By Matt Lalande in Motorcycle Accidents on July 22, 2020
Motorcyclists are no doubt vulnerable to devastating and catastrophic injuries due to the way that collisions occur and the lack of protection they have against a motor vehicle. In fact, a study out of Sunnybrook a few years ago revealed that motorcycles account for about 10% of motor vehicle deaths while making up only 2% of traffic on the roads; motorcycle crashes cause injuries which are 10 times more severe then those resulting from accidents involving cars; the medical costs flowing from motorcycle accidents are six times higher than those associated with car crashes and motorcyclists are 13.5 times more likely to die in a road accidents than other motorists driving other types of vehicles on our highways.
Motorcycle accidents can result in very serious injuries because there is little or no protection for the rider. What would be a modest accident for a driver of a car, resulting in no injuries, can be for a motorcycle rider, under the same circumstances, an accident resulting in brutally devastating and life-changing injuries. Because of the unique biomechanics of motorcycle riding, many brain injuries and spinal injuries often result. Below are some common injuries that we often see when representing motorcyclists involved in serious accidents.
Whether a motorcyclist flips over their bike or skids down the road with it, when the body makes contact with the asphalt during an accident, there is a serious risk of suffering severe abrasions or road rash. Road rash is a very common term used for abrasions caused by scrapes to the skin. Severe road rash or road burn is quite common in motorcycle accidents. It generally occurs when the motorcyclists falls slideways and slides along the road after impact.
For this reason, many motorcyclists often wear protective gear such as leather pants, gloves, and jackets. While this gear may not reduce the chances of road rash after an accident, it can greatly assist in reducing the amount of bodily damage the individual experiences.
When an individual suffers a severe road rash, the wound may penetrate the skin deep enough to require skin grafting surgery or plastic surgery to repair facial damage. If the skin is not properly treated after suffering a severe road rash, the individual could suffer permanent disfigurement, scarring, nerve damage, and infection that could cause complications. Treatment ranges from debridement, skin grafts and antibiotics to treat possible infection.
A motorcyclist’s upper body and chest are extremely vulnerable because they do not have the same protection an individual driving a motor vehicle has. The upper body is open and exposed, and cannot withstand the impact of a vehicle weighing more than 4,000 pounds.
Generally, a motorcyclist is at risk for suffering severe upper body and chest injuries when they are thrown from the motorcycle or pinned between the motorcycle and the motor vehicle. They can also occur when the individual is thrown over the handlebars and attempts to break their fall.
Motorcyclists with upper body injuries may face include limb amputations, lacerations, contusions, broken arms or hands, and internal injuries to the upper body organs, such as internal bleeding and puncture wounds.
The Ontario Brain Injury Association estimates that more than 18 thousand brain injuries occur each year amongst adults in this province, of which nearly 70 percent are traumatic brain injuries (TBI) caused by trauma or traumatic blunt force.
A closed head injury is one which usually results from blunt trauma to the head, which is quite common in motorcycle accidents. Acceleration and deceleration forces cause the brain to rotate in the skull. As a result of this, maximum pressure is exerted on the frontal and temporal regions resulting in sheering and extensive white matter damage. In a closed head injury, brain damage over a large area often results in a great variety of deficits including loss of consciousness, problems in attention and memory, and alterations in social behavior. Extensive research has confirmed that it can be very difficult for head injury victims to return to normal family or community life.
A traumatic brain injury is a serious and common type of injury in any type of motor vehicle accident – but most particularly motorcycle accidents. Traumatic head injury can be in the form of concussions, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, extra-axial hematomas, contusions and diffuse axonal injury. If the head injury causes a significant amount of internal bleeding, surgical intervention may be warranted. A craniotomy is normally required when there is a significant mass effect from either an epidural or subdural hematoma or a contusion with a significant volume of blood surrounding the brain. However, it is significantly prevalent in motorcycle accidents. According to the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine, larger motorcycles with larger size engines increase an individual’s risk of suffering a head injury. Statistically, larger motorcycles are often more likely to be involved in heavier accidents, overturns, or collisions with highway structures.
The cost of caring for brain injured patients can become astronomical. What becomes important about the cost, however, is that the quality of care for the victim, and thus the quality of life that person can experience after the traumatic brain injury, is dependent on available finances – which is why it is so important to ensure that your rights are protected if you were hurt by a negligent party and there is insurance monies that you can access. There’s no doubt that the financial effect of a traumatic brain injury can cost a victim millions in lifetime care and assistance with daily living.
Motorcyclists are often at risk for shoulder injuries due to hyperextension or improper bracing before a fall. If a motorcyclist falls directly onto their shoulder, they may suffer a dislocated shoulder injury. When a shoulder is dislocated, this means that the arm bone has fallen out of the socket that connects it with the shoulder. A dislocated shoulder may be healed with treatment and by surgical means where necessary, but can leave the individual vulnerable to more shoulder injuries in the future.
Your shoulder is the most complex and flexible joint in the body. It is designed to allow substantial joint flexibility and motion rather than for overall strength. Your shoulder is made up of three bones, the scapula (your shoulder blade), the humerus (your upper arm bone), and the clavicle (your collar bone); a number of muscles that support the bones and shoulder joint.
