While motorcycle riding is an enjoyable pastime, a more environmentally friendly way to travel, and a passion for many, it isn’t without its dangers. Unfortunately, thousands of bike riders and their passengers are injured or even killed each year as a result of a motorcycle accident. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), in 2017 alone, there were 89,000 motorcycle accident injuries among 8,715,204 registered motorcycles. For every 100 million miles traveled, there were 440 injuries, and for every 100,000 registered motorcycles, there were more than 1,000 injury crashes.
Motorcycle Accident Injuries
Characteristics of motorcycle accident injuries, both anatomically and physiologically, are different from those of car occupants. Considering the vulnerability, lack of protection, and relatively high driving speed for motorcycles, it makes sense that motorcycle accident injuries can be different and more severe than those suffered by occupants of passenger vehicles.
Common motorcycle accident injuries include:
- Road rash
- Facial fractures and disfigurement
- Broken bones
- The need for limb amputations
- Spinal cord injuries (SCI)
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- Blunt force trauma
What Makes Riding a Motorcycle Dangerous?
Motorcycles are inherently much nimbler than most cars. They can reduce speed and stop in a fraction of the time that other vehicles can. Motorcycles are easier and quicker to steer and swerve. They are also small and take up much less space on the road. That provides tons of potential escape routes that just aren’t accessible in a passenger vehicle. While motorcyclists might avoid accidents better than other vehicles, they are at greater risk of accidents and more severe injuries from those accidents.
All motor vehicles carry the risk of accidents, danger, and injuries. However, motorcyclists assume more of these risks.
Here are some of the factors that cause motorcycles to be more dangerous:
- Lack of structure: When riding inside of a vehicle, drivers and passengers have the protection of the structure of the car. Whether the danger is on the top of the vehicle (in the case of a rollover accident), behind, or in front of the vehicle, this structure protects them from being injured by other vehicles and the road. Motorcycles, on the other hand, do not offer this protection.
- Lack of seatbelts: Another essential safety feature of passenger vehicles is seatbelts. Passengers in vehicles who are not wearing their seatbelts are at a much higher risk of injury or death. The same holds true for motorcyclists. They aren’t strapped into their bikes, and even if they were, their bike is not going to protect them as a car would.
- Lack of airbags: Cars have airbags to help cushion and protect their drivers and passengers in the event of an accident. While airbags are not guaranteed to prevent injuries or death, they certainly help decrease the accident’s impact. Motorcycles lack these safety devices.
- Exposure to the open road: Not only do passenger vehicles offer structure and airbags, but they also prevent drivers and passengers from open exposure to the road in the event of an accident. Motorcyclists are much more likely to be exposed to the road and receive additional injuries, such as road rash, because of it.
- Two points of contact with road: Motorcycles only have two wheels and two points of contact with the road. In contrast, passenger vehicles have four. With more points of contact on the road, these vehicles are a safer form of transportation than motorcycles. The more points on the road, the more stable a vehicle is, and the less likely it is to roll over or lose contact with the road.
- Increased speeds: Of course, a motorcycle will travel the speed that the driver wants it to. However, due to their agility and size, it’s tempting to speed or even easy to do so and be unaware of it. Crashes at higher speeds are generally worse and produce more injuries than those at lower speeds.
What is Blunt Force Trauma?
Blunt force trauma is an umbrella term. It is non-specific, but it can be to put on a death certificate as the cause of death. Blunt force trauma is the most common cause of traumatic death and disability in people under age 35. It is also the 6th leading cause of death worldwide. Blunt force trauma from vehicle accidents and pedestrian injuries cause the most severe injuries. If not treated rapidly and effectively, these injuries can threaten your life. In severe cases, they may require surgery and long-term treatment to address health complications.
These injuries result from an energy exchange between an object and the human body that doesn’t penetrate the skin. Forceful impact, injury, or physical attack with a dull object or surface can cause blunt trauma injuries. Unlike penetrating trauma, the object or surface doesn’t pierce the body and cause an open wound. However, it ruptures the capillaries and damages other organs and tissues below the skin.
Very few motorcycle accident victims emerge unharmed. In many cases, severe injuries are immediately apparent, such as when a person suffers road rash, puncture wounds, or severe head trauma. It may be days or even weeks after a rider suffers a crash that their blunt force injuries start to reveal symptoms. Although blunt impact injuries usually manifest right after the impact; however, deep contusions may not be visible on the skin surface for several days after the motorcycle accident.
Pain is the most common symptom, especially pain that gets worse over time.
Other symptoms of blunt force trauma include:
- Low blood pressure
- Shortness of breath, headaches, light-headedness, or loss of consciousness
- Swelling, pain, or tightness in the leg
- Blood in vomit, bowel movement, or urine
- Discolored skin (mainly large, deep-colored purple bruises, as internal bleeding may cause the skin to turn purple as blood seeps into soft tissue just below the surface of the skin).
