At one time or another, when talking about motorcycles, you may have heard these words, “It’s not if, but when you go down.”
Every motorcycle accident is different. No two are exactly alike. All riders, however, have something in common. It does not matter if it is a single motorcycle accident or the result of a collision with a motor vehicle. Injured motorcycle riders need to recover physically, emotionally, and financially. The reality of a motorcycle accident is harsh.
One key to recovery is knowing what to expect.
- More than 80 percent of all reported motorcycle crashes result in injury or death to the motorcyclist
- Motorcyclists were nearly 29 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a crash per vehicle miles
If you drove your motorcycle responsibly but could not avoid an accident because someone else could not pay attention, obey the speed limit, abstain from drinking too much, or any other reason, a motorcycle accident lawyer can make sure you don’t have to pay for those often catastrophic injuries.
Whether a motorcycle accident is a result of defective equipment, a motor vehicle driver’s distraction or impairment, or an uncontrollable environmental situation, riders are highly susceptible to severe injury. Recovery from a traumatic physical injury is complex, challenging, and painful. Protective riding gear offers limited protection from the impact of a body violently thrust onto the pavement.
So, what can you often expect after a motorcycle accident?
- Multiple visits to medical providers, including emergency room physicians, pain specialists, surgeons, physiologists, psychiatrists, dentists, and rehabilitation therapists
- Extensive diagnostic testing including, X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, EEGs, and neurological evaluations
- Inpatient hospitalizations
Common types of injuries caused by motorcycle accidents are:
- Internal organ damage
- Damage to extremities
- Cervical, lumbar, and thoracic spinal injuries
- Brain injury
- Facial injury
- Road rash
- Traumatic amputation
Some of the most serious injuries in a motorcycle accident are fractures, traumatic brain injury, traumatic amputation, and road rash.
Fractures can quickly turn complex, and healing from a fracture is a relatively long process. Bones twist and spiral out of place, break in several places, shatter and protrude through the skin. This type of injury sustained in a motorcycle accident can sometimes cause nerve damage, localized infection, sepsis, blood clots, and can lead to pressure ulcers from wearing a cast for a long time. In addition, bleeding within muscles and joints is a possible complication. Some fractured bones never heal properly and may eventually become life-threatening.
- Femoral artery damage.
The skin (integumentary system) is the largest organ in the body, serving as protection from temperature fluctuations and bacteria. Road rash is just another way of saying the skin is literally ripped off (or burned off) as these layers of protective coverings are peeled away. Second-degree, and third-degree “burns’ may become embedded with roadway debris (dirt, rocks, glass, etc.), sometimes all the way to the bone. These friction wounds can leave permanent scars, known as traumatic tattoos. In cases of severe road rash, skin grafting may be necessary. This process involves surgically removing healthy patches of skin from undamaged parts of the body and attaching the grafts to the damaged areas.
Due to the violent nature of a motorcycle accident, full protective gear (helmet, boots, jacket, gloves, and eyewear) is always a sensible idea. A full helmet, leather boots, jacket, gloves, and eyewear are essential. Wearing a t-shirt and shorts exposes you to extremely painful burns, cuts, and scarring in case you fall off or are ejected in an accident.
Additional complications of road rash can include:
- Limits in range of motion
- Soft tissue damage
- Agonizing pain
- Emotional injuries
Amputation is a life-changing experience when a motor vehicle accident rips or shears off a limb.
Victims of traumatic amputation may experience:
- Severe blood loss
- Multiple surgeries
- Phantom limb pain
- Massive tissue damage
- Muscle damage
- Pulmonary embolism
- The need to relearn basic life skills
- The loss of balance and coordination skills
Traumatic injury accounts for about 45 percent of all amputations
Traumatic Brain Injury
Many people may not realize how common brain injuries are following a motorcycle accident.
Signs and symptoms of a brain injury:
- Memory loss
- Changes in vision or hearing
- Bad taste in the mouth
- Sleep problems
- Slurred speech, trouble finding words
- Emotional changes, depression, etc.
In addition to pain, you may experience:
- Loss of consciousness
- Leaking of fluid from the ears
- First, second, or third-degree burns
- Gastrointestinal symptoms
Additionally, any of the following symptoms may be warning signs of a serious, undiagnosed, injury:
- Memory loss
- Inability to process thoughts
- Multi-tasking problems
- Diminished organizational skills
- Intractable headaches
- Light sensitivity
- Communication problems
- Audio and visual issues
How are traumatic brain injuries diagnosed?
Any of the above symptoms are warning signs and demand immediate medical attention for evaluation, stabilization, blood pressure monitoring, and maintaining adequate oxygenation.
During a medical exam to rule out a traumatic brain injury, you may expect:
- A review of your immediate medical condition
- A detailed description of your symptoms
- A neurologic exam
- Diagnostic imaging tests
A recent blood test to evaluate mild traumatic brain injury in adults was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
First and foremost, seek medical attention. Sometimes there is a delayed onset of signs and symptoms of injury following a motorcycle accident. Get medical help early on, and continue treatment until your care team feels you have reached the maximum possible recovery. Make healthy lifestyle choices during your recovery period. It just seems healthy people heal faster.
Coping With Psychological Issues
If something is distressing or disturbing, it is generally traumatic. There is a connection between physical trauma and emotional distress. Dealing with psychological trauma following motorcycle accidents is just as important as addressing physical injury. Facing the possibility of long-term pain, loss of independence, permanent disfigurement, and loss of income, can take an emotional toll. Some things are simply out of our control.
Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Victims of motorcycle accidents sometimes experience symptoms of acute stress such as:
- Flattened emotions
- Problems concentrating
- Heightened fear
- Lack of coping skills
- Avoidance of social activities
People with PTSD relive the trauma, sometimes daily, and are vulnerable to:
- Abrupt mood swings
- Cognitive impairment
- Lack of problem-solving skills
- Trust issues
- Destructive behavior
- Relationship issues, both personal and professional
- Heightened awareness of danger
- Recurring intrusive memories
- Persistent negativity
- Substance abuse
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can place a victim at risk for depression, anxiety, substance abuse, eating disorders, and suicidal ideations.
Loss Of Confidence
Even experienced and avid riders may lose confidence in their skills and abilities following an accident. The thought of getting back on a motorcycle is overwhelming and terrifying. The possibility of being involved in another accident can sometimes put an end to a once enjoyable activity.
Post-traumatic amnesia can result from trauma, especially head trauma. Victims of short-term memory loss may have problems recalling the details of their accident. Sometimes dates and times get jumbled, Simple tasks become confusing, and thought processes seem to get lost mid-sentence during a conversation. Short-term memory damage is akin to forgetfulness. A once detail-oriented person can become “absent-minded” after a head injury.
What Can Help On The Road To Recovery?
Medication is sometimes used to help relieve symptoms of stress, generalized anxiety disorder, PTSD, and panic disorder. In addition, many patients benefit from eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of exercise, and sufficient rest. Emotional support, either from a therapist or support group may help a victim deal with long-term injuries as well as disabilities. There are things a victim of a motorcycle accident can do to possibly lessen the stress and anxiety associated with trauma. Sometimes it helps to talk to a counselor, get back to normal daily routines as soon as possible, and take a motorcycle safety or defensive driving class.
Losing Financial Security
Following a motorcycle accident, financial issues can take center stage. Medical bills mount up rapidly, missing time from work is a definite possibility and the cost of replacing damaged property can be more than a person or family can handle. Although personal health insurance may cover at least a portion of medical expenses, your Personal Injury Protect (PIP) does not come into play in a motorcycle accident. Florida’s no-fault laws do not apply to vehicles with only two wheels. In Florida, victims of personal injury may be able to obtain compensation for both economic and non-economic damages.
Examples of medical expenses include:
- Doctor bills
- Ambulance charges
- Prescription medication
- Hospital and rehabilitation center charges
- Diagnostic testing
- Home health care
- Adaptive equipment
A personal injury claim, filed against the responsible party, can be a means to an end for recovering compensation for:
- Lost wages
- Lost fringe benefits
- Loss of future earning capacity
- Job retraining
- Necessary modifications to your home or family vehicle
- Loss of consortium
- Pain and suffering
Property damage can include:
- The cost to repair or replace the motorcycle
- Damages for any personal property on your person or bike at the time of the incident
- Replacement costs for protective clothing and gear damaged in the collision
- The cost of a rental vehicle
Frequently there are costs associated with a motorcycle accident that a victim may not initially think about. Ambulance charges, for example, typically arrive long after the accident, and the cost can be shocking. These days, many ambulances are privately owned for-profit vehicles. Their overhead is high, and the cost of a ride to the emergency room is passed on to the patient.
The Orlando fire department states the average cost of an ambulance ride in the city is $700.00. Then there is the sometimes surprising cost of an emergency room physician. If the hospitalist treating the emergency room is not a staff member of the hospital, the fee for his or her service is not included in the hospital bill.
Resources Are Available
Seeking immediate help following a motorcycle accident is vital to a victim’s recovery. In this age of apps, there are some developed for motorcycle riders with safety features to alert emergency services of your GPS location in the event of a crash and notify pre-selected personal contacts. Some even store personal medical information. Popular choices include BikerSOS, Eat Sleep Ride, Silent Beacon, ActivBeacon, REALRIDER, Collision Call.
Additional resources include:
- The Anxiety and Depression Association of America has a downloadable brochure on PTSD
- Florida Rider Training Program
- Driver License Handbook (English)
- Driver License Handbook (Spanish)
- Ride Smart Florida
- Interactive check for vehicle recalls
The concept of recovery is simple, the act of recovery is, more often than not, challenging. A thorough investigation can identify evidence, locate potential witnesses, and photograph the crash site. Utilizing accident reconstruction specialists can help determine the position of each vehicle at the time of impact, and provide theories of causation and help determine who, or what was at fault. Insurance carriers have aggressive investigators at their disposal, standing ready to dispute their client’s culpability. An experienced motorcycle accident lawyer understands the complexities of personal injury law.
They are a valuable resource when it comes to:
- Obtaining and reviewing evidence
- Working with investigators
- Dealing with a medical care team
- Aggressively negotiating with insurance companies
- Understanding medical treatments and prognosis
- Substantiating the need for ongoing medical needs
- Getting the damaged motorcycle repaired or replaced
- Documenting lost wages and projected loss of income
- Calculating fair and just compensation
- Understanding the tactics the insurance companies use
- Dealing with the necessary paperwork
- Timely filing
Any decision you make following a traumatic, life-changing accident may impact your future. An attorney experienced in representing motorcycle accident survivors and their families can help you on the road to physical, emotional, and financial recovery.