As an attorney who handles motorcycle cases, I routinely help people who have suffered head injuries. Head injuries are quite common in motorcycle accidents, even when the motorcyclist is wearing a helmet. The reason head injuries are common even among those wearing helmets is that the brain floats inside the skull. The brain weighs about eight pounds, or the same as a typical brick. When that eight-pound mass crashes against the inside of the skull, it hits rough bone that can result in serious injury. Another common cause of brain injury in motorcycle accidents involves rotation injuries, primarily because, at present, commonly available helmets do little to minimize these rotation injuries.
Surprisingly often, a brain injury is not diagnosed in the emergency room. Because brain injuries are so often missed, one thing I often do for motorcycle riders who have been in an accident is help them receive the testing and diagnosis they need. Emergency room personnel tend to look for life-threatening injuries, so they may look for evidence of bleeding in the brain or a subdural hematoma, but they often don’t have time to do a thorough neurologic exam. They may shine a light in the rider’s eyes to see if the pupils reacted to light appropriately, or other basic tests. Such tests will only reveal certain very specific types of head injury, which means they often miss common mild traumatic brain injury or concussion.
I often deal with riders with head injuries who suddenly find they are having trouble learning new things or who have to reread things they read on a computer, or they might be facing issues with their memory. I help them get neuropsychological testing to quantify these problem. They are frequently relieved when they find they had a diagnosable problem as opposed to merely thinking something was wrong, but not really being sure. Sometimes riders end up with very serious brain injuries that are obvious even in the emergency room, but they don’t know where to go or how to get follow-up so the brain injury can be presented properly in the lawsuit.
Of course, all brain injuries are unique to the individual, so it’s necessary to collect the information so that the meaning of that brain injury to the particular individual can be presented and evaluated properly for settlement. While a large number of head injury cases involve obvious injuries, an even larger number of riders end up with relatively minor brain injuries that go undiagnosed.
Shoulders And Elbows
Shoulder and elbow injuries tend to be quite common in motorcycle accidents for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the rider’s hands are on the handlebars as the accident is taking place. The rider’s reflexes cause them to try to keep their grip during an accident. This does not work, of course, and as they are being thrown from the bike, their arms and shoulder will be violently wrenched from the bars. That movement is followed by hitting the pavement, sometimes arms and shoulder first. Other times, they will be hit by a car or even by their own motorcycle as it cartwheels down the road.
Many riders injure their shoulder and/or elbows in a motorcycle accident when they put their arms out to break their fall. When they hit, this puts force up the entire arm and shoulder in the process. Elbow injuries most commonly occur when the elbow strikes something during the accident. It’s important to remember that the wrist, the elbow and the shoulder are all connected, and that the shoulder is connected to the neck, which means there are often multiple related injuries in a motorcycle accident.
There is also a condition called Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, which involves the space under the clavicle and above the first rib. This is a very common condition after a motorcycle accident, but it is rarely diagnosed. This type of injury involves the pinching of the space between the clavicle and the rib, which results in nerve and artery damage to the nerves, veins and arteries that run through that space, so that the rider may end up with permanent pain going down the arm. It is very difficult to diagnose, so unless the rider is lucky enough to have a doctor familiar with this particular condition and an attorney who regularly handles these types of injuries and has the medical resources to diagnose and treat these conditions, they may never know the source of their ongoing pain, and it may go untreated. Knowledgeable physicians are invaluable in the lawsuit because they are capable of describing how the injury occurred.
Groin injuries often are not mentioned by riders because of embarrassment, but 17 percent of all motorcycle accidents involve a rider whose crotch hit on the gas tank or the handlebars as they were thrown from the motorcycle. These injuries range from being painful and annoying to being quite serious and long-lasting. An attorney experienced in dealing with these injuries also knows how to comfortably handle the presentation of these injuries in a lawsuit situation.