- Shock without an apparent cause
- Soft tissue injury to the lower torso, back, flank, or abdomen
- Significant tenderness on palpation or coughing
The symptoms of blunt force trauma vary significantly depending on how hard the object hits the body and where the object hits the body. If an object hits the shoulder with a large amount of force, this could lead to a lot of pain, bruising, and possible fractures to the bones in the shoulder.
The types and severity of blunt force trauma can vary depending on certain factors, such as:
- The speed of the collision
- If the rider laid their bike down or were injured front an angle or from the front
- If the rider struck the ground or an object
Blunt force trauma is the result of different forces acting on the human body.
Consider the following to understand how this type of trauma occurs:
- Energy cannot be created or destroyed. It only changes from one form to another.
- A body in motion will remain in motion until acted upon by an outside force.
- Kinetic energy involves both weight and speed. If weight increases, energy increases, respectively. If the speed increases, the energy increases by two times. For example, if the speed doubles, the energy quadruples. Speed is the most significant determinant in blunt force injuries.
- A force that puts an object in motion must be absorbed by something before it will stop. With blunt force trauma, it is the body that absorbs this motion.
Taking all of this into account, someone who was hit by a semi-truck would likely have much more severe injuries than someone hit by a smart car. If two motorcyclists collided with a smart car, but one was traveling faster than the other immediately preceding the accident, they would likely sustain worse injuries.
There are three types of blunt trauma forces:
- Shearing: When the organ and the organ’s attachments do not accelerate or decelerate at the same rate of speed. Examples would be the brain, aortic arch, spleen, or kidneys.
- Compression: Blunt force trauma of this type is like placing an organ on a table and hitting it with a hammer. Every time the hammer distributes energy, cells within the organ are crushed and damaged.
- Overpressure: This is similar to hitting a closed paper bag with your hand…the bag pops. Medical professionals most frequently see these types of injuries in the bladder, bowel, and lungs.
Blunt Force Trauma to the Head or Torso
Blunt force trauma can occur anywhere on the body. When it comes to motor vehicle accident deaths, injuries to the head and torso, as well as internal injuries, are the most life-threatening.
Helmet use is a significant factor in head injuries and deaths related to motorcycle accidents. Studies indicate that helmets reduce the occurrence of head injury by an estimated 60 percent and fatal injury by 56 percent.
Most blunt force trauma cases involve blunt abdominal trauma (BAT). As noted by researchers, abdominal injuries are the leading cause of preventable deaths in trauma victims. One reason for this is that sometimes these injuries initially go unnoticed. Motorcycle crash victims may have a diminished level of consciousness, or there could be other injuries that they or the medical staff are attending to.
Brain Injuries from Blunt Force Trauma
Blunt force trauma to the head frequently causes Traumatic brain injuries (TBI). The results of a study by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) on 104,472 motorcyclists injured in traffic crashes, 15 percent of helmeted, and 21 percent riders without a helmet suffered a TBI.
Over half of the riders within this group who did not survive had a TBI.
Trauma to the brain can cause two different types of injuries. An object striking the head hard enough will bruise the brain’s gray matter, also known as the cerebral cortex.
Suppose the force of the trauma causes whiplash-like circumstances. In that case, the brain injury can damage the nerve cells (known as an axonal injury) located deep in the brain’s white matter.
The acceleration of the object and the force transferred to the brain by the object cause these injuries. Direct contact of the head with the object can cause damage, but the most damage comes from the initial direct impact and force that comes in contact with the head. Whether the area of contact is big or small, the impact’s velocity will determine the type and extent of the resulting injuries from the blow.
The cranium, also known as the skull, houses and protects the brain. It has three layers; the outer table (hard outer layer of bone), the inner table (inner layer of hard bone), and the diploe or spongy bone layer between the two.
When a blunt object impacts the bones of the human skull, several things could happen. A piece of a broken bone can break off from the skull and become lodged in the brain, with concentric fractures forming around the break area. The skull can also have crushing injuries from blunt force trauma when there is inward bending of the skull. Sometimes blows can cause both inward and outward bending of the skull.
Symptoms of a brain injury include:
- Loss of consciousness
- Partial paralysis involving one or more limbs
- Personality changes and irritability
- Drops in blood pressure
- Diminished coordination
- Slurred speech
- Blurred vision
- Severe headache
Abdominal Injuries From Blunt Force Trauma
While helmets protect the head, there isn’t much that protects the body’s torso or trunk in a motorcycle accident. This area extends from the neck and the limbs and includes the chest, abdomen, and perineum.
