Can You Get a Road Rash After a Motorcycle Accident?

motorcycle on the road

Road rash is one of the most common injuries in motorcycle accidents. Without a seatbelt, riders get ejected from their bikes and slide across the pavement. Severe road rash can occur even in low-speed crashes.

According to statistics published in the Bulletin of American College of Surgeons, there were 20,407 road rash cases in hospital admission records in one year. Of those cases, 400 people died, 1,974 patients required acute care/rehab, and 1,126 went to skilled nursing facilities.

What Is Road Rash?

“Abrasion” is the medical term for road rash. It occurs when the outer layer of skin scrapes against a rough surface. It causes breaks in the skin and small capillaries, leading to some bleeding.

Gravel, debris, and other objects often get embedded in a motorcyclist’s skin when they slide against the road after a crash. Many cases of road rash are minor and heal with at-home remedies. However, severe road rash injuries require emergency medical care and ongoing treatment.

Road rash commonly occurs on exposed body parts, such as:

  • Elbows
  • Face
  • Lower legs
  • Shoulders
  • Arms
  • Knees
  • Palms
  • Thighs

Road rash symptoms depend on the severity of the injury. Some pain and bleeding can occur even if a mild abrasion affects only the outer layer of the skin. Deep abrasions extend below the skin’s surface may occur along with other injuries, including:

  • Broken bones
  • Damage to blood vessels, nerves, or tendons
  • Foreign bodies, such as glass or dirt, in the wound
  • Bruising

A traumatic tattoo is the most extreme complication of road rash. It develops when particles embed into the skin, causing permanent discoloration and scarring from the abrasion.

Types and Degrees of Road Rash

Multiple types of road rash can occur in a motorcycle accident, including:

  • Avulsion – An avulsion occurs when the skin is scraped off because of the friction created by the body sliding against a rough surface. It exposes underlying skin layers, nerves, muscles, and other internal parts.
  • Compression – A compression road rash involves a part of a body getting stuck between two objects, such as a motorcycle and the road or another vehicle. Compression can cause severe abrasions, muscle damage, and broken bones.
  • Open wound – An open wound can result from a road rash. It often requires stitches, skin grafts, or plastic surgery.

There are also different degrees of road rash, including:

  • First-degree road rash – First-degree road rash is the least severe. Typically, it causes minor scrapes, bruising, and bleeding.
  • Second-degree road rash – Second-degree road rash scrapes the top layer of skin, exposing the layers underneath, including muscle, tendons, and nerves. Gravel, glass, and other debris can also enter the open wound.
  • Third-degree road rash – With third-degree road rash, the skin can be peeled off altogether, leaving a shiny or milky appearance. Road rash this severe could cover more than ten percent of the body. Nerve damage may result, and the wound might not be painful at all. Severe abrasions expose muscle, bone, nerves, and tendons. Infection, disfigurement, and scarring are common complications.

How to Treat Road Rash

Minor cases of road rash are often treatable at home. However, you should always seek immediate care from a medical provider to determine the severity of the injury and prevent infection and other complications.

Treating road rash at home should include:

  • Wash hands before caring for the wound
  • Gently wash the abrasion
  • Remove dirt and debris with tweezers
  • Apply an antibiotic ointment
  • Cover the road rash with a non-adherent pad or other lightweight medical covering
  • Change the bandage regularly
  • Monitor the injury for signs of infection

Go to the hospital if you notice any of these issues:

  • Large foreign objects embedded in the affected area
  • Pus or drainage from the open wound
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Injury covers most of the body or a limb
  • Visible bone or muscle

How to Protect Yourself Against Road Rash

You might already wear a helmet to prevent a concussion. However, you must protect the rest of your body from injury. That includes taking specific precautions to mitigate the risk of road rash.

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation suggests wearing personal protective gear, such as:

  • Face shield to protect the face from the sun and flying debris during a collision
  • Gloves to prevent abrasions
  • Long sleeve shirts, pants, and other clothing to protect the rest of the body from injury, including road rash
  • Boots explicitly designed for motorcyclists

Pursuing Compensation for Road Rash

In New York, personal injury protection insurance (PIP) is mandatory for all motor vehicle drivers. However, coverage does not extend to motorcyclists. If someone else causes your injuries in a motorcycle accident, you could file a claim with their liability insurance company. Unlike people injured in other motor vehicles, motorcyclists who are injured by someone else’s wrongdoing need not meet the state’s serious injury threshold in order to file a claim. A motorcyclist can bring a claim against the at-fault party’s insurance company even for minor injuries.

The money you receive in a third-party claim or lawsuit against the negligent driver might compensate you for your:

  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Ambulance services, hospitalization, surgeries, and other medical expenses
  • Past and future lost income
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Scarring or permanent loss of limb
  • Property damage

You can also recover punitive damages in a lawsuit. To be awarded punitive damages, you must show clear and convincing evidence of the defendant’s recklessness, willful or wanton negligence, or conscious disregard for others’ rights.

How Long Do You Have to File a Lawsuit?

New York’s statute of limitations provides a three-year window for filing a personal injury lawsuit after a crash. You have three years from the date of the accident to file your lawsuit against the at-fault party. If you miss the filing deadline and try to file later, your case will likely be dismissed, and you’ll lose your chance to pursue compensation in court.

Contact a Dedicated New York Motorcycle Accident Lawyer

Road rash can significantly interfere with your life and lead to long-term consequences. The last thing you want while treating your injury is to pursue legal action against the at-fault party.

Finz & Finz, P.C. can handle your case so you can focus on your recovery. Call us at 855-TOP-FIRM for a free consultation if you sustained a road rash injury in a motorcycle accident due to someone else’s negligence.

  • About the Author
  • Latest Posts

Finz & Finz, P.C. is a New York and Long Island personal injury law firm based out of Mineola, NY. It was founded in 1984 and is highly rated, with many honors and awards of excellence.