Road Rash Injuries in Motorcycle Accidents


Motorcycles can help keep fuel costs and other vehicle expenses low and provide a reliable form of transportation. However, they also have the potential to be deadly. When a body strikes asphalt while moving at a high rate of speed, the outcome is often catastrophic, resulting in fractures, traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries, and death. Among the gravest types of motor vehicle accidents, motorcycle collisions put riders at a significantly higher risk for serious injury and death. Motorcyclists are nine times more likely to be injured than other motorists involved in a crash. 

If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident due to the negligent actions of another driver, you may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages, loss of future earnings, and pain and suffering. Contact the personal injury team at Berry Law now to find out more about how you can recover damages following a wreck. 

Motorcycle personal injury claims can be complex in nature since insurance companies have a vested interest in paying out as little in damages as possible and may attempt to deny your claim. An Omaha motorcycle accident attorney can help you understand your legal options, and fight to get you the compensation you deserve.

What Is Motorcycle Road Rash?

Road rash is a common injury in motorcycle accidents and can be quite painful, causing victims a great deal of suffering over a long period of time. Road rash occurs when the exterior layer of skin is scraped against a hard, abrasive surface such as asphalt, causing abrasions and raw, red and inflamed skin, swelling, and bleeding immediately following the accident and for days afterward.

Removal of the protective outer layer leaves areas underneath the skin exposed to the elements, resulting in pain, potential infection, long-term scarring, sepsis and more. Skin grafting procedures are often necessary to protect and repair the body following a motorcycle accident.

While road rash may be considered minor compared to other injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident, victims who are left with a loss of several layers of skin may require surgery and extensive medical attention to ensure that the injury heals properly. The most common areas on the body for road rash include the:

  • Extremities, including upper and lower arms and legs
  • Face
  • Palms
  • Elbows
  • Knees
  • Shoulders

How Can It Be Prevented?

The best way to prevent motorcycle road rash injuries is to follow the rules of the road by driving safely and maintaining the posted speed limit. The most severe types of road rash are often the result of a motorcycle that is traveling at a high rate of speed when it hits the pavement. Speed is the number one factor in determining the severity of motorcycle road rash injuries.

While falling off of a motorcycle at 15 mph may be painful, hitting the pavement at 60 or more mph can be deadly. Other factors include weather conditions, the surface on which a motorcycle is traveling at the time of an accident, and how far the rider slid on the surface before coming to a stop. 

The presence and type of protective gear that a biker wears is a factor that has great influence over the severity of road rash as well. More than 100,000 Americans each year are injured in motorcycle accidents due to a lack of proper safety equipment, especially during the warmer summer months. As they shed layers of clothing and leave the skin unprotected, riders are at an increased risk for road rash injuries

Wearing appropriate safety gear and protective apparel may not completely prevent or protect a rider from all injury in the event of a motorcycle accident, but it goes a long way in reducing the seriousness of such injuries, including road rash.

  • Helmet- Prevents painful facial abrasions and possible disfigurement, and decreases the odds of injury to the head, brain, and neck.
  • Safety Goggles- Protect against eye damage by shielding the eyes from debris and dust that can blind a rider, causing a serious accident.
  • Proper Apparel- A durable leather or heavy-duty nylon jacket and pants act as a protective layer over the skin to prevent damage to the epidermis and dermis layers.
  • Gloves- Protective gloves shield sensitive areas like the palms of the hands from scrapes and cuts in the event of an accident.
  • Durable Footwear- Boots provide traction while on the bike and also protect the feet from abrasions if a rider is suddenly forced to put his or her foot down on the pavement.

Are There Different Types and Severity of Road Rash Injuries?

Road rash injuries can be classified into three different categories, including avulsion wounds, open wounds, and compression wounds.

  • Avulsion wounds are the most common type of road rash and occur when the skin is scraped off of the body. Depending on the severity, muscle and fat below the skin may be exposed in the process.
  • Open wound rashes cause gaping wounds to the skin that often require grafts, stitches, or plastic surgery to repair.
  • Compression wounds occur when a part of the body becomes trapped between the motorcycle and the road or another vehicle during an accident. This can lead to broken bones, bruising, severe road rash, and muscle damage.

