Road rash injuries in a motorcycle wreckEveryone remembers the feeling of falling on the playground and skinning their knee. These wounds, commonly called road rash, tend to be superficial in children who fall from a swing or a bicycle. However, these abrasions are much more severe when a person is traveling at high speeds on a motorcycle.

What Is Road Rash?

Road rash is an unfortunately common motorcycle crash injury. As a rider is thrown from their bike or slides along the road after a crash, their skin scrapes against the pavement, concrete, or gravel. Depending on the severity of the injury, a victim may suffer pain, bleeding, infections, or scarring.

Motorcycle riders and passengers are more likely to suffer road rash than drivers because of their lack of protection in a crash. In a collision, motorcyclists are almost always separated from their bikes, with only a layer of clothing between them and the road. While leathers and other safety clothing can help protect a rider’s skin from road rash, Massachusetts law doesn’t require motorcyclists to wear these garments.

The Different Types and Degrees of Road Rash


Road rash is technically a type of friction burn. Like thermal and chemical burns, the severity of road rash is measured in degrees. A first-degree rash is the least serious, resulting in bruising, redness, scratches, tenderness, and minor bleeding. The majority of first-degree injuries can be treated with first aid.

Anything beyond a first-degree rash is considered a severe injury that needs immediate treatment from a medical professional. If the abrasions are deep, a motorcyclist may need several different types of medical care.

Medical Care a Road Rash Victim May Need

  • IV fluids. Emergency care typically involves the administration of intravenous fluids and nutrients to prevent further tissue damage. Shock resuscitation may be necessary to improve circulation and prevent the vital organs from shutting down.
     
  • Wound cleaning and stitches. A doctor may use water or tweezers to clear glass, gravel, and other debris from the wound to avoid infection. Once each site is thoroughly cleaned, it can take several stitches to close the wounds. You may need oral antibiotics to prevent infection, or your wounds may be treated with topical antiseptics and antimicrobial medications.
     
  • Skin grafts. Riders with second or third-degree road rash may see exposed muscles, tendons, bones, or other tissues at the wound site. If the wound is too large to close with stitches or sutures, patients may need skin grafting to cover the area. In skin grafting, a doctor removes the top two layers of skin from another body area and relocates it to grow over the abrasion site.
     
  • Amputation. Cases of third-degree road rash are traumatic, with patients either suffering extreme pain or inability to feel the wound site due to nerve damage. Numbness may accompany road rash after compression (when a biker’s arm or leg is pinned under their bike). If infection sets in or tissue begins to die, doctors may have no choice but to amputate the limb.

Long-Term Complications of Road Rash


A severe road rash injury can result in multiple surgeries, extended hospital stays to combat infection, and months of follow-up care. You may be out of work for several weeks due to the demands of your medical care – and if you suffer permanent effects, you may be unable to go back to work at all.

Road rash on the face, hands, arms, or chest can cause a number of long-lasting problems.

Permanent Results of Road Rash

  • Traumatic tattooing. Patients may need painful laser treatments to correct uneven skin pigmentation called traumatic tattooing.
     
  • Permanent scarring. Skin and fat grafting can help replace lost layers of skin, fat, and muscle tissue, but patients can still be left with unsightly or painful scars.
     
  • Disfigurement. The cheeks, chin, nose, and other protrusions can be ground down by the road surface, permanently altering the victim’s appearance. Depending on the extent of the trauma, the patient may need plastic surgery to restore a natural look.

How a Massachusetts Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Can Help

If you have been hurt in a bike crash, the experienced motorcycle lawyers at Mahaney & Pappas, LLP are here to help. We can fight to get you the financial compensation you deserve for your medical expenses, loss of income, pain and suffering, and lost quality of life. Please contact us online or call (508) 879-3500 to schedule a free case evaluation.

Joseph M. Mahaney
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Injury lawyer serving car, truck, and motorcycle accident victims in Webster and Framingham, Massachusetts.
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