When thinking about road rash, the types of accidents that commonly come to mind are motorcycle and bicycle accidents. Oftentimes, however, pedestrians and occupants of passenger vehicles who are involved in an accident suffer road rash. Pedestrians may sustain road rash after a forceful impact causes them to fall and slide across the rough surface of the roadway or sidewalk. Vehicle passengers may experience road rash if the impact of a collision forces them outside of the car and onto the roadway. the vehicle.
Road rash is an extraordinarily painful combination of a friction burn and an abrasion. When a person’s skin comes in contact with a rough surface, such as the pavement, any areas of exposed skin are vulnerable. Skin may scrape away and the friction between your skin and the surface may generate heat, causing a burn.
Road Rash Severity
No part of a person’s body is safe from road rash; however, areas of skin that are commonly unprotected are more prone to road rash than others. Legs, knees, hands, elbows, forearms, and chins are common sites of road rash injuries. Because a road rash typically causes a large abrasion, the injuries can be much more painful than minor cuts and scrapes. A minor cut only exposes a few nerve endings, resulting in manageable pain. A large abrasion sometimes exposes many more nerve endings, amplifying the resulting pain.
The three degrees of road rash are:
- First-degree road rash, which results in little or no bleeding, possibly some bruising, and one or more minor scrapes. First-degree road rash may not appear to be a serious injury. However, as mentioned, abrasions are typically highly painful because of the number of nerve endings exposed. In most cases, you can treat first-degree road rash at home.
- Second-degree road rash, which is characterized by breaks in the skin. While the lower layers of the skin do not tear, they often become visible when the upper layers have been damaged. Debris, including rocks and sand, may likely become embedded in the wound. Victims experiencing second-degree road rash should seek medical attention because the wound is at risk for infection and scarring.
- Third-degree road rash, which refers to a deep wound that often exposes muscles, tendons, and bones. Road rash of this severity often causes significant bleeding.
The risk of infection and scarring increases with the degree of road rash.
Infection and Blood Poisoning
Larger road rash wounds are more prone to become infected. Underlying health conditions such as diabetes or other diseases that compromise the immune system can further increase the risk of infection. Individuals undergoing treatment that lowers their white blood cell count, such as chemotherapy, are more susceptible to infection. Underlying conditions and medication treatments may also increase the time required for individuals to fully recover. Longer recovery times can further increase the risk of infection.
Signs that open wounds, such as road rash, are infected include:
- Increasing pain after a period of 24 hours following the injury;
- Redness around the wound site;
- Additional swelling around the wound site;
- The wound area feels warm to the touch;
- The wound starts emitting fluid or pus, which sometimes smells foul or appears yellow or green; and
- Fever, body aches, and chills.
Though it is rare, road rash could lead to blood poisoning or septic shock. Extensive infection may lead to septic shock which causes a significant decrease in blood pressure that may lead to organ failure or even death. Blood poisoning and sepsis resulting from road rash are extremely rare and only develop with severe infection.
Treating Road Rash
Depending on the severity of the injury, the level of treatment a road rash wound requires will vary. After sustaining first first-degree road rash, individuals will likely be able to fully recover with at-home treatment. However, injured victims should seek medical attention if they experience any symptoms of infection. Typically, emergency medical technicians will clean and dress the wound at the scene as best as possible, but you should still seek follow-up medical care. For second- and third-degree road rash, individuals should always seek medical treatment.
As mentioned, relatively minor road rash injuries without any large embedded debris can be cared for at home. Rinse the area with warm, soapy water to remove any small debris that may be difficult to see.
Bleeding may be controlled by applying light pressure to the wound with a bandage or a clean cloth. Road rash usually oozes blood, slowly. However, a slow-bleed could continue for hours or even days if left uncontrolled. After applying pressure, if the wound continues to bleed, seek medical attention. When the wound has been cleaned and the bleeding has stopped, keep the wound covered with a dry dressing.
If you do seek medical attention, follow your doctor’s instructions for cleaning and bandaging the wound.
Permanent Scarring and Psychological Issues
Compared to more severe injuries, e.g. spinal cord damage or traumatic brain injury, road rash is relatively minor. However, when road rash causes permanent disfigurement or scarring, it may also induce emotional and psychological suffering. Any impacts caused by injuries sustained in an accident may be included in an injured victim’s claim for damages. The costs of therapy required to treat psychological suffering caused by permanent scarring may be compensable.
Other potential impacts of road rash may include:
- Ongoing pain and discomfort from surgical procedures, including reconstructive surgeries.
- Depression, which may develop in individuals that experience scarring or disfigurement that affects their self-confidence. Depending on the severity of the scarring or disfigurement, depression may become clinical for some individuals.
- Post-traumatic stress syndrome, which sometimes develops when an accident has a substantial impact on a person. Even if the person did not suffer significant injuries, but others in the accident did, that person could suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome. This is especially true if others in the accident sustain catastrophic injuries or fatality.
- Anxiety may stem from road rash injuries. Anxiety can affect someone who is worried about scarring or who is reminded of the accident every time they look in the mirror. People may also suffer anxiety if they are concerned about how others will react to injuries and scars.
In the absence of permanent scars, individuals may still suffer a range of impacts due to the severity of the accident or the severity of his or her injuries. Sometimes, people worry about not being able to provide for their families, and that worry may turn into depression, anxiety, and other psychological issues. If you suffered road rash or other injuries in an accident, contact a car accident lawyer for a free consultation.