Many motorcycle drivers know how they can get hurt on their bikes, from a head injury to friction abrasions, more commonly known as road rash. The colloquial name belies the severity of road rash, damage to the epidermis that can be serious and require surgery or skin grafts to treat.
There is an important role motorcycle accident lawyers have in protecting road rash victims. Extensive scarring, high infection risk, and a lot of pain are common from road rash injuries. Learning more about road rash—how it happens, how to treat it, and how severe it can get—can help you make more informed decisions about what kind of protective gear to don before hopping on the bike.
Because road rash most commonly happens in motorcycle wrecks, it’s always a good idea to consult with a Port Richey motorcycle accident lawyer after a crash to protect your legal rights.
What Is a Friction Abrasion?
Friction abrasions caused by the scraping of the skin against the road are called road rash. It happens when multiple layers of skin are scraped off and can be quite serious, scraping down to the muscle or even the bone.
It’s most common on areas of the body not covered by clothing, leathers, or protective motorcycle gear, but many motorcycle crash lawyers see clients who suffered road rash even through clothing.
Road rash is much more than just a skinned knee. The avulsion often completely removes the upper and lower dermis and the layer of fatty tissue beneath, revealing muscle and sometimes bone.
Road rash injuries are irregularly shaped open wounds that can be tricky to treat, and because they have such a large open surface, they often require skin grafts to repair.
An open wound for a road rash can easily get infected. Your flesh coming into contact with all the dirt and debris on the road is a recipe for serious infection. Seeking medical treatment immediately after a collision can help ensure that your wound receives proper cleaning and that you get medication to ward off infection.
Similarly to burn injuries, road rash abrasions are rated in terms of their depth and severity. All of them are painful and require medical care. And don’t forget to obtain a copy of your medical records for your motorcycle accident lawyer.
How Does Road Rash Affect the Body? The Complications of Road Rash Abrasions
Road rash can cause serious complications, requiring immediate medical treatment and ongoing medical care.
Be aware of some of these indications that lead to complications from road rash.
If these happen later, after the accident, you may want to pursue additional medical care:
- A large area of damaged skin, more than three hands wide, which has more of a risk of getting infected or scarring
- Abrasive damage to your feet, hands, or genital area, which are especially prone to infection due to higher concentrations of bacteria on the skin there
- Visible bone or muscle, which may mean nerve damage or permanent limitations to your range of motion
- Foreign objects embedded in the abrasion area, which can further damage the tissue if not promptly removed or lead to infection
- Excessive bleeding that you can’t stop, which needs quick medical care and stitching
It’s important to speak with a motorcycle accident attorney before accepting a settlement from the other party because you may require several skin grafts for your injury or require hospitalization if the abrasion becomes infected.
Road Rash Can Lead to Infections
Wound infections are one of the most serious complications of a skin abrasion, especially if part of the fatty tissue and muscle beneath the skin has been scraped away.
When you have moderate to severe road rash, there is no protective barrier between your flesh and any bacteria or virus. An open wound is a warm area with a ready food source—ideal for bacteria to multiply rapidly.
Wound infections can quickly turn serious, and if you go into septic shock, you may never fully recover or even survive. When a road rash wound becomes a danger, the area around the skin will redden. It may also swell, become inflamed, or start bleeding again.
After a few days, redness and pain around the abrasion should abate. If they increase, you likely have an infection. With an infection, the area around the wound will feel warm to the touch, and you could develop a sudden fever.
Fluid, pus, or a foul-smelling discharge from the wound indicates infection. Red streaks radiating out from the source of the wound in lines are almost always a symptom of blood poisoning—a severe infection that has reached your bloodstream. Blood poisoning could lead to septic shock if left untreated.
Sepsis is characterized by a life-threatening drop in blood pressure and potential organ failure. This dangerous potential outcome of a road rash infection is why doctors generally pay close attention to the healing processes of any open wounds.
Large, deep skin and muscle abrasions always carry an infection risk; a doctor may decide that you require a tetanus shot or an antibiotics regimen to help prevent lockjaw or a staph infection.
When you’re at the hospital, make sure to photograph your injuries so that your motorcycle accident lawyer has photo proof of the extent of your injuries. You may need to ask someone else to take pictures for you.
Keeping your skin and the area around your wound clean and using sterile wound dressing is critical to prevent complications or infection. Even with the best care, you may experience complications from your injury.
