Updated on: 3/6/2019
Motorcycle accidents are some of the most serious types of accidents that the attorneys at Davis Law Group, P.S., see daily, primarily because of the dangerous nature of riding a motorcycle. Because motorcyclists are not physically protected in the same way that drivers of passenger vehicles are, riders are especially vulnerable and susceptible to being seriously injured or killed in a collision.
Motorcycles don’t provide an enclosed physical environment like passenger vehicles do – complete with airbags, anti-lock brakes, and seatbelts – and their passengers are at serious risk in the event of a crash. That risk is compounded when you consider it doesn’t take much of an impact to cause a motorcyclist to lose control of his or her bike.
But which body parts are specifically at risk of being seriously injured? How can motorcyclists prioritize which safety gear is especially important to wear while they’re on the road? Thankfully, scientific studies on this topic can help shed some light on the kinds of injuries to motorcyclists.
Neck and Head Injuries From Motorcycle Accidents
A Traumatic Brain Injury, often referred to as a TBI, is a very common type of injury after a motorcycle accident. Brain injuries can happen when the skull slams into a hard surface like the pavement or someone else’s car. Even if the bones of the skull don’t fracture, the delicate tissues of the brain can get jostled around inside, causing a concussion or a more serious condition like bleeding inside the skull that can cause permanent brain damage or death if left untreated.
Brain injuries can also be caused by your head whipping back and forth rapidly on your neck (causing your brain to “slosh” inside your skull and slam against the hard bone) or by nearby blast waves. Brain injuries can also happen even when your skull is not struck directly. If the forces of the accident were violent enough to whip your head around, or if another part of your head, like your chin, strikes a hard surface, you can sustain a TBI.
Some brain injuries are diagnosed quickly in the emergency room. Others are harder for doctors to recognize; you may only notice that you have a concussion when you feel dizzy, confused, or have a hard time remembering things in the days or weeks after your accident. Brain injuries aren’t something you should try to diagnose or treat yourself. Always go to a doctor as soon as possible if you suspect that you have a brain injury.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the best way to minimize the severity of head and neck injuries is to wear a quality, full-face helmet that is less than five years old. The reason for this is that the glue commonly used to keep parts of motorcycle helmets together can deteriorate after five years.
While wearing safety gear never hurts, it’s still possible to suffer from a traumatic brain injury even if you have a helmet on. Motorcycle helmets are designed to bear the brunt of the damage during an accident, but in severe accidents they may not be able to absorb all the force of slamming head-first into a hard surface.
Motorcycle Crash Broken Bones
After a motorcycle accident, there’s a good chance that you’ll be evaluated in urgent care for potential broken bones. In a traumatic accident, bones can crack, split, or even shatter. In motorcycle accidents, broken bones and other internal injuries can happen not just from the impact of the car itself, but from flying and hitting the roadway or having your motorcycle land on top of you.
While bones can repair themselves over time (with some help from the medical profession), a broken bone can leave patients with long-term consequences. You may end up with temporary or permanent pins, rods, and screws embedded in your body; you may need surgeries to remove bone chips and reset shattered bones that cannot be re-aligned externally; your bones may fail to knit properly, or may grow back in an incorrect alignment. If your vertebrae, the bones that protect your delicate spinal column, are damaged, you may suffer from long-term pain or disability as bone defects deform your discs (the fluid-filled sacs that separate one vertebra from another) or press against your nerves.
Arm, Hand & Finger Injuries After Motorcycle Accident
Unfortunately, it’s a common reflex for motorcyclists to extend their arms and hands when bracing for a fall after a collision. This rarely ends well for a motorcyclist, as the likelihood that this action will prevent any damage is very small. Common arm injuries include broken radius or ulna bones (the long bones in the forearm). There are also dozens of small bones in the hand that can be easily broken in a collision.
There are many advanced types of hand and arm protection that can make a big difference in the extent of injuries from a motorcycle accident. Palm sliders prevent the motorcyclist from “gripping” the road during a fall. This alleviates the amount of pressure on the arms by allowing the body to slide against the pavement, reducing the chances of serious injury. Heavy duty gloves can also improve the protection around the hands and fingers, reducing the likelihood of a serious injury.
Soft Tissue Injuries From Motorcycle Crash
Your soft tissues are your muscles, tendons, cartilage, blood vessels, skin, fat, and other tissues that connect, support, and surround your bones and organs. While these tissues have some ability to heal themselves, after a severe motorcycle accident, chances are good that you will be dealing with some soft tissue injuries.
