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What to Do About a Road Rash Injury

Have you experienced road rash from a motorcycle accident? This painful and potentially life-threatening condition shouldn't be "brushed off," even by the toughest bikers. Find out about the medical concerns of a road rash injury as well as your legal rights following a motorcycle crash.

A man lying on the ground after a motorcycle accident

What a Motorcycle "Road Rash" Injury Is

A painful type of friction burn that often results in the abrasion of skin, road rash is also sometimes referred to as "raspberries" for their red appearance. It can be quite painful for motorcyclists who come into contact with roads at high speeds, which is one reason why it's generally recommended to wear protective clothing and gloves.

To some people, what's commonly referred to as "road rash" may either include an avulsion injury, or an abrasion of the skin, or a compression injury, which is when a part of the body gets crushed between two objects (in this case, the road and your bike). The first will appear as skin burns and "raspberries" where the second may appear as bruising and broken bones.

Degrees of Road Rash Injuries

  • First-Degree Road Rash: Similar to the pain of a bad sunburn, this degree of rash features red skin and slight abrasion that usually does not need immediate treatment.
  • Second-Degree Road Rash: This next degree happens when the abrasion causes bleeding and breaks the skin - usually as a result of lodged dirt and rocks. Medical treatment is highly recommended in this case, as anything lodged under the skin should be removed in a sterile environment. Any time skin has been ripped, it's generally considered to be a bad road rash injury.
  • Third-Degree Road Rash: When all five layers of skin have been penetrated or ripped back to show muscle and bone, it's referred to as a "third-degree" road rash. Pain or sensation may not even be felt as nerves can be affected. Immediate professional medical attention is necessary. This type is highly likely to become infected.

What to Do for Road Rash from a Motorcycle Accident

You can use first aid at home to treat a first-degree road rash. On backs, shoulders, and hard-to-reach places, it may be possible to get help from a loved one after washing their hands; however, be sure to ask for help from a doctor or an urgent care if any of the more serious symptoms apply.

Best Way to Treat a Motorcycle Road Rash at Home

  1. Wash your hands with soap before touching the wound.
  2. Check the wound. If it seems to be a second- or third-degree road rash, contact a doctor.
  3. Wash the abrasion gently, without scrubbing with pressure or using abrasive soap.
  4. Carefully remove debris (like bits of rock) with sterile tweezers. If you feel like you can't see or reach something embedded in your skin, call a doctor.
  5. Apply antibiotic ointments.
  6. Cover the injury with a non-adherent pad. Freshen the bandage twice per day.
  7. Check for infection as you freshen your bandages.
  8. If you're not up to date on your tetanus shot, talk to your doctor.
  9. Manage pain symptoms with your usual pain reliever (often ibuprofen or acetaminophen).
  10. Take time to rest and emotionally recover from your motorcycle accident.

Carefully monitored first-degree injuries should clear up after this careful treatment in about two weeks.

Note that if you have a second- or third-degree road rash, it is highly recommended that you seek treatment to prevent infection.

When to See a Doctor

You also should see a doctor if any of these situations apply:

  • There's excessive bleeding.
  • There are signs of infection.
  • There are foreign objects embedded in the area.
  • There is visible muscle or bone.
  • The wound itself is more than three times the size of your palm.
  • The wound is on your hands, feet, face or genitals.
  • You experience other symptoms, such as dizziness, vertigo, nausea, vomiting, headache, trouble swallowing, a stiff neck, abdominal pain, back pain or vision problems.
  • You're in doubt about any of these steps for treating at home.
  • You continue to experience symptoms after two weeks.

Your doctor will be able to handle these situations.

In extreme cases, surgical skin grafting may be necessary, and other types of burn treatments may be used.

How to Know if Your Road Rash is Infected

An infected road rash from a motorcycle accident shouldn't be ignored; it can have dangerous or even deadly results.

Symptoms of a Road Rash Infection

  • Draining puss and/or fluid
  • Foul smell
  • Warmth from the wound
  • Swelling
  • Worsening pain after the first day
  • Fever
  • Body aches
  • Red, streaking lines away from the wound

Dangerous Types of Infection

  • Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) or other staph infections may enter and bloom into the wound.
  • Sepsis, or an infection of the bloodstream, is possible. In the weeks following your accident, you'll want to watch out for septic shock, which includes low blood pressure, a rapid heart rate and difficulty breathing.
  • Tetanus enters the body through open wounds, often on metals, and can be fatal without treatment. Make sure you've recently had a tetanus shot!

When Road Rash Counts as Personal Injury in a Motorcycle Accident Lawsuit

Road rash from a motorcycle accident is definitely a factor in personal injury cases, so you may want to make sure that photos are taken of your injury shortly after the motorcycle accident. Lawsuits may sometimes help to recover lost wages, pain and suffering, hospital visits, skin grafting surgery and other medical expenses, so definitely keep a paper trail on your road to recovery. Proving damages will be an important factor in your road-rash-accident case. There are a lot of consequences from a motorcycle injury beyond the physical pain and scars: anxiety, stress, depression, ongoing chronic pain and more. It's important that your needs are addressed.

Contact our team if you have experienced road rash as a result of a motorcycle accident in Georgia, Tennessee or South Carolina. We cover bikers' rights from Atlanta to Nashville to Myrtle Beach. As you recover from your road rash, we can help you with your motorcycle accident lawsuit.

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