When your motorcycle accident lawyer is valuing your case, they will take into account the effect that complications have on your life, so make sure you document any of these:
- Contamination from skin bacteria that leads to a staph infection
- Tetanus, which causes painful muscle cramps and a condition called lockjaw, in which tensed jaw muscles prevent you from opening your jaw
- Necrotizing fasciitis, the death of the soft tissue around the rash wound and the area inside it
Left untreated, necrotizing fasciitis and bacterial infections can lead to sepsis, which poisons the body, or dermal damage severe enough to require amputation. Always monitor your road rash for signs of infection—if it starts smelling, oozing pus, or you suddenly develop a high fever, you may want to seek medical attention immediately.
The Aftereffects of Road Rash—Treatments and Care
After the initial emergency care for your road rash injury, your doctor will evaluate the extent of the damage and determine the course of treatment.
If the avulsion penetrates beneath the subcutaneous fat to the muscle or bone, you may have nerve damage. Severe road rash can also damage your tendons and ligaments, which could require surgical repair.
Third-degree road rash injuries are significantly harder to treat than other types of damage to the muscles, ligaments, and tendons due to their irregular shape. Since the injury happened through scraping and tearing, the edges may be jagged, and the abrasion could entirely remove portions of the muscle, tendon, or ligament.
Third-degree and some second-degree road rash injuries require surgery to repair. The doctor may need to reattach tendons or ligaments or repair the muscles abraded from the injury. You may also have an infection that requires surgical drainage to treat.
Skin grafts may happen during the initial surgery to repair the damaged muscle, but they often are a follow-up treatment after the raw wound has healed. If the road rash covers a large portion of your body, your doctor will likely recommend skin grafts.
If the damage from the road rash was on your face or hands, you might require plastic surgery to help restore the way you look or to improve the dexterity of your hands and fingers. If the scarring is visible even when you are fully clothed, doctors may deem plastic surgery medically necessary or necessary to allow you to resume your daily activities.
Long-Term Care and Rehabilitation After Severe Road Rash
Recovery from severe road rash can take months, especially if you have a wound infection or you require plastic surgery or skin grafts.
If the road rash has damaged your muscles, you might need physical therapy after healing. Surgically reattaching your tendons and ligaments or repairing torn muscles can make them tight, and without regular therapy and rehabilitation, you will have a significantly limited range of movement.
If the muscle damage was in your legs or glutes, you might need physical therapy to learn to walk again. Or, if you had skin grafts, you may need help with movement because of the tightening of the skin. Restricted mobility of the joints near the injury can be common as well.
Your motorcycle accident injury lawyer will evaluate the extent of physical and occupational rehabilitation therapy required after the accident and consider those costs when valuing your case.
The Mental Impact of Road Rash Scarring
Although it’s easy to dismiss concerns about your appearance after road rash scarring or skin grafts, the impact on a victim’s mental health is profound. The distress many feel when their appearance is drastically altered goes far beyond vanity and can significantly affect their mental health.
For example, someone with scarring on their face may develop situational anxiety or other mental health problems due to the injury. These concerns can easily affect all aspects of the victim’s life, such as making them unable to do a customer-facing job or causing strained relationships with others.
Some people may require therapy and counseling to adjust to life with road rash scars. An experienced lawyer will include these expenses in your claim for compensation.
Scarring and disfigurement are common after road rash and can be painful and limit your movements. Many people may also suffer mental and emotional trauma, which your motorcycle accident lawyer will consider when building your case.
If your accident has impacted your job or your ability to do activities you used to enjoy, let your lawyer know. You deserve compensation for the pain and suffering you experienced.
My Road Rash Injuries Rendered Me Unable to Work At My Old Job. What Are My Options?
Victims of road rash may be left permanently unable to do certain physical activities after the injury, especially if there is irreparable muscle damage or muscle loss. It is always important to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle.
Someone whose job was mostly physical, such as construction, HVAC repair, or restaurant work, may not have the same physical capabilities or range of motion they had before and so may need to find a new career.
You may be able to perform a different job in the same field, but some road rash injury victims need vocational training to start a career that they can manage with their changed abilities.
Suppose that you are no longer able to earn a living in the same manner that you did before the accident. In that case, your motorcycle crash injury attorney will consider the impact of lost wages and potential earnings and add those to your settlement claim.
Have You Gotten Road Rash Injury from a Motorcycle Collision? Turn to a Motorcycle Accident Attorney
The other driver that caused your motorcycle wreck may be liable for the injuries you suffered from it, including road rash and any complications from that abrasion. If you’ve been hurt in a motorcycle collision you didn’t cause, an experienced Port Richey personal injury lawyer can help you pursue a case for damages.