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Road Rash Injury During Motorcycle Accidents

Road rash is a serious motorcycle injury resulting when skin scrapes across a hard surface, such as gravel, pavement or rough earth. Although some motorcyclists may consider mild road rash a badge of honor, the reality is these are often serious injuries and treatment can be expensive. Some may suffer lasting pain, scarring and disfigurement.

Road rash is rather unique to motorcycle riders and passengers because they lack the same kind of protection that occupants of other motor vehicles enjoy. While it’s possible for someone inside a car or light truck to be ejected and suffer road rash, motorcyclists who crash are always entirely exposed to the open road, especially in the summer months if they have less clothing cover.

When these injuries are the result of negligence, it’s best to explore all legal avenues of compensation. At the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman, our Boston motorcycle injury attorneys are committed to helping motorcyclists with road rash injuries pursue damages to offset the financial burden.

What is Road Rash?

An estimated 90,000 motorcyclists suffer some form of injury each year in crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Most of those suffer road rash, as our motorcycle accident lawyers know that it’s one of the more common injuries reported, often in conjunction with a myriad of other injuries.

Road rash is a generic term used to explain skin abrasion that results from friction with a rough surface that tears layers of skin. They are sometimes referred to as “friction burns.” It’s generally not as severe as other common motorcycle injuries such as traumatic brain injury or spinal cord damage, but it can be incredibly painful and result in infection and permanent scarring.

While road rash often associated with high-speed collisions, road rash can occur even at lower rates of speed.

The severity of one’s road rash (and thus an estimation of total damages) can be estimated by degrees, much in the same way we measure the severity of burns. These include:

  • First-degree road rash. This is a relatively minor form of road rash wherein victims will experience bruising, tenderness, redness, scraping and perhaps some bleeding. It can sometimes be treated at home, but individuals should seek medical attention just to reduce the chance of an infection.
  • Second-degree road rash. This is considered a serious injury. A person with second-degree road rash is going to experience bleeding and swelling and feel heat radiating from the wound site. It’s possible some may even see exposed nerves, muscle, tendons or other tissue. Fast medical attention is necessary.
  • Third-degree road rash. This is the most serious type of road rash injury and it requires immediate medical attention. There will be deep wounds, exposed tissue and swelling. Victims may either feel extreme pain – or no pain at all, if nerves have been damaged. This level of road rash will often leave permanent scarring and/ or deformities.

As noted by a study published in the journal Annals of Burns and Fire Disasters, management of road rash or “friction burns” is often the same as for thermal burns.

Treatment for Road Rash Injuries

Road rash treatment often starts with administration of intravenous fluids. In the case of extensive burns, there may be shock resuscitation. Topical therapies with antiseptic and/ or antimicrobial medications may also be required. Some need scrubbing (an incredibly painful but necessary process) to prevent “traumatic tattooing.”

In extreme cases, skin grafts may be necessary. Skin grafts are when doctors remove the top two layers of skin from a healthy area of the body (and often one that is easily hidden by clothing) and attach it to another area of the body that suffers from severe scarring. Often, the skin is taken from some other part of the victim, but where scarring is too extensive, there may be an opportunity to use donor skin.

Although road rash can technically occur anywhere on the body, it most often affects the bony, exposed areas of one’s skin. This includes:

  • Hands
  • Forearms
  • Elbows
  • Knees
  • Chin

Most road rash burns are second- and third-degree. These patients tend to be at higher risk of infection because of particles (stones), dirt and other contaminants one encounters during a motorcycle accident. They may require follow-up treatments and medications to keep serious infection at bay.

What Compensation Do I Deserve for Road Rash?

The question of compensation one might expect to receive for a road rash injury is highly case specific.

We start by identifying who was at-fault in the crash. Absent proof of negligence by someone else, the most you may hope to recover will be from your health insurance policy. Unfortunately, while MGL ch. 90 section 34M requires insurers to offer no-fault personal injury protection (PIP) benefits to motorists, insurers in Massachusetts don’t have to provide PIP in motorcycle coverage packages.

That’s why in road rash cases, we carefully examine who may be at-fault and what kind of insurance coverage those individuals/ entities have in place.

We will also examine whether you have uninsured/ underinsured motorist coverage (as explained in MGL ch. 175 section 113L ). You may be entitled to this either as a policyholder or as a beneficiary of someone else’s policy. This is the kind of coverage that will be extended if the at-fault party doesn’t have auto insurance or doesn’t have enough auto insurance to fully cover your damages.

Once we have an idea of the potential coverage available, we’ll look at what your losses have been.

For this, we will examine:

  • Prior medical expenses. We’ll look at your medical bills – everything from emergency room costs to follow-up treatments and therapies.
  • Future medical expenses. This will probably require some weigh-in from treating physicians about the degree of medical certainty that you will need future treatment, such as rehabilitation and medications.
  • Pain and suffering. Road rash injuries are incredibly physically painful. We may have you or an expert witness testify as to the degree of pain you may have suffered and how that has impacted your daily life.
  • Mental anguish . Road rash can leave a person with extensive and permanent scarring. It can limit certain bodily functions. Testimony from you and loved ones about the mental and emotional burdens of these injuries are often equated when determining total losses.
  • Lost wages. Any lost time at work is money you have lost. You may also have lost out on benefits or opportunities for future earnings. All of this will be carefully calculated and included in your total request for damage awards.

Proving monetary damages resulting from road rash is not always a simple matter as insurers often attempt to minimize the damages associated with road rash. The skill of a dedicated and experienced injury lawyer is imperative.

Contact the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman today for a free and confidential consultation.
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