Motorcycles lack the protective features found in other vehicles, including a steel frame, seat belts, and airbags. In addition, they have less stability than four-wheeled vehicles. These two factors mean that the injuries suffered by motorcycle riders are often very serious. If you are experiencing injures from a motorcycle accident, contact one of Fort Myers motorcycle accident attorneys from Viles & Beckman, LLC as soon as possible.
For example, a man was in critical condition recently following an accident that involved a motorcycle and an SUV. The accident occurred on a Tuesday morning on College Parkway when the 60-year-old SUV driver stopped at a stop sign and then turned left into the path of a motorcycle. The motorcycle overturned, critically injuring its rider. The SUV driver and his 85-year-old passenger suffered mild injuries.
Brain injuries are the leading cause of motorcycle accident-related disability and death, particularly among riders who are not wearing a helmet. A traumatic brain injury generally results from a violent blow or jolt to the head. No matter how severe the jolt, any brain injury can result in long-term consequences, including impairments to bodily functions and thought processes. These impairments can result in the inability to breathe on one’s own, difficulty speaking or understanding spoken or written language, difficulty with balance or coordination, mood swings, the inability to control one’s behavior or impulses, and changes to vision, hearing, or sensation.
Motor vehicle accidents, including accidents involving motorcycles, are a common source of brain injuries. An individual who has suffered a brain injury often can’t return to work or live independently. The lifetime costs of medical treatments related to the brain injury and subsequent complications of the injury can be up to $3 million, leaving many brain-injured individuals and their families members with significant financial troubles.
One of the simplest ways that a motorcyclist can avoid suffering a brain injury is by wearing a Department of Transportation-approved helmet. According to information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, helmets can reduce your chance of suffering a brain injury by 69 percent, and reduce your chance of dying in a motorcycle accident by 37 percent. If all motorcyclists wore helmets every time they rode, it is estimated that around $2.8 billion in societal costs—including medical expenses, the cost of litigation, and lost productivity—could be saved.
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Spinal Cord Injuries
Like brain injuries, spinal cord injuries are among the most permanent, life-altering injuries a person can face. The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves located within the bony protection of the spinal column that extends from the base of the skull to the lower back. Although many people believe that a spinal cord injury involves a severed cord, in most cases the cord is intact but damaged.
Spinal cord injuries result in paralysis, which is the loss of feeling and sensation below the site of the injury. The higher up on the spinal cord the injury is, the more widespread the resultant paralysis will be. A person suffering an injury to the cervical region of the spine, located in the neck, will suffer paralysis in the arms, shoulders, chest, torso, pelvis, and legs—a condition known as tetraplegia or quadriplegia. A person who suffers an injury in the thoracic region (located in the upper back) or the lumbar region (in the mid-back) may suffer paraplegia, or loss of sensation and function in the torso, hips, pelvis, and legs.
Spinal cord injuries can be either complete or incomplete. Complete injuries result in a total loss of sensation or function, while incomplete injuries allow the sufferer to retain some sensation and function below the injury site. Incomplete injuries come with some likelihood that the injured person will regain at least some function below their injury site, although they may experience chronic pain following the injury.
Injuries to the spinal cord present many complications. One of the most common complications for people with tetraplegia is pneumonia, because they can’t eliminate lung secretions through coughing. Other frequent issues that spinal cord injuries present include urinary tract infections, obstructed bowels, spasticity, or flaccidity of the muscles, blood clots, and bedsores.
Without the benefit of a car’s protective features, motorcyclists are almost always ejected from their vehicle during an accident. This often causes the individual to hit the ground or another object at a high rate of speed and, as a result, suffer broken bones. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration discovered through a study that lower extremity injuries were among the most common survivable injuries sustained in accidents by motorcyclists. These injuries include broken bones in the hip, pelvis, thigh, calf, ankle, and foot. Broken arms, wrists, and hands are also common in motorcycle accidents as the motorcyclist’s natural tendency to attempt to catch themselves with their arms or hands often results in injury.
Broken bones may heal within weeks or months. However, they can result in chronic pain or loss of function in the affected limb, as well as the potential for a life-threatening infection at the site of the injury, especially if the injury resulted in a compound break, where a fragment of the bone broke through the skin.
A motorcycle accident can cause catastrophic injuries to the motorcyclist’s limbs if they strike an object or slide along the ground at a high speed. Limbs can even be amputated during the accident as a result of contact with a sharp object or being crushed beneath the wheels of a motor vehicle that weighs several thousand pounds. Amputations may also be medically necessary if the damage to a limb is too extreme to save it.
