A rider's risk of being involved in a motorcycle accident hinges on multiple factors that simply can't be predicted. Experience, road conditions, weather, and the ability of other drivers on the road all play an important part in getting bikers home safely. However, it's no secret that riding is dangerous. Statistics show that motorcyclists are roughly 40 times more likely to die in a crash than a person driving a car. They're also more likely to be involved in an injurious accident as well. And roughly 12% of people injured in motorcycle accidents suffer severely, incurring critical life-threatening injuries or debilitating conditions that could potentially leave victims suffering for their entire lives. But what are the most common motorcycle accident injuries? How can these injuries be avoided? And, what can you do if you experience a serious motorcycle accident injury?
Below we'll walk you through the most common motorcycle accident injuries you're likely to suffer in the event of a crash. Understanding the types of injuries you're potentially at risk for can help:
We all know riding a motorcycle can be dangerous, but we do it anyway. We can't resist it. The feeling of the open road, getting through traffic - rather than sitting in it, splitting lanes and feeling the wind on our face. However, injuries from motorcycle accidents are almost inevitable. Here is a list of the most common motorcycle accident injuries:
Head injuries are one of the leading causes of fatalities in motorcycle accidents across California (together with multiple thoracic injuries). This type of devastating damage can occur even without the head striking anything. Indeed, concussions, internal hemorrhaging, and swelling can occur from a whiplash-type back-and-forth motion of the skull.
Traumatic Brain Injury is not only one of the most common type of motorcycle accident injuries, it's also one of the most severe. The brain is a very delicate organ and any damage to it can leave victims severely, even permanently disabled.
TBI, as this type of injury is often called, results from trauma to the head or skull. That trauma could be a blunt force (such as a rider's head striking the pavement) or it could be from sharp force trauma (actual penetration of the skull by vehicle parts or roadside obstacles).
Severe TBI in a motorcycle accident can result in:
Any of these can have a terrible impact on a family, placing financial, emotional, and physical stress on everyone at home (including the victim).
One of the most effective ways to protect yourself from TBI is to wear a motorcycle helmet. There is of course a motorcycle helmet law in California, and wearing head protection could potentially reduce the risk of TBI and other head injuries by as much as 69%.
Facial injuries are not often life-threatening but they can very well be life-altering. We all associate our looks with our sense of identity, self-worth, and value to society. Serious disfigurement in motorcycle accidents can lead to severe psychological or emotional trauma. Depression, anxiety, increased risk of substance abuse, and even suicide have all been linked to facial injuries.
The best way to protect yourself from these common types of motorcycle accident injuries is to wear a full-face helmet.
The majority of the most common non-fatal motorcycle accident injuries involve damage to the lower extremities—with the majority of those involving injuries to the legs. This accident grouping takes into account multiple injury types including:
Leg injuries can be life-threatening (blood loss, internal bleeding, and infection are all risk factors) However, most will heal over time with medical intervention. That doesn't mean that injured motorcyclists will ever get "back to normal." Indeed, injuries can leave riders with permanent chronic pain and reduced mobility for life. These are factors that should be accounted for when calculating a fair motorcycle accident insurance claim or potential lawsuit award.
Read more: Motorcycle Accident Leg Injuries
How can you protect yourself from lower extremity motorcycle accident injuries? Wear protective riding gear.
Riding armor (with impact padding) and specifically designed motorcycle boots can dramatically reduce the risk of suffering lower-extremity injuries. Such gear can also reduce the severity of any such injury you do suffer in a motorcycle accident. Unfortunately, if you read through various motorcycle forums, most riders opt not to wear such clothing because it's either "too expensive" or it's "too uncomfortable."
But what price can you put on your longevity? How much is your current quality of life worth to you?
According to the Mayo Clinic, motorcycle accidents are the leading cause of spinal injuries in The United States, accounting for over 35% of such injuries nationwide. Spinal injuries, in turn, are the leading cause of paralysis. Indeed, paralysis (complete or partial) is—unfortunately—a "common side effect" of severe neck injuries.
The good news is that many such injuries result in temporary paralysis with victims regaining the use of their limbs when the worst of the damage heals itself. Sometimes that paralysis may require surgical intervention to repair nerves and decrease swelling impinging upon them. However, sometimes that paralysis is permanent.
Such an injury can derail a healthy motorcyclist's life and leave them struggling to make ends meet, provide for their families, and simply survive. Indeed, any type of paralysis—partial, temporary, or permanent—can be debilitating, keeping motorcycle accident victims from working, engaging with family, or even getting out of bed.
A common motorcycle accident injury involving paralysis often results in a significant insurance settlement or lawsuit verdict because the long-term effects on a victim's quality of life can be devastating and costly. A good motorcycle accident lawyer will be able to calculate the total monetary value of:
. . . and more in order to create a complete compensation package to help victims recover after such a debilitating accident.
A significant portion of motorcycle-related injuries falls under this category of shoulder, collarbone and upper arm motorcycle accident injuries.
Common injuries from motorcycle accidents in this area include broken collarbones, torn rotator cuffs, dislocated shoulders and humerus fractures. All of these injuries can be classified and fairly serious and should be treated immediately by emergency medical professional. Any of these injuries left untreated could result in permanent nerve damage or worse.
Because victims of motorcycle accidents often try to catch or brace themselves with their hands when they're ejected from their bikes, their wrists and hands take a tremendous amount of force during impact.
The wrist is a complex part of the body, and injury to it can cause bone fractures, nerve damage, tendon and ligament tears, and even deformity. Also, the scaphoid bone, which is at the base of your thumb, isn't technically a part of the wrist, but it is still a very common injury in motorcycle accidents and should be treated immediately.
