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Six Common (and Serious) Motorcycle Accident Injuries:

How Calling a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Can Help You Recover Compensation for Them

At Gomez Trial Attorneys, we routinely represent Californians who have sustained severe injuries in motorcycle accidents. A motorcycle rider or passenger can suffer a wide range of harm in an accident. Below, we review some of the most common injuries for which we have helped our motorcycle accident injury clients recover damages.

Whatever the type of injury you have sustained, if a motorcycle accident has turned your life on end, contact an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer at the Gomez Firm for advice about obtaining the compensation you deserve.


1. Road Rash

Road rash is an injury that results from skin sliding along the pavement. This is a common motorcycle injury, because riders tend to slide along a road surface when they fall from their bikes at speed. Although riders can wear protective clothing that reduces the risk of getting road rash in lower-speed accidents, there is a limit to how effectively protective clothing can prevent a road rash injury when an accident occurs at higher speeds or on relatively rough road surfaces.

Doctors classify road rash injuries similarly to the way they classify burns, assigning them “degrees” according to their severity. But although there are significant similarities between the treatment of road rash and burn injuries, road rash usually constitutes a combination of the following potentially severe injuries:

  • Abrasions: layers of skin scraped away by the road surface;
  • Avulsions: skin torn by contact with the road surface;
  • Lacerations: skin sliced by the road surface; and
  • Thermal burns: skin burned by the heat generated from friction between the skin and the road.

Just because road rash is common does not mean motorcycle accident victims should take it lightly. Road rash injuries are extremely painful and can take a long time to heal. They can also cause significant, and even deadly health complications, such as:

  • Infection. Because road surfaces contain all manner of dirt and bacteria, road rash can easily lead to infections if not promptly and thoroughly cleaned;
  • Soft tissue and nerve damage. A road rash that wears away the outer layers of the skin to reach nerve endings and muscle tissue can cause long-lasting damage and disability;
  • Scarring and “road tattoo”. When road rash causes extensive damage to multiple layers of skin, it can cause significant scarring. If doctors are unable to remove all of the dirt and debris from a road rash wound, it can cause permanent discoloration, similar to a tattoo.

Minor cases of road rash can be treated at home. But motorcycle accidents rarely leave riders with minor cases of road rash. More often they need emergency medical attention. In severe cases, they may require multiple skin graft surgeries. Physical pain from these injuries can persist for months or more. When these injuries cause disfiguring scarring, such as to a person’s face, arms, or legs, victims also frequently experience significant emotional difficulty.

2. Traumatic Brain Injury

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs when the brain sustains damage from a jolt, blow, or penetrating injury to the head. In motorcycle accidents, TBIs typically result from a biker’s head striking the road surface or an object after the biker has been thrown from his bike. Wearing a helmet significantly reduces the risk of suffering a TBI (or worse) in a motorcycle wreck, although it cannot eliminate that risk. In California, by law all motorcyclists must wear helmets while riding.

In a motorcycle accident TBI, the brain sustains direct damage from blunt force impact, as well as from secondary bleeding and swelling. The force of the impact can also cause a concussion, skull fracture, and direct damage to brain tissue.

TBIs cause a range of symptoms from mild to severe, including motor, cognitive, and emotional difficulties that can last anywhere from days to years. In severe cases, a TBI causes a permanent loss of consciousness. Some symptoms start right away, whereas others develop with time. Treating a TBI may involve a range of medical interventions, from emergency surgery to long-term rehabilitative therapies.

TBIs can also have significant consequences on a motorcyclist’s life. The effects of a TBI can make it difficult, or even impossible, to return to work or school, or to engage in ordinary life activities. When a TBI victim suffers these severe symptoms, the injury can place enormous emotional strain not just on the victims, but also on their family members and caregivers.

3. Spinal Cord Injury

A spinal cord injury, or SCI, is any bruise or tear in the bundle of nerves along the spine that sends messages from the brain to the rest of the body. In a motorcycle accident, this type of injury most often occurs when a rider’s body suffers a violent impact that damages the vertebrae and discs surrounding the spinal cord, resulting in damage to the cord itself. Motorcycle riders can provide themselves some measure of protection against these injuries by wearing body armor that protects their back and neck. But as with helmets and rash-resistant clothing, no gear is foolproof. The best protection against suffering an SCI is to ride safely and in control at all times.

An SCI is a particularly devastating injury because damage to the spinal cord disrupts messages from the brain to the body. In mild SCI cases, that damage causes temporary numbness and weakness in a person’s arms and legs. In severe SCI cases, the injury causes permanent disruption of messages, causing partial or total paralysis. The higher on the spinal column the injury to the cord occurs, the more extensive the paralysis is likely to be.

It is possible to rehabilitate some SCIs. But any type of permanent paralysis from an SCI alters a motorcyclist’s life. SCI victims often must adapt to a life confined to a wheelchair or other assistive device. They also usually have to adapt their living spaces to accommodate those devices. Many can never return to the work they did before the accident. These changes mean a lifetime of unplanned expenses that can total millions of dollars.

