Road rash is a type of friction burn and subsequent skin abrasion that occurs when you scrape your skin across a rough surface. Road rash injuries are common in motorcycle riders if they get thrown from their bike during a motorcycle accident. Road rash injuries can lead to serious complications such as infection if they are not properly treated.
People love to ride motorcycles for many reasons. They are often less expensive than cars, get greater fuel economy, and offer a sense of adventure. Unfortunately, riding a motorcycle is also risky. In 2019, there were 84,000 motorcycle accident-related injuries and 5,000 fatalities.
Simply put, riding a motorcycle is riskier than riding in a passenger vehicle. Drivers have a difficult time seeing motorcycles. And riders don’t have nearly the same protection against injuries. The most that a motorcycle rider can do to stay safe is drive defensively and wear protective gear, including a helmet and sturdy clothing.
It’s no surprise then that most motorcycle riders who are involved in accidents end up with injuries. And perhaps no injury is as common as road rash.
The abrasions one suffers after their body comes in contact with the road can cause life-altering injuries depending on how severe they are. In order to prevent road rash from causing further complications, it’s important they get medical treatment right away.
In most cases, treating road rash requires emergency medical treatment to prevent infection and mitigate scarring. Below we provide a broad overview of the two main types of road rash and their symptoms, how the medical profession categorizes degrees of road rash, and the medical treatment options associated with each level. We also provide some tips for bikers to avoid road rash when they are going for a ride.
If you have been in a motorcycle accident, contact the Chicago motorcycle accident lawyers at Abels & Annes today to get the compensation you deserve after suffering road rash injuries.
Two Main Types of Road Rash Injuries
Generally speaking, road rash refers to a wide array of injuries someone can suffer when their body hits asphalt or gravel during a motorcycle accident. Doctors recognize two main types of road rash injuries:
Avulsion injuries are the most common type of road rash injuries. This injury occurs when layers of a person’s skin peel away as it slides across the surface of the road. In some cases, avulsion injuries expose fat and muscle and can even expose bone when road rash is severe.
Surface abrasions do not penetrate the skin. These injuries are mainly superficial and heal quickly within a few weeks. They typically do not need medical attention.
In the most severe avulsion injuries, motorcycle accident victims who have had several layers of skin damaged, or damage to their muscles or bones, usually need one or more reconstructive surgeries that typically include skin grafts.
Compression injuries occur when the body or limbs are crushed between two objects. In a motorcycle accident, a compression injury can occur when a biker gets crushed between their motorcycle and the road, which leads to bruising, muscle damage, and multiple fractures.
Compression injuries are severe events that typically need immediate medical treatment. In the most severe cases, motorcycle accident victims who suffer compression injuries need ongoing medical treatment for weeks, months, or longer.
When road rash is severe, it can cause thousands of dollars in medical bills that can put significant strain on a person’s financial resources. It can also contribute to long periods of time away from work where victims lose out on the wages they depend on to survive.
As you can see, avulsion and compression injuries do not just cause pain for the victim. They also cause many other damages that can create just as much stress and uncertainty. That’s why our civil justice system allows for injury victims to seek compensation for their damages through a personal injury claim.
Doctors Evaluate Road Rash by Degree
Doctors and other medical professionals use degrees to evaluate different levels of road rash injuries. The categorization is very similar to the way we talk about burn injuries in degrees.
Below is an overview of each level of road rash and what specifically distinguishes it from other levels:
First-Degree Road Rash
First-degree road rash injuries are superficial, meaning they do not penetrate below the top layer of skin. Victims will experience tender, red skin for a short period of time after the initial accident. A child falling off their bicycle and ‘skinning’ their knee is similar to what motorcyclists suffer if they sustain first-degree road rash in a motorcycle accident. Fortunately, these injuries often heal completely within a few weeks and rarely leave permanent scars.
First-degree road rash typically only requires medical treatment if it covers a large portion of the body. You can treat these injuries at home with basic first aid by cleaning the abrasions, applying ointment to the affected area, and covering them with bandages until they heal. Regardless of the severity, it’s always in your best interest to seek medical treatment after you are in a motorcycle accident, especially when another party is responsible.
Second-Degree Road Rash
The primary difference between first-degree and second-degree road rash is that second-degree road rash injuries break through the top layer of skin and damages the second layer. These layers are formally referred to as the dermis and epidermis, respectively.
Second degree road rash wounds generally do not leave scars and heal on their own without intervention. Yet, second-degree road rash injuries are open wounds. When a body slides across the road, sand, gravel, dirt, or asphalt may embed themselves in the wound. Left untreated without proper cleaning, second-degree road rash can lead to dangerous, potentially fatal infections.