The torso contains the majority of the body’s vital organs, such as the:
Damage, especially blunt force trauma to any of these vital organs, can cause severe pain, bleeding, and life-threatening injuries. The heart can stop if another object hits it hard enough. The intestines can rupture, leaking fecal matter into the abdomen, leading to infection and even death.
The torso also contains the spleen. Although it is not a vital organ, it can cause severe, life-threatening bleeding if injured. The spleen, kidneys, and liver are all particularly vulnerable to crushing. Also contained within the torso are four major muscle groups, which can be bruised and torn. Two branches of the nervous system innervate the torso, and nerve damage is also possible.
Diagnosing Blunt Force Trauma
Individuals who sustain blunt force trauma injuries have the best chance of survival when treated as soon as possible to increase the chances of survival and a positive outcome.
Medical professionals diagnose blunt force trauma by using information from witnesses about how the incident occurred, as well as any medical history available on the victim.
Medical teams can also use diagnostic imaging and other medical tests, such as:
- Diagnostic peritoneal lavage (DPL) to detect if there is fluid within the abdomen
- Ultrasound uses real-time images to see if there are any internal injuries to the abdomen or chest
- Computed tomography (CT or CAT) Scan—uses high-tech computers and x-rays to view the inside of the body and to help detect and evaluate injuries to the brain, neck, chest, abdomen, and pelvis
- Blood or urine tests to help assess bleeding and organ functioning
Treatment for Blunt Force Trauma to the Head and Torso
Once the doctors make a diagnosis, treatment is specific to the type of blunt force trauma and what areas of the body or organs it impacts.
Treatments might include:
- Replace fluids lost due to dehydration and blood for blood loss
- Clean any open wounds
- Steps to prevent infection such as start antibiotics or topical antibiotic ointment
- Laparotomy, a large incision in the abdomen to give access to the abdomen for assessing internal injury or preparing the patient for surgery
Sometimes surgery is not an immediate need, and the medical staff will closely observe the patient. Observation includes frequent monitoring of vital signs and frequent physical examinations to look for any changes in their condition.
Possible Damages From a Blunt Force Head Trauma Injury
If you or a loved one sustained blunt force impact on the head or torso in a motorcycle accident, you could be entitled to compensation for your damages. Since these types of injuries can be severe, the associated medical expenses can be extremely high. The injured party and their families face enormous economic burdens.
You might want to consult with an experienced attorney to determine your damages and how much they are worth. Typical damages in a motorcycle accident causing blunt force trauma to the head or abdomen include those that are economic and those that are not.
Economic damages, also known as special damages, already have an assigned or easily calculable value.
For example, there is no debating the value of a medical bill. Economic damages include but aren’t limited to:
- Medical bills – Such as hospital stays, surgeries, prescriptions, medical devices, physical therapists, doctor and specialist appointments, transportation fees to medical appointments, and on-going care. While this is the most common expense after a personal injury, it’s important to remember that the victim may need lengthy medical care after a blunt force injury, possibly even for a lifetime.
- Lost wages – Those that suffer a blunt force impact injury will likely need to take an extended time away from work, and some may need to quit their jobs entirely. Victims deserve financial compensation for the wages they couldn’t earn while they are injured and healing.
- Household services – It’s not uncommon for seriously injured motorcycle accident victims to need help around the house. Some can’t have family members or friends help out and so they need to pay for help. Injured individuals might include housekeepers, gardeners, babysitters, and grocery delivery services in their claim for damages.
- Property damage – Motorcyclists also deserve compensation for the damages done to their bikes. If it is repairable, the insurance company should pay for the repairs. If it isn’t, the insurance company should pay them the fair market value of their bike, including any upgrades they might have made to it.
Non-economic or general damages are more challenging to value. These types of damages don’t come with an inherent value and are usually of different values from one case to the next. There are no receipts or bills to reference for general damages, making their value subjective.
For example, the most common non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering – Includes both mental anguish and physical pain. Blunt force injuries can be excruciating, and they can also place temporary or permanent restrictions on activity. If an injured individual experiences burns, scarring, or disfigurement as a result of their injury, it can cause embarrassment, humiliation, and problems with body image. Anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can also result from an accident and are compensable.
- Physical disability or impairment – If an injury causes a motorcyclist to experience impairment or disability, they lack the quality of life they had before the accident. Their post-accident condition may force them to change the way they live their life or their career. They might not participate in hobbies and other activities they once enjoyed.
- Loss of consortium – Severe injuries undoubtedly change personal relationships. When one spouse can’t help in all aspects of the marriage that they used to, the other spouse is deprived and can suffer due to the negligence of the party who caused the accident. In most states, a spouse can’t file a stand-alone loss of consortium claim but can add it to the injured spouse’s motorcycle accident claim. Some states also allow other family members such as children and parents to pursue compensation for loss of consortium since their relationships are changed too. This is often called the loss of filial consortium.