4. Fractures and Other Severe Orthopedic Injuries

Motorcyclists thrown from their bikes often sustain broken bones. If they’re lucky, these breaks will be straightforward and will heal in time. But that is not always the case. The speed and violence of a motorcycle accident commonly shatter bones and twists limbs in ways that do severe damage to joints and the soft tissues that support them. Protective gear has only limited effectiveness in preventing these sorts of injuries. Body armor can help, but a high-speed fall onto the pavement that twists or inflicts blunt force to a limb nevertheless poses a high risk of major orthopedic injury.

The more common severe orthopedic injuries motorcycle riders and passengers sustain in a wreck include:

  • Complex (or “comminuted”) fractures, in which a bone breaks in multiple locations. These injuries can cause significant health complications and frequently require multiple surgeries and extensive, lengthy rehabilitation. In particularly severe cases, these injuries can require amputation of a damaged limb.
  • Traumatic amputation, in which a limb is partially or totally severed from the body as a result of the violence of an accident or being pinned under or damaged by heavy objects.
  • Ligament and tendon damage, in which the soft tissue structures supporting joints sustain partial or total tears that require surgical reconstruction. These injuries frequently accompany painful joint dislocation.
  • Arthritis and chronic pain, which commonly follow traumatic orthopedic injuries and take a severe toll on riders’ quality of life.

Any of these injuries can cause lasting disability. Some of them require permanent use of an assistive or prosthetic device. In addition, because they inflict significant and often long-lasting pain (even after breaks and tears have healed), victims of these injuries face a heightened risk of addiction to pain medications. As with other severe motorcycle accident injuries, severe orthopedic injuries can take a toll on a rider’s ability to earn a living and to return to normal activities.

5. Burns

Motorcycle accidents result in burns when an accident causes a fire or explosion, when a rider’s skin comes in contact with extremely hot elements of the bike engine and/or exhaust systems, or (as noted above) as a component of road rash through heat generated by friction between clothing or skin and the road surface.

Burns are classified according to their severity:

  • First degree burns damage the outer layer of the skin (the “epidermis”). They are red, tender, and sensitive to touch and heat. These burns can heal on their own with basic first aid.
  • Second degree burns damage both the epidermis and the skin layer beneath it (the “dermis”). They are frequently red, blistered, and swollen. These burns require prompt medical attention to heal properly. They may require skin graft surgeries to repair. Even when healed, they can leave painful and unsightly scars.
  • Third degree burns are life-threatening injuries. They damage the epidermis, dermis, and sometimes the soft tissue, nerves, and bone beneath the skin. They can appear black or charred. These burns need immediate emergency medical care and subsequent specialized treatment at a burn center. They can require multiple surgeries to repair and extensive rehabilitation. Numerous secondary health complications usually accompany these injuries, including extreme danger of infection and dangerous immune responses.

Second and third degree burns can leave a person permanently disabled and unable to return to work, school, or other ordinary daily activities. Disfiguring, scarring, and chronic pain are also common conditions that persist long after the primary injury has healed. As with road rash, these injuries can lead to significant emotional suffering for victims and their families.

6. Abdominal Trauma

Motorcycle accident victims (and, in fact, victims of just about any type of motor vehicle accident) often show up in emergency rooms because of visible, external injuries, only to discover that the most serious emergency medical condition they face consists of damage to their internal organs. The impacts of a motorcycle accident can cause damage to any of the organs in the abdomen, but damage to the spleen or liver is especially common. These injuries can lead to dangerous internal bleeding and infection. In addition, the danger of a ruptured hematoma that resulted from internal bleeding can persist for weeks or months after the initial injury.

Protective gear is of only limited use in protecting motorcyclists from these types of injuries. Body armor may help, but as with other injuries described in this article, the force and violence of the impact in a high-speed motorcycle crash increase the likelihood of damage to internal organs. If not treated quickly and effectively, these injuries can be life-threatening. In severe cases, they may require surgery and long-term treatment to address health complications.

Seeking Legal Help for Any Kind of Motorcycle Accident Injury

No matter what kind of injury you sustain in a motorcycle accident, the consequences can take a significant toll on your quality of life, your income, and your relationships. If that accident happened because of someone else’s careless or reckless actions, then California law may entitle you to recover compensation for your injuries and suffering.

Of course, your first priority after any motorcycle accident is to seek appropriate medical care. All of the injuries above can be fatal if not addressed promptly and thoroughly.

Once your condition has stabilized, it can help to consult with an experienced California motorcycle accident attorney to figure out if you have a right to compensation. Not every motorcycle accident leads to a lawsuit. But in many cases the accident is not primarily, or even partially, your fault. Instead, someone else’s poor decision—to turn left in front of you, to change lanes without looking, to leave debris in the roadway—leads to a bike wreck and lasting injuries.

An experienced California motorcycle accident attorney at Gomez Trial Attorneys can investigate a motorcycle accident to identify whose bad choices lead to injuries and fatalities. A lawyer can also reach out to those parties and/or their insurance companies to try and negotiate a fair settlement of the injured biker’s claims. And the attorney can take legal action in California courts, if needed, to recover the compensation an injured motorcyclist deserves. To learn more, contact a California motorcycle accident lawyer today.

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