In the past, we’ve written about the challenges of riding a motorcycle in and around Houston. Accidents happen here, especially on highways like the I-610 Loop, I-69, and I-45. Even experienced Houston riders know they face constant dangers when riding in traffic near Hobby airport and the downtown area. The smallest mistake can spell disaster for a rider, who will most likely get thrown onto the highway in an impact.
Experienced Houston riders may also have some familiarity with road rash, the gruesome injury that follows from taking a long slide along the pavement in a bike wreck. This blog post will get up close and personal with road rash injuries. We will talk about what they are, how they happen, why Houston is a road rash danger zone, where you can get treatment in Houston after a painful slide, and how an experienced Houston motorcycle accident lawyer can help you get paid by the party who caused your road rash injury.
Let’s Talk About Road Rash
Road rash is a pretty innocent-sounding name for an ugly, painful injury. People who do not ride motorcycles tend to hear the words road rash and think of the kinds of injuries little kids get when they fall off their bicycles. Sure, a scraped knee is a type of road rash, sort of… But experienced motorcycle riders and passengers know it can—and does—get a lot more serious.
Road rash happens when a rider falls or gets thrown from their bike and takes a long slide along the surface of a (usually) paved road. The friction from the slide quickly wears through anything but the toughest protective clothing, breaking skin beneath it. The resulting open wound is bloody, dirty, and prone to dangerous infection and scarring.
Doctors compare road rash injuries to burns because the two injuries share many similarities. To begin, a road rash can feature burned skin tissue due to the heat that builds up from the friction during the slide. Road rash also tends to do a number on the outermost layer of a rider’s skin, called the epidermis, when it comes into contact with the road surface, much the same way a second (or higher) degree burn does severe damage to that same skin layer.
In addition, by wearing away skin layers and exposing the more delicate tissue beneath, road rash, like a severe burn, poses a significant risk of dangerous infection. Finally, road rash often requires skin graft surgeries just like burn victims undergo to repair the damaged area, and leaves behind scarring akin to a burn scar.
In other ways, however, road rash is an injury unto itself. Perhaps most significantly, it can inflict a dirty wound. As the rider slides along the road surface shedding layers of skin, dirt, dust, grime, and debris gets embedded in the tissue. Cleaning the wound afterward challenges the skills of even the most steady-handed trauma doctors. Oftentimes, they simply cannot clean the wound thoroughly, and instead resort to giving the injured biker large doses of antibiotics to suppress a potential infection. The discolored scar tissue that heals over the dirt sill embedded in the skin is sometimes called a traumatic tattoo.
Houston bikers who sustain serious road rash injuries may need emergency medical care at a Level I trauma center, such as Memorial Hermann – Texas Medical Center (which also hosts a burn center) or Harris Health System Ben Taub Hospital. Healing from their injuries may require long hospital stays, multiple surgeries, and months of rehabilitation. Even then, the scar tissue may cause disfigurement and limit a biker’s mobility.
Houston Is a Road Rash Hot Spot
According to the Texas Department of Education’s Crash Records Information System (CRIS) database, Houston roads saw 671 motorcycle crashes in a recent reporting year, about the same number as in Houston every year for the past decade. Of those, about 85% resulted in at least a possible reported injury, and more than half caused known injuries or fatalities. That number of crashes and injuries alone makes Houston an epicenter of road rash injuries in the Lone Star State.
But it is not just the volume of motorcycle wrecks that happen here that makes local riders prone to suffering road rash injuries. Other factors also play a significant role in raising the number of Houston road rash cases. South Texas’s sometimes-stifling heat and humidity, for example, can make riding in protective pants and jackets uncomfortable, to put it mildly. In hot weather, Houston riders have been known to forego jackets in favor of T-shirts, making their upper bodies especially vulnerable to road rash injuries.
Another factor that contributes to the number of Houston road rash injuries is the large number of motorcycle wrecks that happen on local highways like I-610 and I-45. A review of CRIS data reveals several highway locations around Houston where multiple motorcycle accidents happened in the last twelve months alone.
Highway crashes tend to occur at higher speeds than crashes on in-town or residential streets. Roughly speaking, higher speeds translate into longer slides along the road surface, which in turn translate into a greater likelihood of a rider suffering a severe road rash injury.
How to Get Paid for Your Houston Road Rash Injuries
A wreck is rarely entirely a rider’s fault, and often, the rider could not have avoided the accident if they tried. Instead, the blame for a motorcycle crash often rests with someone other than the biker. Under Texas law, an at-fault party may have a legal obligation to pay the biker compensation to help in healing from, rehabbing, and overcoming the challenges of road rash and other serious injuries.
Houston motorcycle accident lawyers work hard to get that compensation for bikers. Here is an overview of the process.
Getting paid for a road rash injury usually starts with exploring the causes of the motorcycle wreck. Lawyers for injured bikers review crash reports and other evidence—and sometimes work with expert investigators—to determine who might have engaged in unreasonably dangerous actions that increased the likelihood of the accident and the biker’s injuries.
