How is Road Rash Treated After a Motorcycle Accident?

Motorcycles have no walls that enclose the rider or passenger.  As a result, it is common for people to be thrown from the vehicle in the event of an accident.  When this occurs, the ejected crash victim will skid along the road, or any other surface, until he or she comes to a stop.  Even with leather protection, this sort of intense friction can result in serious abrasion injuries, which are colloquially known as “road rash.”  Salt Lake City motorcycle accident lawyer Darwin Overson discusses how road rash is treated, and talks about what you should do if you suffered road rash from a motorcycle crash in Utah.

What is Road Rash, and How is it Caused by Motorcycle Crashes?

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It is highly likely that you will be thrown from your motorcycle if you are impacted by another vehicle, even at relatively low speeds.  The only thing connecting you to the bike is the strength of your own grip on the handlebars, which is no match for the tremendous forces exerted by passenger cars and other vehicles.

Media reports on motorcycle accidents frequently describe accounts of victims who were ejected, sometimes flying dozens of feet, before landing on the road or coming into contact with a fixed object.  For example, in August 2016, FOX 13 reported on a female victim, identified by the Salt Lake Tribune as 42-year-old Charity Hardman, who was killed “after a motorcycle crash in Draper… ejected both occupants on the bike.”  The other victim, 40-year-old Douglas Milne, was transported to a local hospital with serious injuries.

When a person is ejected from a motorcycle, leather gear – which they may not be wearing – is essentially their only line of defense against a harsh, scraping stretch of asphalt, concrete, or other rough materials, which may be littered with glass, rocks, and other debris.  The intense friction created by contact can easily scrape and tear fabric – and eventually, if the victim was ejected with sufficient speed and force, the delicate bare skin underneath.  Because they are caused by friction, road rash injuries are sometimes called friction burns.  You may also hear them referred to as skin abrasion injuries.

Anyone can sustain a road rash injury after being in a motorcycle accident.  However, a 2009 study published in Injury, a peer-reviewed medical journal, noted that “passengers had a greater incidence of… road rash” following an accident.

Even a landing on a soft surface like grass, though less likely to cause serious road rash, is capable of resulting in severe injuries like bone fractures, a spinal cord injury, or a traumatic brain injury.  According to the Utah Department of Public Safety, only 172 out of the 1,179 motorcycle crashes reported in 2014 – about 14.5% – resulted in property damage only.  Nearly every single crash resulted in either injury or death: 1,007 out of 1,179 accidents (over 85%).

Does Road Rash Leave Scars? How Are Friction Burn Injuries Treated?

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Similar to a burn injury that is caused by heat or fire, a friction burn or road rash injury can also be classified based on its severity.  There are three levels of road rash injuries:

  • First Degree Friction Burns – There will be swelling, pain, redness, and possibly some bleeding.  Even if the injury seems minor, see a doctor promptly.  This will minimize the risk of infection – and you may have sustained other injuries that need to be looked at.
  • Second Degree Friction Burns – There will be blood loss and swelling in the injured area.  Depending on the location and severity of the injury, structures beneath the skin, such as tendons and muscle fibers, may be exposed.
  • Third Degree Friction Burns – Despite the great depth and severity of the wound, the injury may feel painless because nerves have been destroyed.  However, the area around the wound where nerves are still intact will be very painful and sensitive.  Wounds of this severity demand urgent medical care and are likely to result in permanent scarring.

A 2009 study published in the Annals of Burns and Fire Disasters, another peer-reviewed medical journal, noted that “Unless they are full thickness, friction burns do not usually require any surgical intervention.”  You may have heard the term “full thickness” burn used to describe burns caused by heat and fire.  A full thickness friction burn, which is deeper than a partial thickness burn, is an injury that destroys the entire epidermis (the upper layer of the two outermost layers of skin), as well as much of the dermis underneath.  Skin grafting is usually necessary to treat a full thickness burn.

Depending on factors like how deep the injury penetrates and whether the wound heals normally, a road rash injury may leave permanent scars behind, especially if surgery or skin grafting is necessary.  You may be able to reduce the risk of scarring by gently washing the wound with clean water, such as water from an unopened bottle of drinking water, but do not attempt to take care of your road rash at home without seeking medical attention.  The wound will need to be dressed, and you may require antibiotics, which only a physician can prescribe.

As with any accident-related injury, you should see a doctor immediately for medical care.  This will reduce the chance of infection, while also giving your doctor a chance to attend to, or rule out the possibility of, other internal or external injuries you may have sustained, such as a whiplash injury.

Contact a Salt Lake City Motorcycle Accident Lawyer if You Were Hurt in a Crash

Road rash, permanent scars, and other injuries caused by motorcycle accidents can leave deep physical, emotional, and financial wounds, especially when the victim was driving responsibly and was injured by the careless actions of another driver.

If you or a loved one was injured in a crash while biking or riding as a passenger, an experienced Utah County motorcycle accident lawyer like Darwin Overson of Overson Law may be able to help you recover compensation for your medical bills and other losses.  Compensation for scar injuries and other injuries may be available.  To set up a free legal consultation, call the law offices of Overson Law at (801) 895-3143 today.


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