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Head Injury

Head Injury

It is rare to walk away from a motorcycle accident unscathed. A head injury is perhaps the most serious injury one can sustain as the result of a motorcycle accident. Even when helmets are worn, the lack of protection surrounding a motorcycle rider involved in a cycle accident usually means a serious injury.

When a head injury occurs, there may be no visible damage on the outside- inside the skull, it may be a different scenario entirely. Although the brain is protected by its bony covering, the brain may be shaken or bounced from one side of the skull to the other, which may result in bleeding around the brain, bruising of the brain tissue itself or damage to the nerves within the brain.

Skull Fractures

There are several types of skull fractures that may occur as the result of a motorcycle injury. A skull fracture often means that the area of the brain beneath the skull has also been injured.

  • Basilar skull fractures-in basilar skull fractures, there is a fracture in the bones at the base of the skull. These fractures often extend to the facial bones and sinuses.
  • Linear skull fractures– straight line fractures in any area of the skull.
  • Stellate fractures– these fractures assume a starburst-like shape
  • Penetrating skull fractures-injury occurs to the brain as a result of some object penetrating the skull. In motorcycle accidents, these usually occur when a foreign object impales the brain.
  • Depressed skull fracture-a piece of the skull is forced inwards towards the brain
  • Open and closed fractures– open fractures occur when the skin is damaged over the fracture site, allowing potential debris unimpeded access to the brain and increasing the risk of infection. In closed fractures, the skin is intact over the site of the fracture.

Brain Bleeds

An intracranial bleed refers to any bleeding within the skull, while an intracerebral bleed refers to bleeding within the brain itself. In order for a bleed to occur, there does not necessarily have to be a fracture present.

Bleeding within the confines of the skull or brain is dangerous because the skull is an enclosed area; therefore, when bleeding occurs, there is no escape for accumulating blood or blood clots. This can lead to increased pressure within the skull which eventually compresses the brain if not relieved. There are several types of brain bleeds that may occur as the result of a head injury:

  • Subdural hematoma– occurs when the bridging veins lining the subdural space (space between the skull and the brain) are torn. A subdural hematoma may form at a fracture site or may form on the opposite side of the skull from the area of injury due to the brain being forcefully bounced against the opposite side of the skull.
  • Epidural hematoma– the dura is a tough membrane that lines the brain, protecting it. It attaches where the bones of the skull come together (suture line). When an epidural hematoma occurs, the escaping blood forms a clot within a small, confined area, which places pressure on the brain. Most people with this type of brain bleed will require surgery to relieve the pressure on the brain, although very small bleeds may be observed carefully.
  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage– in this type of injury, blood collects beneath the innermost layer of the meninges (arachnoid layer). This may also result in an intracerebral hemorrhage.
  • Intracerebral hemorrhage/Cerebral contusion– a “bruise” to the brain, these types of injuries involve the brain tissue. Swelling is a major complication
  • Shear injury (diffuse axonal injury) – axons are parts of the neurons, specialized brain cells that allow signals to be sent between brain cells. This type of injury results in an interruption of electrical flow between the brain cells, often resulting in a coma without any discernible bleeding or damage within the brain.

Any of the above injuries are potentially deadly. Helmets do not always protect against head injuries (although they certainly increase one’s chances of surviving a motorcycle accident). Motorcycle injuries often involve high speed and impact forces, and the lack of any protection around the rider may result in severe injury. If you have sustained a head injury as the result of a motorcycle accident, or have a question regarding your legal rights, please contact us.

Fractures

Fractures

Fractures are common injuries sustained in motorcycle injuries. Although they can be very painful, most are easily treated. Fractures can range from simple, uncomplicated fractures requiring a cast until healing has occurred to severe fractures requiring surgery for stabilization.

Due to the lack of protection surrounding the cyclist, fractures are common when a cycle accident occurs. Colliding with another vehicle, the pavement or other unyielding surfaces can result in severe fractures. Cyclists may sustain a single fracture or multiple fractures. Some fractures are more serious than others and are more likely to cause complications and prolonged disability.

Types of Fractures
• Closed fracture- the bone is broken but does not exit the skin
• Open (compound) fracture- the fractured bone extends through the skin, or the skin is broken by a hard blow which breaks the bone. This type of fracture is at risk of becoming infected.
• Comminuted fracture- the bone is broken into three or more pieces or fragments
• Greenstick fracture- only one side of the bone breaks; the other side of the bone is bent (more common in children)
• Transverse fracture- the break occurs at right angles to the bone’s long axis

Treatment of fractures
• External fixation- a cast, splint or other immobilizing device is used to hold the bone in correct alignment until the bone has healed
• Internal fixation- surgery to affix plates, screws or pins may be required to hold the bone together in proper alignment for more severe fractures

Recovery from Fracture
A fracture may take weeks or months to heal. Once the bones are aligned correctly, the pain usually diminishes, but before the fracture is reduced pain can be severe. Muscles of the affected limb often become weak from disuse when a limb is immobilized for a period of time, so physiotherapy may be needed for a period of time after healing has occurred.

Implications for the Victim
A fracture can mean a prolonged recuperation and an inability to work. This can cause financial hardship for individuals suffering a fracture as a result of a cycle accident. Medical and hospital bills can be expensive. In addition, the individual may need help at home during the recovery period. Rehabilitation costs can also be high. Complications (including infection, blood clots, pneumonia, malunion, joint stiffness and arthritis and deformity) may complicate recovery and leave the victim with chronic pain and/or deformity.

If you have suffered a fracture in a cycle accident, it is a good idea to contact an attorney experienced in cycle law. A motorcycle law attorney has the necessary knowledge to investigate the accident, assist you with filing insurance claims and can advise you of your rights. Should a trial become necessary, your motorcycle attorney has the skills needed to file your case, negotiate a settlement or take your case to trial should that become necessary. Don’t wait- the sooner you contact us, the sooner we can help you begin to rebuild your life.