Road Rash Injuries Caused by Motorcycle Accidents
In Broward County, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported that a motorcyclist lost control of his motorcycle. When it went down, the rider slid about 100 feet on the highway. The bike slid another 100 feet before landing in a ditch. The rider sustained a foot injury and significant road rash.
People love motorcycles for many reasons. They offer lower vehicle costs, reduced maintenance expenditures, great fuel economy, and a sense of adventure. Florida is a motorcyclist’s paradise. With its diverse scenery, including beaches, countryside, orange groves, and more, motorcyclists can take full advantage of Florida’s beautiful weather. Unfortunately, riding a motorcycle is also risky. There were 5,172 motorcycle fatalities in the United States in 2017 and 550 motorcycle fatalities in Florida. These numbers are slightly down from 2016, but motorcyclists continue to account for a large portion of fatal accidents.
Riding a motorcycle is riskier than riding in a passenger vehicle. Drivers in cars and SUVs have a difficult time seeing motorcycles and often cause serious car-motorcycle crashes. Motorcyclists do not have the protection provided by other vehicles, such as an outer enclosure, airbags, and seatbelts. The most that a motorcycle rider can do for protection is to drive defensively and wear a helmet and protective gear, such as layers of sturdy clothing.
The force of a crash often ejects riders from their motorcycles. It is not surprising that nearly 80 percent of motorcycle riders in the United States who are involved in crashes suffer injuries. When a motorcyclist is run off the road or struck by a passenger vehicle, the motorcyclist is the most likely to suffer severe injuries. In Florida, there were 7,725 motorcycle accident injuries in 2017. Common motorcycle injuries include fractures, spinal cord injuries, and head trauma. But perhaps the most common is road rash.
What Is Road Rash?
Many people assume that road rash is a minor injury. However, even a minor case of road rash can have serious consequences. The skin is the largest organ of the body. It serves to protect the sensitive parts of your body from the external world full of viruses and bacteria. In a motorcycle crash, the rider’s skin often scrapes against hard surfaces, which removes the outer layer of skin and exposes the wound to dirt, rocks, metal, and other road debris. Although road rash is treatable, it can be painful and expensive. The severity of the road rash depends on the force of the crash, the type of surface that inflicted the injury, and what safety gear the rider utilized.
Road rash injuries commonly affect:
- The face
- Lower legs
Types of Road Rash
There are three types of road rash. However, it is possible to have more than one type of road rash injury at once.
- Avulsion. An avulsion is the most common of the three types of road rash. Avulsion means that the skin has been scraped away, potentially exposing layers of fat, muscle, and even bone.
- Compression. In a motorcycle accident, part of the body may be trapped between two objects, usually the motorcycle and the road. As a result, bruising, muscle damage, and broken bones can occur.
- Open wound. Road rash that results in an open wound may require stitches or, in severe cases, skin grafts.
Degrees of Road Rash
There are three categories of road rash injuries, called degrees. Those levels, from mildest to most severe, are:
- First-degree. Minor road rash resulting from a motorcycle accident usually involves scrapes, slight bleeding, bruising, and redness. After receiving medical attention, most injured individuals can treat first-degree road rash at home. It is the least serious type, but it can cause significant pain.
- Second-degree. Second-degree road rash means that the abrasion breaks the skin. The underlying layers of skin remain intact, but you may be able to see them. The risk is that debris, such as dirt, rock, and glass, may become lodged in the wound. The victim needs medical care to reduce the chance of permanent scarring.
- Third-degree. Third-degree road rash involves deep wounds and severe abrasions, exposing muscles, tendons, nerves, and even bone. There may be significant bleeding and risk of infection. The victim should seek immediate medical care. This is the most severe type, so scarring is common.
Treating Road Rash
Receiving medical treatment after a motorcycle accident can reduce or prevent infection, scarring, and disability. Treatment may be complicated because there are often other types of motorcycle accident injuries that also need treatment. Medical personnel must remove all of the debris before further treatment takes place. Open wounds usually require stitches. Some wounds require plastic surgery. In severe cases, the victim may need to undergo a skin graft as well. As the victim of a motorcycle accident, you should never second-guess yourself when it comes to your health. It is always better to get a road-rash injury checked out by a doctor than to suffer at home and chance an infection.
Treatment for First-Degree Road Rash
If you have no other injuries, you may be able to treat a first-degree road rash injury yourself at home. A first-degree road rash is a minor abrasion, also called a “raspberry.” However, minor road rash should heal within two weeks with proper treatment. If you decide to treat your first-degree road rash at home, make sure to:
- Wash your hands. If your hands are covered in bacteria, you are more likely to get an infection.
- Rinse the injury. Hold the injury under clean, lukewarm water. Try to remove any dirt or particles carefully, but do not scrub your wound. If you cannot remove all the dirt and foreign bodies from the wound without scrubbing, seek medical attention.
- Cover the scrape with a thin layer of antibiotic salve or petroleum jelly and then apply a dressing. The coating will keep the wound hydrated, and the dressing will provide a barrier against infection. Change the dressing daily, or more frequently if it becomes wet or dirty.