A surgeon performing a medically necessary amputation will attempt to save as much of the limb as possible, including jointed areas such as the knee or elbow. However, it is often impossible to know how much of the limb will need to be removed until surgery has begun and the doctor sees how widespread the damage is. Losing a limb is a serious situation that results in many months of rehabilitation and expenses that include being fitted with a prosthesis. The amputee may feel embarrassment over the loss of the limb and shame about their physical appearance. Emotional distress is a common experience after this type of injury.
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Internal injuries are another potentially life-threatening injury frequently suffered in motorcycle accidents. Internal damage can be caused by contact with the ground or other objects. One common form of this injury is pneumothorax—also known as a collapsed lung—resulting from bone fragments from the rib cage that pierce the lung. Pneumothorax presents with symptoms including shortness of breath and intense chest pain.
Other types of internal injuries common in motorcycle accidents include damage to organs such as the spleen, liver, or kidneys. One problem with this type of injury is that it is not readily visible to emergency responders and therefore may not be treated right away. Injuries to organs can result in internal bleeding, which can cause death if not caught early and repaired promptly.
When motor vehicles collide, there is often spillage of flammable and caustic fluids such as gasoline. A fire can result, or pooled fluids can cause chemical burns on the skin. This is another situation where motorcyclists lack protection from the elements and are directly subjected to burns from fire or chemicals. Other sources of burns in motorcycle accidents include contact with hot vehicle parts or roadways.
Two major potential complications can arise from burns:
- Infection, which can be caused by the exposure of raw skin to bacteria. Infections can be life-threatening if they spread to the bloodstream. Infections are particularly likely if a large part of the body has been burned or the burn has occurred on a sensitive area of the body such as the hands, feet, or face.
- Scarring, which can not only cause an individual to experience humiliation when going out in public but can also result in the tightening of the skin that covers jointed areas. This tightening can cause a loss of range of motion. Scarring for burn victims is often addressed through skin grafts, which involve harvesting healthy skin from another part of the body and transplanting it to the affected area.
Road rash is an extremely common injury in motorcycle accidents and happens when exposed skin is scraped across the ground or another rough surface. This type of injury is often regarded as minor. However, it can produce complications, particularly if it is deep enough to cause damage to nerves. Like burns, road rash presents an opportunity for infection and scarring.
The likelihood of acquiring an infection after experiencing road rash is increased if there is debris such as rocks and dirt embedded in the wound. This is why the first treatment for road rash consists of thoroughly cleansing the affected area. Signs of infection in road rash include increasing pain after the first day, swelling and increased redness, warmth, drainage of pus or other fluid from the wound, a foul smell, and flu-like symptoms including fever, chills, and body aches.
Riders can prevent road rash by avoiding riding with exposed skin. Motorcyclists should invest in a full riding suit made of leather or another durable material that covers their arms and legs. Additionally, motorcyclists should wear riding gloves and boots to prevent injury to their hands, ankles, and feet.
Tips to Avoid Injuries When Riding
Motorcycle accidents result in around 5,000 deaths each year in the U.S. While not all of these accidents are preventable, many are.
Some things you can do to avoid being injured in a motorcycle accident include:
- Wear your gear all the time. No riding without a helmet. No riding in shorts or jeans or with tennis shoes on.
- Know that other motorists may not see you. Increase your visibility by wearing bright or reflective clothing. If you are shopping for a new motorcycle, look for one that is brightly colored. The addition of lights on your motorcycle can also help capture the attention of motorists who tend to be more focused on avoiding accidents with cars and less focused on looking out for motorcyclists.
- Use extra caution when driving in areas with on-street parking. Dooring is a type of motorcycle accident that involves the occupant in a parked car opening the door into the motorcyclist’s path.
- Avoid tailgating and attempt to put distance between your motorcycle and drivers who follow too closely to avoid causing or experiencing a rear-end accident.
- Avoid riding in inclement weather that involves poor visibility or wet or icy roadways. Riders should also avoid roadways where there is loose gravel or debris such as leaves falling onto the street. Loose gravel and leaves can result in loss of traction for the motorcyclist and increase the chance of an accident.
- Take motorcycle safety courses. These courses are a must for new riders. More experienced riders can also benefit from refresher courses that can help them acquire new safety skills.
Were You Injured in a Motorcycle Accident?
If you were injured in a motorcycle accident someone else caused, you are likely facing the stress of wondering how you are going to pay your medical bills and other expenses. There is a legal process for pursuing compensation from liable parties through a personal injury lawsuit in civil court. Contact an experienced motorcycle accident attorney who can help you understand this process and whether you are eligible to collect compensation.