How Are General Damages Calculated?
With no pre-assigned value, you might be wondering how to calculate the value of your general damages. Remember that every injury case is different, even if both injured parties are dealing with the same injuries. One could have more pain or complications than the other. One may need to stop working while the other may not.
Once you know the value of your special damages, multiply that number by one or two. This is the amount you can generally expect to receive for your general damages if you have mild to moderate injury claims. However, if your injuries were more severe, led to extreme mental anguish, will cause you continued pain or permanent injuries, or your motorcycle accident was especially horrific, your damages should be worth more. The amount is proportional to these factors; however, it is typically between three and five times your special damages.
Insurance adjusters, lawyers, and the court will look at these factors when choosing which multiplier to use:
- The severity of the injuries
- The pain and overall discomfort that is associated with the applicable injuries
- How the injuries have affected your life, job, relationships, and other endeavors
- The amount and types of medical treatment your injuries need
- The time it takes those injuries to heal
- If the injured will need future care, like therapy, medications, surgeries, or nursing care
Keeping an accident and injury journal can be especially helpful in proving your general damages. You can start journaling as soon as you are physically able after your accident. Discuss what you remember about the accident, how it occurred, who was at fault, and what happened afterward. Be as specific as possible.
You will also want to journal about your feelings, experiences, and what you are missing out on due to your injuries.
Document things such as:
- When you can’t go to work
- Missing a family function such as a birthday party, family reunion, or a wedding
- Your children’s sports activities/games and school programs
- Any volunteer work you couldn’t do
- If you had to stop playing sports or refrain from other potentially dangerous activities
- Routine household tasks or childcare you can’t provide
What Is a Statute of Limitations?
Every state has a statute of limitations. This law addresses how long you have to file a motorcycle accident claim after you are injured. If you meet with an attorney, they can tell you your state’s statute of limitations. Some states give as little as one year, and others give around five years. The statute of limitations can also be different if a government employee or government entity is liable for your injuries.
Filing a lawsuit within the given statute of limitations is imperative. If you don’t file a legal claim within the appropriate statute of limitations, you no longer have a legal right to pursue compensation within the court system. If you plan on suing the at-fault party to your motorcycle accident, you should determine your state’s statute of limitations or consult a lawyer as soon as possible so that you can still exercise your legal rights.
What if My Family Member Died From Blunt Force Impact?
Tragically, sometimes-blunt force trauma injuries to the head or abdomen are extreme and not compatible with life. Although the victim isn’t alive to pursue a motorcycle accident claim, certain family members can file a wrongful death claim on their behalf. Depending on your state’s laws, the family member could be a spouse, an adult child, parents, or even a personal representative could file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Some states don’t allow parents of adult children to sue or adult children for their parents’ wrongful death. Many don’t permit grown siblings or extended relatives like cousins, aunts, uncles, or grandparents to file a wrongful death lawsuit. In all states, the more distant the family association is, the harder it will win a wrongful death case.
Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim
Similar to a motorcycle accident claim, families can seek several different types of damages in a wrongful death action. Some of these damages will be the same, and some are specific to wrongful death claims.
They include the:
- Deceased person’s “pain and suffering” before their death (sometimes called a “survival” claim).
- Medical treatment costs that the decedent incurred as a result of the injury before death
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of the deceased person’s projected income
- Loss of care, guidance, and nurturing that the deceased victim would have provided
- Value of the services that the deceased would have provided, such as household services
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of any inheritance as a result of the death
- Loss of love and companionship
Generally, a statute of limitations will apply to these cases, so don’t wait too long.
You or your family member or attorney will need to prove several elements to receive compensation in a motorcycle accident wrongful death lawsuit. First, you must show that the at-fault party (defendant) owed your family member a duty of care—for instance, to drive the speed limit. You also need to establish that they didn’t follow that duty of care, in this case, by speeding.
Next, you have to prove that the defendant’s failure to adhere to the duty of care caused your relative’s accident and injuries. Finally, you need to show that their injuries caused their and your damages. If you can’t prove each element in this claim, you will not receive a settlement or win the lawsuit. By working with a lawyer, you can ensure that each of these vital elements exists in your case and that you can prove them.
Blunt force impacts to the head or torso sustained in a motorcycle accident can cause severe and life-threatening injuries. If you or someone you love received these types of injuries in a motorcycle accident, you have legal rights and options. To learn more about them and how you could receive compensation for your injuries, contact a motorcycle accident lawyer. They can help you determine if you have a claim and how much it might be worth.