As a biker, you roll the dice each time you head out on the road. Any time a crash occurs, it has the potential for life-altering trauma. Not every motorcycle accident causes serious or catastrophic injuries, but even “minor” troubles such as road rash can cause severe scarring and painful complications. How do you recover from a motorcycle accident? Unfortunately, the prognosis for serious injuries often focuses on rehabilitation and life adjustments instead of full recovery. Hiring a motorcycle accident lawyer of course can’t change the outcome of your accident but it DOES let you focus on your injuries and how you can go about the recovery process.
When you ride your motorcycle, you face more danger than other drivers. You can be involved in the same types of accidents but deal with far more devastating outcomes. Additionally, studies have shown that motorcyclists become accident victims for nontraditional reasons.
Some motorists don’t show you the same courtesy as other drivers. They don’t always share the road, and they sometimes crowd you out of your lane. Other drivers cut you off, making right or left turns directly in your path.
As if you don’t encounter enough risks on the road, a Human Factors and Ergonomics Society study confirmed that other drivers simply don’t “see” you on the road.
Motorcycle Accident Injuries
The open-air ride that gives bikers a sense of freedom also leaves them vulnerable, even when a simple crash occurs. Motorcyclists don’t have the same types of passenger protections as other vehicles. Motorcycles weigh far less than even the smallest car, pickup, or commercial vehicle, and riders must maintain balance on two wheels.
A minor car or truck impact easily overturns a motorcycle, pinning the rider beneath its weight. The energy generated during a low-speed crash sometimes sends a rider airborne or onto the pavement.
The force of any collision can leave a motorcyclist with more than one serious injury, including:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord damage and paralysis
- Traumatic limb and digit amputations
- Degloving wounds: an impact that tears away the skin
- Multiple fractures to weight-bearing bones
- Internal organ damage
- Severe bodily impairment
- Road Rash
- Eye trauma
Past studies by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board have examined motorcycle accident causation, injury, severity, treatment, and recovery.
The agencies found several common issues.
- Front-end collisions cause the most serious motorcycle accident injuries.
- Bikers most frequently sustain lower extremity damage—femur, ankles, feet, pelvis.
- Based on Abbreviated Injury Scale (AIS) ratings, upper body trauma—chest, face, spine, abdomen, head, upper extremities—usually causes the most serious damage.
- Fractures occur most frequently, often with multiple breaks combined with other injuries.
Rehabilitation and Recovery From a Motorcycle Accident
A biker’s overall recovery depends largely on the injuries sustained and the extent. The NHTSA injury study determined that motorcyclists with moderate or minor injuries often recover at home after their initial hospitalization. Full recovery from minor to moderate injuries often involves medical follow-up but rarely requires intense rehabilitation.
For bikers with the most serious wounds, acute care and hospitalization become the first steps toward recovery. Seriously traumatized motorcyclists often transfer from treating hospitals into skilled nursing care facilities, nursing homes, or rehabilitation facilities. They sometimes require home health care.
An NHTSA study focusing on motorcycle rehabilitation costs determined the five types of motorcycle accident injuries that often require inpatient or long-term rehabilitation.
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Multiple trauma, including spinal cord injuries
- Combined TBI with fracture and amputation
- Certain categories of orthopedic injuries
- Damage requiring hip or knee replacement
Spinal Cord Injury Recovery
Recovering bikers with spinal cord injuries (SCI) remain hospitalized and in rehabilitation longer than other injured patients. They receive initial treatment in traditional hospitals and continue recovery and rehabilitation in other care facilities. As spinal cord injuries often cause varying degrees of paralysis and diminished bodily functions, recovery involves significant lifestyle adjustments.
Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center (MSKTC) provides information and guidance for SCI and TBI patients and their families.
Their page, Living With Spinal Cord Injury (SCI), discusses these and other recovery and rehabilitation steps.
- Ongoing Rehabilitation: Patients work on regaining strength, stamina, and mobility.
- Self Care: Patients relearn personal care skills so they won’t require assistance with showers, dressing, and other tasks.
- Driving: Often, SCI patients must relearn driving skills. Some bikers use modified motorcycles with wheelchair carriers, hand brakes, electronic shifters, foot controls, and other accessibility options. Others modify their cars or trucks.
- Counseling: SCI patients often need help making psychological adjustments to physical changes. They learn skills for coping with the emotional and personal losses associated with loss of bodily functioning.
Traumatic Brain Injury Recovery
Moderate to severe TBIs often cause ongoing physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral changes. The TBI resource, Moderate to Severe Brain Injury is a Lifelong Condition, discusses long-term physical challenges, rehospitalizations, and other chronic problems.
Inpatient and outpatient recovery helps accident victims deal with these issues:
- Occupational, Speech, and Physical Therapy: Brain injuries often trigger cognitive, physical, sensory, and emotional difficulties. They affect memory, language, and everyday physical abilities such as sight and touch. Rehabilitation helps patients overcome some issues and learn to deal with others.
- Driving: Brain injuries interfere with driving abilities in ways different from SCIs. They cause problems with vision, concentration, memory, hand-eye coordination, reaction time, and other skills necessary for safe driving. Based on MSKTC data, 40 to 60 percent of TBI patients eventually drive again.
- Family and Relationships: TBIs sometimes cause physical and personality changes and other issues that affect how they interact with others. Counseling helps recovering victims relearn and modify old responsibilities and relationships, realigning them with their changed capabilities. They also develop strategies for coping with strained personal relationships.
Orthopedic and Amputation Recovery
Depending on their injuries, orthopedic patients require different levels of treatment and rehabilitation. Fracture healing times vary with age and injury severity. Some fractures require surgery and internal fixation with rods and screws for stability.
Patients with knee and hip replacements require extended recovery and rehabilitation times. They often work through rehabilitation tasks at home, sometimes with in-home medical assistance. The simplest orthopedic injuries often require minimal inpatient treatment, outpatient follow-up care, rest, and time off from work for maximum healing.
Patients with traumatic amputations require a more intense treatment regimen.
The Johns Hopkins Amputation: Recovery and Rehabilitation page explains patients’ ongoing rehabilitation needs:
- Physical Therapy: Helps patients regain strength, flexibility, and other physical skills.
- Prosthetic/Orthotic Fitting: A custom prosthetic helps recovering patients regain lost functionality.
- Occupational Therapy: Physical therapy helps injured victims regain independence and reintegrate into their daily life.
- Counseling: Patients who lose limbs, digits, feet, and other body parts may need psychological assistance dealing with mental trauma.
The High Cost of Rehabilitation and Recovery
The NHTSA study on motorcycle accident recovery and costs discusses the financial aspects of post-accident care. The researchers didn’t collect comprehensive cost data, but the bills they reviewed demonstrated high treatment and recovery costs.
They also found these trends:
- Injured victims don’t always have medical insurance for treatment and rehabilitation.
- They don’t usually have enough money to pay out of pocket for treatment and rehabilitation costs.
- By the time hospitals released injured victims from inpatient treatment, many had lost their jobs.
- Some victims’ injuries disabled them so that they couldn’t earn a living.
Contact a Motorcycle Accident Injury Attorney
If you sustain a motorcycle accident injury, you need immediate legal assistance. When you work with a motorcycle accident injury attorney, they take steps that protect your legal interests. When you schedule a free consultation, a legal representative listens to your story, answers your questions, and explains your legal options. You spend time discussing your accident and the details of how a lawyer can help you receive the compensation you deserve.