Some common culprits in a crash that causes severe road rash include:
- Car and truck drivers who make mistakes behind the wheel out of carelessness or recklessness, such as by changing lanes on a highway into the path of a motorcycle or failing to yield the right of way to a biker at an intersection.
- Employers of drivers whose errors cause accidents, especially if they fail to train their drivers in safe practices when sharing the road with motorcycles and other smaller vehicles.
- Municipal road departments and private road owners that fail to maintain publicly accessible roads in a safe condition for motorcycle riders, or fail to post reasonable warnings advising bikers of potentially dangerous conditions like grooved pavement, sand, or gravel.
- Motorcycle and motorcycle parts manufacturers that sell defective equipment that fails under normal operating conditions, leading to a wreck and a biker’s injuries.
Skilled lawyers for motorcycle accident victims don’t give up without a fight. They know not to settle for easy answers. The cause of a motorcycle wreck might seem totally obvious, and yet a little extra investigation might reveal multiple additional parties whose actions contributed to a Houston rider’s road rash injuries.
Assessing the Damage Done
To obtain compensation for a road rash injury, the injured biker’s lawyer also needs to evaluate the scope of the harm the biker has suffered. Many people do not realize it, but Texas law allows you to collect more than just medical expenses for a road rash injury.
An insurance claim and/or lawsuit seeking damages for road rash can usually demand payment for:
- Medical expenses involved with treating, repairing, and rehabbing from a road rash injury, including any future expenses for medical treatment doctors expect the biker will need.
- Other expenses that the biker would not have had except for the wreck and the road rash injury it inflicted, like bike repair costs, replacing damaged protective gear, and hiring somebody to help out with everyday tasks while the injury heals.
- Past and future income the biker did not or will not earn because of the injury, such as from missing time at work while hospitalized or suffering a road rash that is so bad it causes a permanent disability.
- The pain, suffering, and overall difficulty a biker endures from sustaining a serious road rash injury. Some bikers have a hard time talking about this category of damages, but the emotional consequences of disfiguring road rash are not to be taken lightly. No one likes to dwell on pain and difficulty, but it is real and we believe injured riders and their passengers deserve compensation for it.
Sometimes, trained motorcycle accident lawyers can also convince a Houston judge to award payment of punitive damages to an injured rider, as a form of punishment for dangerous actions by the at-fault party.
Every motorcycle wreck is different. A skilled personal injury attorney will want to get to know the injured biker to figure out every way the road rash has affected the biker’s life. Motorcycle accident victims are often surprised at how much money their road rash injury claim is worth.
With two important facts in mind—who has liability and how much they should pay—a Houston lawyer can get to work pursuing legal action on behalf of a biker to get them paid the maximum available damages for a road rash injury. In some cases, that action consists of nothing more than approaching the at-fault party and demanding payment from the party’s insurance carrier. In other cases, lawyers need to take a more aggressive approach by filing a lawsuit in Houston-area courts seeking to hold the at-fault party (or parties) legally and financially accountable.
In either event, taking that action often leads to negotiations between the biker’s lawyer and representatives of the at-fault party and the party’s insurance carrier. Often, those negotiations settle the biker’s claim. The biker gets an agreed amount of money, and in return, lets the at-fault party off the hook for future liability.
Sometimes, however, it takes a court fight to get a biker paid a fair amount for a road rash injury. That is why injured motorcyclists and their loved ones must seek a lawyer with a track record of success in and out of the courtroom. A lawyer who only knows how to settle cases and not how to win them in front of a judge and jury may only be half the lawyer a biker needs to get paid for a road rash injury.
You Suffered a Bad Road Rash. What Now?
We have covered a lot of ground in this blog post, so let’s end with some brass tacks. Let’s say you suffered a road rash injury in a Houston-area motorcycle wreck. What should you do first?
Believe it or not, the answer is simple. You should visit a doctor immediately and follow the doctor’s advice. Never try to treat a road rash injury with home remedies, and never try to tough it out through the pain. Suffering road rash in a bike wreck means exposure to a dangerous infection risk. If you wait too long to go to get the wound cleaned and treated, you could make it much, much worse.
Seeking medical care does not just protect you from a deadly infection. It also creates records that a lawyer can use to help prove your case against the party who caused your Houston motorcycle wreck. Those records can show the nature and severity of your injury, and they can demonstrate that you did not do anything that made your condition worse.
Want to know more about your rights after suffering a road rash in a Houston motorcycle accident? Contact a skilled motorcycle crash lawyer today for a free consultation. We’re ready to help you on the path to recovery.
Since starting his firm in 1999, Stewart J. Guss has had the honor of representing clients from all over the world, helping them recover from even the most catastrophic injuries.
Today, thanks to a strong belief in those values of compassion, respect, and approachability, the firm has grown to employ over 120 legal professionals in numerous offices across 4 states, with nationwide reach.