The severity of road rash is measured in degrees from least severe to most serious.

First-degree road rash is the least severe type of road rash, involving bruising, scraping, redness, and minor bleeding and is often able to be treated at home by keeping the rash clean, applying a dressing, and maintaining proper hygiene practices while it heals.

Second-degree road rash occurs when the scraping of the skin against pavement breaks the top layer, called the epidermis, but leaves underneath layers intact. It’s very painful and requires medical attention to heal correctly. Again, wound hygiene is of the utmost importance in ensuring the best possible outcome in second-degree road rash injuries.

Third-degree road rash is the most severe, with abrasions that tear the dermis layer of the skin open, leaving nerves, tendons, muscle, fat, tissue, and bone exposed and causing a medical emergency. Third-degree road rash requires immediate attention in an emergency setting and extensive medical treatment, including skin grafts to repair.

What Complications Can Arise?

If left untreated, third-degree road rash can be dangerous and even deadly. Many patients report feeling more pain surrounding the perimeter of third-degree road rash than in the deepest part of the wound. The risk of infection is also highest with this severity of injury and can worsen symptoms, lengthen the healing process, and lead to permanent scarring and disfigurement. Signs of infection include the presence of fluid or pus, warmth emanating from the wound site, pain that increases after the first day, increased redness, excess swelling, foul-smelling drainage, fever, body aches, and chills.

In rare cases, motorcycle road rash can lead to blood poisoning, which occurs when an infection spreads throughout the bloodstream. Blood poisoning can cause septic shock, a life-threatening condition that may result in dangerously low blood pressure and multi-organ failure. 

How Will I Know if I Should Seek Medical Care For My Road Rash?

The only way to know for sure what degree of road rash you’re dealing with is to seek medical treatment. To stave off infection and scarring, which are common in second-and-third-degree road rash, a victim should seek medical attention soon after an accident. 

Even if you don’t immediately feel pain, it’s important to see a doctor or other health professional to have your injuries assessed. Often following a traumatic event, the body pumps out large quantities of adrenaline that mask the presence of pain sensations. Injuries may actually be much more serious than you initially realized once the adrenaline wears off.

Waiting to undergo treatment can put you at greater risk for infection and other complications. Seeking medical care also creates a record of injuries and necessary interventions that were required in case a motorcycle accident claim is later filed. Medical records can prove to the court that the injuries you sustained were a direct result of the accident caused by another driver’s negligence. They can be integral to the success of a personal injury case.

Pursuing medical attention also shows that a victim took his or her injuries seriously immediately after an accident. Delaying such action could cause an insurance company or a jury to question whether or not injuries were as serious as claimed.

What Is the Treatment for Uncomplicated Road Rash?

Wash Wounds

Clean out wounds as soon as possible following the accident to remove as much bacteria and other infection-causing agents. Avoid scrubbing too vigorously, as rough treatment could make the injury worse.

Remove Debris

Metal, dirt, gravel, grass, and other foreign objects or road debris can embed itself under damaged skin, causing an increased risk of infection. Use tweezers to gently lift debris out of the wounds.

Apply Antibiotic Ointment

Following cleaning and debris removal, apply a layer of antibiotic ointment to kill any remaining bacteria and speed the healing process.

Dress the Wound

Apply a lightweight medical bandage to cover the wound. Change it once or twice daily to keep bacteria and infection at bay.

Watch for Signs of Infection

Inspect the injured areas for signs of infection, and seek further medical attention if infection is suspected.

Can I Seek Compensation if the Accident Was Caused by Another Driver?

Due to the extremely painful nature of road rash injuries, they can have a negative impact on an individual’s overall well-being and mental health. The pain, suffering, and emotional turmoil that come with the prospect of a lengthy period of healing and possible permanent disfigurement can lead to anxiety, depression, stress, isolation, financial difficulties and loss of future earnings. 

Don’t suffer in silence. If a careless driver caused your motorcycle accident, contact an attorney to learn more about your options. Although financial compensation can’t speed the healing process, it can ease the burden of financial worry that you or your family may be experiencing.

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