Injuries to the soft tissue can be harder to diagnose than bone breaks. You may feel pain, but can you pinpoint exactly where that pain is coming from? Is it damage to your muscle fiber, your tendon, or perhaps the nerve that runs through that area? Sometimes pain can be referred: you may feel pain in one area of your body because of tension or damage in another area.
In many cases, doctors won’t be able to give you a scan to immediately diagnose a soft tissue injury. If you’re feeling persistent pain, keep a journal of your symptoms, check in with your primary care provider regularly, and don’t minimize or exaggerate your symptoms. Your doctor may refer you to a massage therapist, a physical therapist, or another health care provider who can help you manage your symptoms and recover your strength after an accident.
Even if it is annoying or difficult to do so, it is generally best to follow your doctor’s instructions when you’re recovering from a soft tissue injury. From a legal standpoint, juries may become suspicious of your reported injuries if you do not follow your doctor’s instructions or if you repeatedly skip appointments.
Motorcycle Accident Neurological Injuries
Your nervous system is a delicate web of cells that transmit sensations from an area of your body to your brain. When these nerves are damaged in a traumatic accident, you will probably experience pain or other discomfort, like tingling, numbness, or weakness in the affected area. Your central nervous system includes your brain and spinal cord; your peripheral nervous system is all the nerve cells that control all your movements and transmit sensory information to your brain.
There are many ways that your nerves may be damaged after an accident. In very severe cases, they may be severed. They may also be impinged when a traumatic injury to part of your body, like your shoulder or the openings in your vertebrae where nerves exit the spinal column, causes a deformity that presses directly on your delicate nerve tissue. Motor vehicle accidents are the most common cause of spinal cord Injuries. These traumatic injuries occur by the bending, dislocation, rotation and hyperflexion or hypertension of the spinal cord. This can cause incredibly serious life changes, including paralysis. The extent of the injuries depends on the location of the injury.
Neurological injuries are difficult to self-diagnose. Because nerves carry pain from parts of your body to your brain, you may believe that something is wrong with your muscle or bone when a damaged or impinged nerve is the source of the pain. As you follow up with your doctor after the accident, make sure to mention any episodes of numbness, tingling, or weakness that could be a sign of a neurological injury.
Although Personal Protection Equipment is made to protect your body in the event of an accident, many riders do not wear the proper equipment, or the equipment still does not fully protect them. When the rider is thrown off the bike, they run the risk of permanent scarring, sometimes on the face and other extremely visible parts of the body. In some cases, plastic surgery may be an option to revise the scarring.
A few other types of injuries include:
- Dental injuries: Cracked teeth, damaged joints in the jaw
- Spinal cord injuries: Victims in a serious accident may suffer paralysis or another type of spinal injury
- Internal: Bruising, bleeding, or crushing damage to your organs
- Amputations: The loss of a limb or digit may occur
- Vascular: Damage to your veins and arteries
- Mental: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), other anxiety disorders, new phobias or aversions
- Reproductive: Physical damage to the genitals, loss of ability to enjoy sex
- Dermatological: Road rash, burns, scarring
- Rider's arm: Injuries to the arm when the bike lands on it
- Lacerations: Cuts and scrapes may be deep and eventually become infected
- Facial injuries: The face may become injured and require plastic surgery
- Wrongful Death: Motorcyclists may pass away after an accident
Why Insurance Matters
The reality is that riding a motorcycle is an inherently dangerous activity and there is only so much that can be done to prevent a rider from being injured in the event of an accident. The lack of physical protection and vulnerability to collisions are just a couple of reasons that motorcyclists are 30 times more likely to be killed in a crash than those in regular passenger vehicles.
Wearing adequate safety gear and a newer full-face helmet can greatly improve a motorcyclist’s chances of surviving a serious crash. Proper protection can also drastically reduce the severity of a rider’s injuries from a collision.
Ultimately collisions do happen, and riders have a high likelihood of suffering significant injuries when they do. Many drivers in the United States purchase minimum required liability insurance policies, which is usually around $25,000. And since insurance is not legally required for motorcyclists, an injured victim could be left with hardly any coverage to pay for their injuries. That’s why it is often extremely beneficial – and typically not very expensive – for motorcyclists to purchase Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) coverage on their own insurance policies.
No matter the severity of your motorcycle accident, consulting with an experienced attorney can be beneficial to victims who are interested in learning about the legal process and whether they have a valid claim.
Attorney Chris Davis has been recognized as one of Washington's top motorcycle accident attorneys for over 20 years. Mr. Davis and the team at Davis Law Group are committed to recovering the compensation their clients deserve. Call Davis Law Group at (206) 727-4000, use the chat feature below or fill out the contact form on this page for a free case evaluation.