Legs, Ankles and Feet
Lower limb injuries are the most common injury to motorcyclists in accidents. They range from crushed feet, to destroyed ankles and knees that need replacement. Quite often, there are fractures of the upper or lower leg, or even both, and many breaks require that a metal rod be inserted into the length of the bone.
An attorney can do a number of things for a rider who sustained injuries to the lower limbs, but the two most important things he can do are to explain how the injury occurred and to prove that the rider’s riding gear (or lack of it) did not contribute to the injury. With knee injuries particularly, it is common for the insurance company to claim that the knee injury was the result of age or other trauma and not the motorcycle accident. It is also common for insurance companies and defendants to try to blame the rider’s riding gear (or lack of it) for the fact that the rider was injured.
Understanding motorcycle boots, how they function and why they are designed a certain way is necessary to stop the insurance company from blaming a foot or ankle injury on the rider, for wearing the wrong kind of riding boot. A comprehensive study of riding boots was done in 1981. The conclusion made in that study was that the most important part of a riding boot is the stiff sole. Many riders ride in boots such as hiking boots, which have very stiff soles but are not actually “Motorcycle boots”. No motorcycle boot is designed to protect the rider’s foot when placed between a motorcycle and a car or a motorcycle that is crashing down on the pavement. In fact, the injuries can be horrendous if a motorcycle boot is too protective and the rider’s foot is pulled from the boot in the course of an accident.
I have seen many different kinds of lower limb injuries. I routinely help riders who have been injured by presenting not only the facts of the accident and how those injuries occurred, but also by presenting how those injuries affect their daily function even after the original injuries have healed. An experienced motorcycle attorney understands these issues and knows the value of these types of injuries for both settlement and trial, and they present the injuries in a way that is understood by insurance companies and defense attorneys.
The Most Common Injuries
I always see more lower limb injuries than anything else. I see a lot of fractured femurs and tibias, but there seems to be a steady increase in the number of head injuries suffered by riders. I am not sure why. It may be due to the publicity given to head injuries from football, so there is a greater awareness of head injuries generally. The focus on head injuries has resulted in more resources for diagnosis and treatment of head injuries.
Diagnostic testing methods are much better now. For example, MRIs are now much sharper and more detailed than ever before. New techniques like PET scans and functional MRIs, by which the actual brain function is tracked, enables us to have a lot more objective evidence of head injuries than was ever available before.
Least Common Injuries
The least common injury I have seen is the Thoracic Outlet Syndrome injury, which involves the compression of the space between the clavicle and the first rib. This interferes with arterial flow in a way that is similar to putting a thumb on a hose. The interference results in increased fluid pressure from blood flow just past the crimped area. Over time, the effect causes the artery to enlarge. Ultimately the arterial wall gets a bubble in it, and that will become an aneurysm or other times a Fusiform Dilation results. These injuries are very rare; I’ve seen only two in the last year. Both conditions went undiagnosed but specialized MRI’s showed the conditions clearly. If the clients went to another attorney with less experience in these conditions, the diagnosis would have been delayed for years.
Road rash is common, but it’s usually not a significant injury. Road rash is the name given to scraping of skin that is left exposed by riding gear. Certain injuries that fall under the category of “road rash” can go beyond being a minor inconvenience. For example, the injury can go right through the skin and affect muscles, tendons and soft tissue. If a rider slides facing up, a large part of the buttocks can be torn off. This is extremely serious, as the rider will have trouble walking forever with this type of injury.
Road rash can result in permanent scarring. Even if a plastic surgeon can improve the scarring, they are not usually able to eliminate it completely.
The Biggest Mistakes People Make When Injured In Motorcycle Accidents
The biggest mistake people make after a motorcycle accident is failing to realize how much an attorney can do for them. Sometimes they think it will cost too much money, and it takes them too long to realize the benefit is so great. Handling a case without an attorney is very difficult to manage, and without an attorney it is unlikely that the settlement will be a good one.
For more information on Motorcycle Injuries, a free initial consultation is your best next step. Get the information and legal answers you’re seeking by calling (800) 928-1511 today.