Motorcyclists who suffer second-degree road rash injuries need to seek medical treatment and let a nurse or doctor remove visible pieces of dirt, stone, and gravel. Afterward, these second-degree road rash wounds require thorough cleaning with iodine or saline to disinfect the area and promote healing. They may also require a tetanus shot if the injured patient has not had one recently.
Third-Degree Road Rash
A third-degree abrasion is a severe abrasion. It involves friction and tearing of the skin tissue deeper than the dermis. A third degree road rash injury may bleed heavily and always requires more intense medical care.
Scarring and permanent skin damage occur when a person suffers third-degree road rash from a motorcycle accident. The friction of the body scraping across the ground or road causes all the layers of skin to peel away, leaving muscle and fat tissue fully exposed. It’s not uncommon for third-degree road rash to also expose the bone.
Those who suffer third-degree road rash must seek immediate medical treatment and likely will have to undergo one or more reconstructive surgeries with skin grafts. Like second-degree road rash, third-degree road rash injuries are open wounds that need medical professionals to clean them to avoid deadly infections.
Third degree road rash can also cause scarring, disfigurement, and nerve damage.
Complications of Road Rash
Depending on the circumstance of a motorcycle accident and the amount of road rash a person suffers on their body, some choose not to go to the hospital for medical treatment after first or second-degree injuries. If you make that decision, you need to keep an eye out for signs and symptoms of dangerous infections.
If any of the following occur, you must immediately go to the emergency room:
- Increasing redness and/or swelling
- Increased feeling of heat or warmth in and around the wound
- Increased pain
- Drainage of pus from the wound
- Red streaks or lines around the wound
Road rash can cause serious infections if not treated properly or right away. Some of the most common types of infections that can develop after getting road rash from a motorcycle accident include:
Staph infection: Staphylococcus is a naturally occurring bacteria that lives on the skin and in your nasal cavity. When the skin is broken, this bacteria is able to enter the body and cause an infection. Infection brought on by staph can be life-threatening to the injured person. In some cases, it can be resistant to antibiotics. Severe staph infections can cause sepsis or even death if they are left untreated.
Tetanus: Tetanus bacteria is very common in dirt, dust, and on metal objects. These materials can commonly be found on and around a roadway. Once the bacteria has entered the body through an open wound a person will begin to experience an array of symptoms. These symptoms can include muscle spasms, trouble swallowing, headache, and in severe cases seizures. A tetanus shot will be given to those who have suffered a road rash injury if they have not had one administered recently as a way to counteract an infection flare up.
Foreign Objects in Skin
Those who do not get immediate medical treatment may find that foreign objects like pebbles or stones may remain embedded in their skin long after the top layer of skin has healed. This can cause discomfort during everyday activities which is why medical attention soon after an accident is recommended.
Severe road rash can cause serious scarring and disfigurement. Some victims end up needing plastic surgery to help restore mobility and to improve their appearance. These types of reconstructive surgeries are necessary when the road rash scarring affects the face or other highly visible areas of the skin.
Sometimes, road rash goes so deep that it causes nerve damage in the affected area. Nerve damage can lead to a lack of sensation in the impacted area. In other cases, nerve damage may cause pain or increased sensitivity in the injured area. Depending on how severe the road rash injury is, nerve damage may last for a short period of time or last for the rest of an accident victim’s life.
Follow These Tips to Avoid Road Rash From a Motorcycle Accident
Other drivers in trucks and passenger vehicles, especially careless and inattentive drivers, put motorcyclists at risk for an accident. Another person’s negligence sometimes causes irreparable harm to the safest motorcyclists who follow the rules of the road and prioritize safety. You cannot always prevent road rash completely, but you can lessen your chance of becoming injured when you wear the right gear.
These tips about proper motorcycle gear can help:
- Wear a helmet. Helmets not only protect bikers from road rash injuries to the head, but they also protect them from traumatic brain injuries. Illinois law does not require riders to wear a helmet while operating their motorcycle. However, it is highly recommended that you do so anyway to prevent potentially life-altering injuries.
- Wear protective clothing. Leather jackets and pants absorb some or most of the friction created when a body slides across the road, making it unlikely a biker will experience third-degree road rash. Even in the summer when temperatures rise and it may be uncomfortable to wear such heavy clothing, wearing protective clothing can save you from severe pain and medical complications.
- Wear gloves. Bikers who get thrown from their motorcycle try to break their fall with their hands. Gloves can protect the sensitive skin on your hands from road rash.
Contact a Motorcycle Accident Attorney Today
Road rash injuries from motorcycle accidents sometimes have severe consequences. They can cause severe pain, infections, and scarring. All of this means medical bills, lost wages, and physical suffering. You do not have to handle these damages on your own.
If you or a loved one has been struck while riding a motorcycle in the Chicago area, we can help. At Abels & Annes, we pride ourselves on working to protect the rights of our clients and maximizing the compensation they receive.