity, imagination, conceptual thinking, empathy, and figurative speech. A right-brain injury can result in visual memory deficits, changes in visual perception, altered creativity and music perception, and decreased control of the movements on the left side of the body.
- The left side of the brain controls movement on the right side of the body, as well as traits such as analysis, logic, precision, organization, and literal thinking. An injury to the left side of the brain can result in decreased movement on the right side of the body, as well as difficulty speaking or understanding language, impaired logic, and sequencing difficulties.
The Complications Involved in Brain Injuries
When someone suffers a traumatic brain injury due to a motorcycle crash, much of the early treatment will involve ensuring that the person can breathe, and assessing the injured person’s consciousness.
Medical providers will also be looking for signs of known complications of this type of injury, including:
- Consciousness disorders that can cause changes in a person’s awareness. Examples of consciousness disorders include a coma, which is a loss of consciousness lasting at least 24 hours; a vegetative state in which an individual can open his or her eyes, make sounds, and have reflex response but is unaware of his or her surroundings; a minimally conscious state in which the individual has a limited sense of self and surroundings; and brain death, which occurs when all activity in the brain, including the brain stem, has ceased.
- Seizures, which are common in the early hours and days after the injury occurs, but also can happen months or even years after the injury. Many patients are treated early with anti-seizure medication. Recurrent seizures after a brain injury are called post-traumatic epilepsy.
- Infections from open wounds to the skull or other parts of the body. Generally, individuals who have sustained a brain injury in a motorcycle crash also have other injuries, including open wounds. Each injury represents an opportunity for bacteria to be introduced into the body that can result in an infection. The first sign of an infection in an individual who has suffered a brain injury is often a fever. However, a fever can also be the result of damage to the part of the brain that controls the body’s temperature.
- Blood vessel damage in the brain that can place the injured individual at higher risk of developing a stroke, blood clots, and other potentially life-threatening issues.
- Hydrocephalus, which is a buildup of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain. This fluid buildup can result in increased pressure in the brain, which can lead to further damage. Often, a surgically placed shunt is required to drain this fluid away from the brain to avoid increased pressure.
The High Cost of Living With a Brain Injury
Because of the likelihood of permanent deficits and lingering complications resulting from a brain injury, those who have incurred this type of injury face lifetime medical costs of between $85,000 to $3 million. These costs are complicated by the fact that many brain-injured individuals are unable to return to work after their injury.
Brain injuries impact every facet of an individual’s life. Those who can return to work after the injury often need accommodations such as fewer or shorter workdays, lighter workloads, and frequent breaks. The injury can also cause difficulties for the individual in society. Loss of behavioral and impulse control and mobility issues that are commonly experienced by brain-damaged individuals makes participating in public activities or community events difficult, if not impossible.
At home, the injury is a source of significant financial and emotional distress for the entire family. Spouses, children, and parents often must take on a caregiver role with their brain-injured loved one and spouses frequently suffer a loss of consortium, which is a term that refers to the loss of physical intimacy and companionship as a result of the injury.
It is estimated that more than half of the homeless population in the U.S. is living with a brain injury. While some of those injuries were the result of the rough and frequently dangerous conditions of homelessness, for others, the injury itself—with all of its complications and stressors—was the catalyst for homelessness.
How Helmets Can Help Avoid Brain Damage in Motorcycle Crashes
According to the results of a study on helmet use that was conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, helmeted motorcyclists are significantly less likely to suffer a traumatic brain injury as a result of a crash than those who were not wearing a helmet at the time the accident occurred.
Other results from the study included:
- While around 40 percent of both helmeted and unhelmeted motorcyclists were hospitalized or died as a result of their injuries sustained in the accident, those who were riding without a helmet at the time of the crash were more likely to incur a moderate to severe brain injury.
- Median hospital charges were 13 times higher for those suffering a brain injury than those who did not—$31,979 compared to $2,461.
- Individuals who had suffered a traumatic brain injury were far less likely than those who did not incur this type of injury to be discharged from the hospital to home. Instead, they were more likely to die, be discharged to a rehabilitation facility or a long-term care facility.
While helmet use is the one preventative measure that has been proven to reduce the risk of suffering a traumatic brain injury as a result of a motorcycle crash, not all helmets are created equally. Many states that require helmets also require that those helmets be Department of Transportation (DOT) approved. DOT-approved helmets adhere to federal standards for safety. DOT-approved helmets come with a sticker stating that they meet the standards.
Other signs to look for when searching for a safe helmet include:
- An inner liner of polystyrene foam that is about one-inch thick. Even if you are unable to see the liner, you should be able to feel its thickness. Unapproved helmets generally have a soft foam padding, or simply a shell with no padding at all.
- A sturdy chin strap with solid rivets designed to prevent the helmet from slipping off of the rider’s head during a crash.
- A helmet that weighs around three pounds. Often, unapproved helmets will weigh a pound or less.
- An approved helmet will not have spikes or other decorations that protrude more than two-tenths of an inch from the face.
- Smaller or thinner helmets are often not safety approved.
Other tips when selecting a helmet include:
- Never purchase a used helmet. If your helmet has been in a crash or has been dropped from a height, it is time to purchase a new one.
- Be sure that the helmet you purchase fits your head properly, as a loose-fitting helmet offers less protection. The helmet should sit squarely on the head with the top of the helmet’s eyeport sitting just above your eyebrows.
- If the helmet goes onto your head easily or you can move it around with your fingers, it is not fitted properly to your head.
You Can Recover Damages For Brain Injury
Individuals who have suffered a traumatic brain injury in a motorcycle crash often face a lifetime of extraordinary expenses. There is, however, a process by which you can recover those expenses and be compensated for the impacts that your injury has had on your life. A motorcycle accident lawsuit is a legal claim filed in civil court. To successfully recover damages, you must show that the accident was the result of someone else’s reckless or careless behavior.
Examples of liable parties in motorcycle crashes can include:
- The driver of a car or truck who was exhibiting illegal or dangerous driving behaviors such as speeding, alcohol impairment, distracted driving, fatigued driving, or failure to yield at a stop sign or red light.
- The manufacturer or distributor of auto or motorcycle parts if it is discovered that your accident was caused by a vehicle equipment failure.
- The owner of a vehicle whose occupant who “doors” you. Dooring is a term that refers to a hazardous condition that is caused when the occupant of a car that is parked on the roadside opens the door into the path of an oncoming motorcycle.
An experienced motorcycle accident injury attorney can guide you through the legal options available to you following a motorcycle crash that results in a brain injury.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765