There are a number of serious shoulder injuries that can be caused in motorcycle accidents, such such as impingement, tendonitis, bursitis, arthritic changes and tears of the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is a group of tendons at the joint that connects the arm muscles to the shoulder muscles. When these tendons suffer a tear due to forceful trauma, they are ripped from the bone. A full rotator cuff tear can be incredibly painful and cause permanent damage if it is not treated promptly or does not heal properly.
Broken bones and fractures are particularly common in motorcycle accidents, especially to the lower body extremities. When the impact of a collision puts too much strain on an individual’s body, the bones may crush, fracture, or break. The weight of a motor vehicle on a motorcycle’s body is enough to produce this result.
A CDC study that observed motorcycle accidents between 2001 and 2008 found that 30% of non-fatal injuries occur to the motorcyclist’s legs and feet. In a motorcycle accident, the legs and feet could become crushed under the motorcycle or the vehicle and are therefore vulnerable to breaks, crushes, and fractures.
Suffering from broken bones often requires the individual to take significant time away from their regular lifestyle to undergo surgery, healing, and recovery. After the bone is healed, the individual may still be susceptible to complications in the long-term future, such as arthritis, osteoporosis, and permanent nerve damage.
Motorcycle accident victims may also suffer spinal cord injuries that could result in permanent nerve damage and paralysis. Due to the force of a fall from the impact of a collision, the spinal cord can become severely and permanently damaged. When this happens, nerve signals are unable to reach the brain or travel along their regular patterns, causing an interruption to bodily functions including mobility, sensation, and bladder or bowel control.
Suffering paralysis from a spinal cord injury can lead to a significant lifestyle change for the victim which can be overwhelming and cause psychological distress, chronic physical pain, and many health complications or risks.
Paralysis can result in a motorcycle accident victim becoming paraplegic of quadriplegic. Quadriplegia results from injury to one of the eight cervical segments. Paraplegia results from lesions in thoracic, lumbar or sacral regions of the spinal cord. SCI may result in varying syndromes, including:
Central Cord Syndrome – central cord syndrome is a form of incomplete spinal cord injury characterized by impairment in the arms and hands and to a lesser extent in the legs.
Brown-Bequard Syndrome – brown-sequard syndrome (BSS) is a rare neurological condition characterized by a lesion in the spinal cord which results in weakness or paralysis (hemiparaplegia) on one side of the body and a loss of sensation (hemianesthesia) on the opposite side.
Anterior Spinal Syndrome – usually seen as a result of compression of the artery that runs along the front of the spinal cord.
Conus Medullaris: conus Medullaris result from injury to the tip of the spinal cord (located at L1) and;
Cauda Equina Syndrome – the bundle of nerve roots at the end of your spinal canal are called the cauda equina, which is latin for “horse’s tail.” The part of your spinal cord communicates with your brain, sending nerve signals back and forth regarding the sensory and motor functions of the organs in your pelvic region.Cauda Equina syndrome is an injury to spinal roots at the end of the spinal canal – which can interrupt control of your bladder, legs, and other parts of your lower body.
Road traffic accident ranks among the leading causes of fatalities in the world – and the second leading cause of death in 2020 after heart disease. A peer reviewed medical study our of California tell us that head injuries are the most common cause of death in fatal motorcycle accidents. In particular, skull fracture with brain stem laceration accounted for a significant portion of unsurvivable head injuries seen in motorcycle accident victims. Chest and abdominal injuries are often seen in fatal motorcycle accidents, as well as
Unfortunately, many motorcycle accidents can have fatal consequences for the motorcyclist. A 2017 study indicated that, while motorcyclists only account for approximately 2% of road traffic in Ontario, they account for approximately 10% of all motor vehicle deaths in the province. In many cases, the impact of the collision combined with the lack of protection from the vehicle itself can cause significant enough trauma to pose fatal injuries.
If an individual is killed in a motorcycle accident at the fault of a motor vehicle driver, some immediate family members have the right to sue the negligent driver for certain types of economic and non-economic compensation. These family members include an individual’s spouse, siblings, parents, or grandparents. Compensation may include financial support to cover funeral expenses, loss of income or family support, the loss of care guidance and companionship and other economic losses, among other costs. You can read more about wrongful death here.
Matt Lalande is a Hamilton motorcycle accident lawyer that has worked with countless motorcycle accident victims throughout Ontario and has assisted both victims and families in receiving maximum compensation for their injuries. Our motorcycle accident law firm is familiar with the complications and frustrations a motorcycle accident victim undergoes and will work with you to ensure you get a fair compensation – either by settlement or jury verdict.
We offer free consultations and we never ask our clients for money upfront. If you are incapable of traveling, we will come to you and meet you where you are more comfortable. All consultations are completely confidential and there is no obligation to retain our firm once we meet with you. Contact us province wide at 1-844-LALANDE or local at 905-333-8888 or through our online contact form to request your free consultation and get started on financial recovery.