When you are in a motorcycle accident, a common result is blunt force trauma. As a motorcyclist, you are exposed to the elements, and there is no seatbelt to keep you from being flung free of your vehicle when you are struck; and neither are there walls to prevent other cars from hitting you directly, possibly at high speeds. While sometimes minor, blunt force trauma injuries can result in severe complications, and even death.
What is blunt force trauma?
We often think of blunt force trauma being an injury to the head, but the fact is that it can occur on any part of the body. Blunt force trauma refers to an injury caused by a blunt object or force that does not penetrate the skin. It’s a type of trauma characterized by the application of force over a broad area, resulting in damage to underlying tissues, organs, or bones. Unlike penetrating injuries, where an object pierces the skin and enters the body, blunt force trauma involves the transmission of force through the body’s surface.
Blunt force injuries are generally classified into four different categories: contusions, abrasions, lacerations, and fractures.
The National Library of Medicine differentiates these categories:
Blunt impact injuries result from direct contact of a blunt object with a body. A contusion results from the blunt impact of significant force to rupture capillaries underneath the skin surface while leaving the skin surface intact, while an abrasion results from scraping off of the superficial epidermis. Contusions and abrasions may show distinct patterns which can be used to match a specific wound to a potential weapon or implement; for example, a contusion over the forehead with multiple parallel, zig-zag lines may be matched to the sole of a shoe collected at the crime scene. A laceration results from the blunt impact of significant force to tear the skin, leaving strands of subcutaneous tissues bridging the wound. Contusions and lacerations may also be present on internal organs. Blunt impact of significant force to a bone results in a fracture.
Put in very simple terms, a contusion is bruising, abrasions are scrapes, lacerations are cuts, and fractures are broken bones.
Blunt force trauma injuries in motorcycle accidents
Motor vehicle accidents often result in blunt force trauma injuries, especially motorcycle accidents. If you are involved in a motorcycle accident, you are likely to suffer blunt force trauma injuries to your head, limbs, and chest.
The most dangerous injuries caused by blunt force trauma in motorcycle accidents include:
- Skull fractures. Motorcycle accidents often lead to high-impact collisions, resulting in skull fractures. Fractures can be linear or depressed, and the severity varies based on the force of impact.
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Head injuries in motorcycle accidents frequently cause TBIs. When the brain is jerked forward due to blunt force trauma, it can hit the interior wall of the skull, leading to swelling and internal bleeding in or around the brain. TBIs range from concussions to severe brain damage, affecting cognitive functions, memory, and motor skills. Helmets play a crucial role in mitigating TBI risks, emphasizing the importance of their use.
- Rib fractures. Impact to the chest often results in rib fractures, such as if you are struck head on by a vehicle while operating your motorcycle. Rib fractures can be painful and may lead to complications like punctured lungs or damage to nearby organs.
- Blunt injury to the heart. Severe heart injuries can be fatal, and immediate treatment may not be possible. Some injuries, like a bruise to the heart muscle or a tear in the heart wall, can disrupt normal heart function, causing irregular heartbeats or fatal bleeding. In some cases, the bleeding may be contained temporarily by the membrane around the heart, allowing time for treatment. Damage to a heart valve can lead to heart failure, and in rare instances, a tear in the membrane between heart chambers may cause delayed symptoms and eventual heart failure after a blunt injury.
- Pulmonary injuries: Blunt force trauma to the chest can result in pulmonary injuries. Lung contusions, where the lung tissue is bruised but not punctured, are common. Pneumothorax, a condition where air leaks into the pleural cavity, may occur, leading to lung collapse.
Abdominal injuries and organ damage
- Spleen injuries. The abdomen is susceptible to blunt force trauma in motorcycle accidents. Injuries to the spleen can lead to internal bleeding. According to the Cleveland Clinic:
The anatomy of your spleen makes it relatively easy to injure, especially by a blunt trauma to the outer capsule. If this capsule tears or splits, it’s called a splenic rupture. If your spleen ruptures, it’s the most likely of all of your abdominal organs to cause life-threatening internal bleeding. A ruptured spleen is a medical emergency that requires swift diagnosis and intervention, and sometimes surgery.
- Liver injuries. Like the spleen, the main danger from an injury to your liver is internal bleeding. The National Library of Medicine states that “liver injury is the primary cause of death in severe abdominal trauma and has a 10% to 15% mortality rate.”
- Kidney injuries. The kidneys can be injured due to abdominal impact, such as when in a motorcycle accident, and the motorcyclist is thrown from the bike and collides with the roof or hood of the vehicle they collided with. Hematuria (blood in the urine) and flank pain are common signs of kidney trauma. Motor vehicle accidents are the most common cause of blunt trauma to the kidneys, according to the National Library of Medicine. When someone has a kidney injury, the severity and chances of recovery depend on the injury’s grade, other injuries, and the medical care received. There’s been an improvement in managing kidney injuries by avoiding surgery for stable patients and using a more targeted approach called superselective renal artery angioembolization. This method helps prevent complete kidney loss by precisely stopping bleeding in the affected part of the kidney, compared to older methods that were more invasive.
- Intestinal injuries. Blunt force trauma can cause injuries to the intestines, leading to perforations or lacerations. The National Library of Medicine states that “blunt injury can ultimately lead to devascularization [(loss of blood due to destruction of blood vessels)] of the affected segment of bowel, leading to intestinal necrosis.” Intestinal injuries may also result in peritonitis. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, “Peritonitis is a redness and swelling (inflammation) of the tissue that lines your belly or abdomen. This tissue is called the peritoneum. It can be a serious, deadly disease.”
- Pelvic fractures. When the bones in the pelvic area break, especially if the break makes the pelvis unstable, it can lead to serious health problems and even death. Pelvic fractures are not uncommon, occurring in about 9 out of 100 people involved in severe accidents. For those with unstable pelvic fractures, the risk of dying while in the hospital can be as high as 8% in the United States. If you are in a motorcycle accident, and you are flung from your motorcycle, you can land hard on your pelvis or hip, leading to pelvic fractures. Being in a T-Bone accident with another vehicle may also lead to severe damage to your pelvis.
Even if you do not suffer any penetrating injuries, blunt force trauma can be just as deadly. It is important that you go to a hospital after you are in a motorcycle accident, as you may have severe injuries that are not readily visible or noticeable.
If you have been in a motorcycle accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence, and you suffered from blunt force trauma injuries, it is important that you seek out the help of an experienced motorcycle accident attorney. At Telaré Law, we understand how catastrophic injuries from motorcycle crashes can be, and how they can change your life forever. That is why you deserve just and rightful compensation. To schedule a free consultation to discuss your options, call us at our offices in Kennewick and Richland, or use our contact form.