Motorcycles are, for many, an enjoyable form of transportation. However, while cars have a metal structure to protect the driver and passengers in the event of a crash, motorbikes have far fewer safety features and have the potential for a higher risk to motorcyclist.
Motorcycle accident injuries, as with most traffic collision injuries, range from mild whiplash and road rash to severe brain injuries, broken limbs, and organ damage. Motorcyclists, unfortunately, have a higher fatality rate in traffic accidents compared to occupants of passenger cars.
Common Motorcycle Accident Injuries
Because motorcyclists aren’t protected with a chassis like passenger car occupants, they’re far more at risk of major injury during a road traffic accident.
However, as with any traffic accident, the likelihood of serious injury, lasting complications, and fatality depend on the circumstances of the accident, the speed of the vehicles involved, and what protective measures the involved parties took to avoid the accident.
Motorcycle accident injuries can also depend on the type of motorcycle the rider uses, as some types offer more protection and stability than others.
Road rash is a serious skin abrasion caused by contact with the road surface at speed. It’s commonly suffered by motorcyclists when they are forced from their vehicle during an accident.
This injury can range from mild to severe, but all cases require prompt medical attention due to the potential for infection. In some cases, road rash can result in needing skin or tissue grafts.
Fractures, Sprains, and Dislocations
Because motorcycles are not as stable as other passenger vehicles, riders can find that during an accident, they sustain fractures, sprains, dislocations, or other damage to their limbs as a result of the motorcycle falling on them. In addition, riders can sustain fractures as a result of instinctively trying to catch themselves during an accident.
All of these injuries need immediate medical attention and may require surgery, particularly in more severe cases.
Lower Extremity Injuries
Lower extremity injuries are extremely common in traffic accidents involving motorcyclists. Research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) found that lower extremity injuries are extremely common in motorcycle accidents, with leg injuries and fractures being the most common form of these injuries.
This research also found that lower extremity injuries are more common when motorcyclists are involved in a collision where the front of their vehicle is the point of impact in the crash.
Lower extremity injuries can include fractures and dislocations as we explained above. They can also involve crush damage, particularly if a motorcyclist is trapped beneath their vehicle. In extreme cases, lower extremity injuries can result in partial or full leg amputations.
Depending on the extent of the injury, lower extremity injuries might also involve a hospital stay, surgery, or physiotherapy. They may also leave the rider with chronic pain, mobility issues, and an inability to work.
Upper Extremity Injuries
The second most common type of injury involves the upper extremities. These injuries tend to be more common with motorcyclists who ride heavier, larger motorcycles, as these offer better protection for the riders’ legs and are less unstable.
Again, these injuries include fractures, sprains, dislocations, and crush injuries. Broken ribs are particularly common as the ribs have little protection and are relatively fragile compared to other bones. Amputation of the hand, forearm or full arm may also be required if the injury is severe.
As mentioned earlier, these injuries typically result in a hospital stay, and may also require surgery or physiotherapy. Once healed, a rider may have limited mobility, chronic pain, or require ongoing physiotherapy. Nerve damage may also make it difficult to perform day-to-day tasks. They may also be unable to work.
Organ Damage and Internal Bleeding
Blunt force trauma is a significant cause of injury in motorcycle accidents, and this type of trauma can cause damage to internal organs and internal bleeding. These injuries require immediate medical attention, as they can lead to sepsis or organ failure.
In some cases, internal damage can also be caused by something sharp penetrating the skin and damaging an organ. Penetration injuries can lead to catastrophic and, sometimes, fatal blood loss.
Internal injuries, and particularly organ damage, will require an extended hospital stay. Depending on the damaged organ, there may be lasting effects, such as ongoing dialysis, breathing difficulties, or the need for a stoma.
In some cases, the damage may be so severe that the patient needs organ transplantation, which will require extensive surgery and a longer hospital stay. In many cases, organ transplant patients must be kept on immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of their life, which can greatly increase their risk of disease in the future.
Spine and Back Injuries
Spinal injuries occur in an estimated 20% of all motorcycle accidents as a result of blunt force trauma, crush injuries, or nerve damage.
Spinal injuries require immediate medical attention and special treatment. Patients will often require an extended hospital stay to determine the likelihood of ongoing complications and, in some cases, surgery to prevent nerve damage.
In severe cases, spinal injuries can result in permanent paraplegia (paralysis of the lower half of the body) or quadriplegia (paralysis from the neck down).
Head and Brain Injuries
Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) occur in an estimated 15% of helmeted and 21% of unhelmeted riders and account for approximately 54% of all motorcycle accident fatalities. These injuries are particularly time-sensitive, particularly where there are internal bleeding or penetration wounds.
TBIs require extended hospital stays and, usually, surgery. Patients may also need to undergo rehabilitation to relearn basic skills like walking and talking, depending on the part of the brain that was affected and how severe the injury is. They may also require ongoing care and may no longer be able to work.
Head and facial wounds are also common, particularly in riders who do not wear a helmet. This can range from superficial cuts and scrapes to more traumatic wounds that require extensive reconstruction surgery.
Reducing the Risk of Motorcycle Accident Injury
As a motorcycle rider, the best thing you can do to prevent injury when riding is wearing a helmet. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention say that wearing a helmet reduces your risk of sustaining a head injury by 69%, and of dying in a motorcycle accident by 37%.
Insurance policies often require that you wear the correct safety gear when riding your motorcycle, and not wearing appropriate clothing like a helmet, gloves, or boots can invalidate your insurance.
As a motorist, you should also ensure you observe the rules of the road and ride with caution. While accidents can be outside of your control, particularly where other motorists are involved, you can reduce your risk by observing the speed limit and staying observant of your surroundings at all times.
What Should I do if I’ve Been Injured in a Motorcycle Accident?
If you’re involved in a motorcycle accident, the most important thing to do is to stay as calm as possible, even if the accident wasn’t your fault.
First of all, check yourself for serious injuries. Unless you’re absolutely sure you haven’t suffered a head injury, leave your helmet on. If you can offer assistance or first aid to others if it’s safe to do so and won’t put yourself or another person in danger.
It’s vital that you don’t attempt to move your bike or any other vehicle involved, or any debris on the road. If you can, take photographs of your vehicle and the surrounding area. It’s also helpful to take notes of the date, time, driving conditions, and anything leading up to the accident you feel is significant.
When the police arrive, give them a full report of the incident from your perspective if you’re able to. Don’t admit fault, even if you caused the motorcycle accident, and ask the police to forward a copy of their report.
You also need to swap insurance details with the other parties involved and make sure to take a note of the make, model, and license plate of all vehicles involved in the crash. Again, do not admit fault. Call your insurance company and provide them with the information you’ve collected, but don’t allow them to record a statement over the phone.
As soon as you’re able, give Shiner Law Group a call and arrange an appointment to discuss your motorcycle accident with one of our motorcycle accident attorneys. Our friendly team is experts in personal injury law, and we can work with the police to ensure you have all the evidence you need to get your insurance company to payout.
We can help you to claim medical expenses, lost wages, and compensation for property damage, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. By getting in touch with us at your earliest convenience, we’ll work with you to get your life back on track.