While most common wrist and scaphoid fractures can be spotted by an X-Ray, sometimes diagnosis is not that easy. Indeed, a good percentage of patients complaining of wrist injuries after a motorcycle accident are told initially that they're suffering from wrist sprains or strains. Only after the pain fails to dissipate over weeks (or months) and doctors do additional testing do they spot nearly invisible fractures.
Biker's Arm is a catch-all term used to describe multiple injuries that occur when a biker is ejected from their ride and their arm (or arms) comes into contact with the road surface, other vehicles, or roadside obstacles. This term excludes broken bones and joint dislocations but includes muscle and other soft tissue injuries as well as nerve damage.
Biker's arm motorcycle accident injuries usually occur when a rider is still conscious upon being ejected from their ride. It's a natural human response to try to break a fall by extending your arms. However, when you're traveling at speeds higher than 10 or 15 miles per hour, the amount of force your own body weight generates is far too large for your arms to absorb.
Generally, these symptoms will go away as injuries heal but medical intervention may be required to repair torn ligaments and nerves. Additionally, immediate surgery may be required to reduce swelling that may impinge upon nerves and blood vessels.
Compartment Syndrome is a risk for bikers injured in this fashion. This syndrome involves increased pressure and swelling inside the muscles themselves. Risks of this syndrome include decreased blood flow and even tissue death. The only procedure to treat this potentially lethal syndrome is a fasciotomy. During the procedure, the fascia (membrane surrounding the muscle tissue) is cut open to allow for expansion.
"Road rash" is a vernacular term coined to denote abrasion injuries. These types of injuries occur when riders are either ejected from their bikes or are trapped between their bikes and the road. Sliding along rough surfaces like asphalt, concrete, and gravel can shred through most clothing in a second or less leaving the biker's skin exposed. That abrasive surface then cuts into the skin and tender tissues beneath.
Road rash is one of the most common motorcycle accident injuries riders will suffer. It can vary in severity from a minor injury that heals in days to severe life-threatening wounds that can cause severe bleeding and lead to potentially deadly infections. In addition to blood loss, the insertion of foreign objects like pebbles, sticks, and other forms of debris into the body and the associated bacterial risk can quickly leave motorcycle accident victims struggling for their lives.
Even if your road rash heals properly, you'll likely be left with scarring which may or may not require reconstructive surgeries, skin grafting, or other long-term treatments.
Protecting yourself from road rash is one of the easiest things a rider can do. Wearing protective clothing (abrasion-rated pants and shirts, bike armor, and riding boots) can dramatically reduce the risk of suffering road rash even if you're involved in an accident.
It's important to keep in mind that regular denim is not strong enough to withstand any contact with asphalt or concrete. In fact, most jeans will only last less than 1 second in standard abrasion testing. Leather fares lightly better in abrasion testing but still falls far behind commercially available alternatives specifically designed to protect soft skin from hard pavement. These options may cost more but can you really put a price tag on pain and suffering?
Although not specifically a motorcycle accident injury, but more of a symptom, insomnia or the inability to sleep after a serious motorcycle accident is very common. This is because motorcycle accidents can be particularly traumatic. Not only physically, but emotionally, a motorcycle accident will take its toll on you. Motorcycle accident victims often suffer severe physical pain, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression, which all interfere with healthy sleep.
Be sure to take any medication prescribed by your doctor and look for other methods, such as meditation and other relaxation techniques to help get a good night's rest.
30% of all non-fatal motorcycle accident injuries involve some sort of damage to the lower extremities including the hip, leg, and foot. The most common leg injury is a fracture of one or both of the bones in the lower leg (fibula and tibia). Next is the fracture of the long bone in the thigh (the femur).
While many people don't consider a "broken leg" a serious injury, a study of traumatic accidents found that damage to the long bones in the leg as well as pelvic ring fractures carry with them a very high risk of life-threatening infection and can be used to predict the "survivability rate" of a motorcycle accident. In fact, if you remove traumatic head injuries from the equation, fractures in the hips and lower extremities are second only to thoracic (chest) trauma when predicting whether or not a victim will survive an accident.
While it's impossible to calculate an individual's risk of being involved in a motorcycle accident, there are a number of factors that statistical analysts have pinpointed as major risks for increased injury occurrence and severity.
Older riders (40 years old or older) are more at risk for being involved in motorcycle accidents. They're also at higher risk for life-threatening injuries (such as multiple thoracic injuries including broken ribs, punctured lungs, and internal organ damage).
The larger the bike is (in ccs) the more likely the rider is to suffer motorcycle crashes. The group at the highest of severe motorcycle accident injuries were riders whose machines boasted engines 1000 cc's or above.
Using protective gears such as abrasion-rated clothing, helmets, and impact pads has a significant effect on the likelihood of an individual suffering one of the most common motorcycle injuries even when they're involved in a crash. Studies have shown that simply wearing a helmet can decrease the risk of dying by over 30%. It can decrease the risk of facial injuries by even more. In addition, abrasion-rated clothing can prevent road rash as it's designed with withstand sliding on rough surfaces (like pavement) for several seconds.
It's a bit misleading to refer to these as the most common motorcycle accident injuries because no two victims are alike. Even individuals who suffer the exact same injury experience the trauma differently. Each injury will have a very different impact on the individual and their family. It's impossible to find a one-size-fits-all solution.
That's why when you've been injured, your total recovery package (physical, financial, and emotional) must be custom-fit to you and your specific circumstances. The first step in creating this one-of-a-kind recovery package is calculating the physical, monetary, and psychological impact your motorcycle accident has had on you. The next is seeking compensation for that impact from the parties responsible for the crash.
Regardless of whether you hire a motorcycle accident attorney in California to represent you or not, you must keep your needs foremost in the minds of everyone involved in your recovery. You are your own best advocate.