- Get prompt medical attention if you see any signs of infection or if the wound is not healing properly.
Treatment for Second-Degree Road Rash
Second-degree road rash goes through both the outer layers and deeper layers of the skin. However, it does not go through muscles and other tissue beneath the skin. You should seek medical treatment. The doctor will clean the wound, remove any dirt or foreign objects, and apply an antibiotic ointment and a dressing. The doctor may recommend either an over-the-counter or prescription pain medication.
Treatment for Third-Degree Road Rash
If you have a third-degree road rash injury, you should go to the emergency room at once. These injuries go through the epidermis and dermis, and damage tissue below the skin, which can include muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, veins, arteries, bones, and internal organs. These injuries can be fatal if left untreated. Injured individuals may also require surgery to repair the skin.
If you do not feel pain, you should not assume that your injury is minor. These severe injuries can penetrate and destroy all the layers of skin. Third-degree road rash can damage nerve endings, causing nerve damage and a loss of sensation. If your wound is painless, go to the hospital immediately.
Complications From Road Rash
After a motorcycle accident, you may feel lucky that you survived and not be worried about minor injuries. However, if you have been involved in a motorcycle crash, even a small case of road rash may lead to medical issues. Seek medical attention promptly if muscle or bone is visible, there is a large object embedded in the wound, the road rash covers a large surface area (such as an entire limb), the wound will not stop bleeding, or there are other complications, such as:
- Infection – Watch for signs of infection in your injury. You may notice redness that extends beyond your injury. Redness may be from inflammation, but if it spreads, you may have an infection. Swelling, fever, a foul odor, the development of pus, and foul odor are also signs that you have developed an infection. If this is the case, you need to see a physician to prescribe you antibiotics.
- Intense pain
- Permanent scars
Emotional Consequences of Scarring
In some ways, road rash is less serious than other potential motorcycle injuries, such as traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury, but road rash can still cause pain and leave permanent scars. Altered appearance can negatively affect a person’s outlook and self-confidence. The scarring and disfigurement from road rash injuries can cause emotional and psychological suffering that is far more than skin deep. For example, road rash scars have been known to result in:
- Depression. There is no simple relationship between the degree of scarring and psychological well-being. Even relatively small scars can affect someone’s self-confidence and enjoyment of life. In some cases, it may lead to clinical depression.
- Stress and anxiety. For some accident victims, every time they look in the mirror, they relive the trauma of the accident. Many victims are also distressed by their appearance and how others react to it.
- Ongoing pain and discomfort. Victims may need to undergo plastic surgery, particularly if the accident involved facial bone fractures or soft tissue damage. Each additional surgery means ongoing pain.
- Social isolation. Facial scarring can affect personal relationships and other social activities. For people whose jobs depend on their looks, such as actors and models, facial scarring can ruin a career.
How to Prevent Road Rash
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation recommends that all motorcyclists wear properly fitting protective gear to help prevent or reduce injuries. In spring and summer, the weather is warmer, so motorcyclists often wear lighter clothing, leaving more skin exposed to the dangers of road rash.
Helmets. The most important piece of motorcycle safety equipment is a helmet that complies with federal regulations. Helmets protect riders’ heads in four ways:
- The outer shell protects a rider’s head from penetrating objects.
- The shell also protects the head from abrasions should it hit the pavement.
- The liner of the helmet has shock-absorbing qualities that absorb the shock from a collision and collapse slowly.
- The foam liner keeps the head comfortable and the helmet fitting snugly.
Motorcycle drivers over the age of 21 are not required to wear a helmet under Florida law, provided that they carry an insurance policy with at least $10,000 in medical benefits. However, eye protection is always required for motorcycle riders in Florida. Other recommended pieces of motorcycle safety equipment include:
- Face shields to protect from the sun during the day and from the glare of vehicle lights at night. Face shields protect a rider’s face from wind, flying debris, and insects.
- Gloves protect a rider’s hands from sun, wind, and cold, as well as from abrasions in the event of a crash.
- Jackets, pants, and similar clothing protect a rider’s body from the elements, but more importantly, this protective gear minimizes the severity of road rash injuries. Jackets designed for motorcyclists are usually made of either leather or specialized man-made fabrics, like Cordura or Kevlar, and often include special padding in key areas of the body, such as the elbow. Many people think that jeans are sufficient riding gear; however, actual motorcycle riding pants offer superior protection.
- Boots designed for motorcyclists usually come up above the ankle and have built-in ankle protection and oil-resistant soles for a solid grip on the ground.
- Hearing protection. Over time, exposure to engine and wind noise can damage riders’ hearing. Foam earplugs and noise-canceling earbuds can help protect riders’ ears from wind noise and engine noise, but can also cut the sounds you need to hear.
Did You Suffer Road Rash Injuries in a Motorcycle Accident?
Treatment for road rash is often long and painful and may leave permanent scars. If you were injured in a motorcycle accident because another motorist was negligent, contact a motorcycle accident lawyer today to learn more about your legal options.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765