Road Rash and How to Treat It

Road rash is one of the most common injuries for motorcycle riders who get into an accident. It is also a type of injury that is mostly unique to motorcyclists and other people who operate vehicles that are not enclosed. This type of abrasion can range from a minor injury that will heal on its own to severe cases that can carry complications or even results in death if not treated properly. 

So now you know that road rash can be a serious injury in certain cases, but how do you know if yours is serious and what should you do if you get road rash? Learn the answers to these questions are more by continuing to read below. 

What is Road Rash? 

Road rash typically refers to a collection of injuries that can occur when the body comes into contact with a driving surface, like a road. For most riders, the image that usually comes to mind is a skin abrasion or burn from sliding contact against gravel or asphalt. However, in legal terms, there are technically two types of injuries that are considered to be road rashes: 

  • Avulsion Injury: This is the more common type that was mentioned before that riders usually think of first. It is when the skin’s surface is abraded or stripped away because of friction against a rough surface. This type of injury can take the form of a surface gash or, in more serious cases, layers of fat, muscles, or bone can be exposed. 
  • Compression Injury: This injury occurs when a part of the body gets caught or crushed between two objects or an object and the road. This type of wound is more likely to cause damage to the torso or extremities when it occurs. 


Degrees of Road Rash Injury 

Much like with other types of burns, doctors rate the severity of a road rash injury by degrees. First-degree is the least severe, while third-degree is the most. 

A first-degree road rash affects only the top layer of the skin. This category includes milder wounds like scrapes, scratches, raspberries, and other superficial minor injuries. These can be identified by reddened skin and possible temporary scarring, but these should usually heal over time with adequate disinfectant and treatment. 

Second-degree road rash is an abrasion that results in the top layer of skin, the epidermis, being torn and causes a deep cut or laceration. Since this level of injury breaks the skin barrier, the victim is more susceptible to possible infection, which can cause complications, so it is important to be treated by a professional to make sure you don’t miss anything. 

The most severe case, third-degree road rash, occurs when the second layer of skin, the dermis, is penetrated and peeled away. The dermis covers everything under the skin, so if this layer is damaged, the injury may expose fat and muscle tissues. This can result in nerve damage, impaired muscle and tendon function, or permanent deformity. Needless to say, this grade of injury requires immediate medical attention and can necessitate reconstructive surgery or skin grafts. 

Several different factors can affect the degree of injury, including: 

  • The speed at which the rider was traveling 
  • The speed at which the skin makes contact with the abrasive surface 
  • The hardness and texture of the contact surface 
  • The distance the rider slides against the surface 
  • Weather conditions 
  • Protective gear and layers 


How to Treat a Road Rash Injury 

It is typically best practice to seek medical help if you are unsure of the extent of an injury. This can also be an important step to take if you were the victim of an accident and are trying to file a claim with your insurance company or receive compensation in court. Here are some tips on how to provide first to yourself or another injured party at the scene of an accident before medical professionals are able to arrive. 

First-Degree Road Rash 

If the injury is truly minor and only superficial, you may be able to treat your injuries on your own while keeping an eye on them. To treat a first-degree wound, take these steps as soon as possible: 

  1. Wash or sanitize your hands before treatment to minimize the chance of introducing an infection. 
  2. Rinse the injured area with water and antibacterial soap, alcohol, or disinfectant. Do not rub or scrub the injured area while rinsing. 
  3. After the wound has dried, apply an antibiotic ointment to the wounded area to further prevent infection and promote healing.
  4. Dress the wound with gauze or an appropriately-sized bandage to protect the skin from further damage and infection. 
  5. Change the dressing regularly, at least once or twice a day. You should also apply new dressing if the old one becomes dirty, gets wet, or becomes too loose. If undressing your abrasion is painful, you can moisten the old bandage with distilled water to loosen the tape if it is sticking to your scab. 
  6. Since an abrasion is open wound with a lot of surface area, use non-stick gauze rather than regular sterile gauze. This will help you minimize the likelihood of the dressing sticking to the wound and reopening any scabs that have formed.
  7. If you are treating your wound on your own without the guidance of a doctor, be sure to keep an eye out for signs of possible infection. Such signs will include excessive redness that does not subside, continued pain that does not improve, or pus and drainage. If any of these signs occur, redress your wound and see a doctor. 

Second-Degree Road Rash 

  1. Wash or disinfect your hands before treatment. 
  2. Gently irrigate the area around the wound with water to rinse away any visible foreign debris or dirt. 
  3. Cover the injury with a bandage or gauze. If no first aid supplies are readily available, a clean cloth could be substituted. 
  4. Seek medical attention. 

Third-Degree Road Rash 

This type of injury always necessitates immediate medical attention. Only do the following if immediate care is required before paramedics are able to arrive on the scene: 

  1. Stop the bleeding with a bandage or a piece of clean cloth. 
  2. If there are multiple wounds, care for the most serious injuries first. To minimize rapid blood loss, prioritize areas that are heavily bleeding, oozing bright red blood, or spurting blood. 
  3. Keep applying constant pressure the serious wounds while waiting for help. If no one else is around who can seek assistance, use one hand to keep pressure on the cloth or bandage, while the other hand calls 911. Stay on the line with the operator and they will guide you on what to do while you wait for emergency services. 


If you ride a motorcycle for a long time, you are more likely to fall off your bike at some point. If you take the proper precautions, you will hopefully not have to deal with road rash, but if it can’t be avoided, you now know how to address it. If you were involved a motorcycle accident and were injured, contact the Law Offices of Kirshner, Groff, and Diaz to see if you could be entitled to compensation for your damages. All initial consultations have no obligation to continue with our legal services, and you will have the opportunity to speak directly to an actual attorney.

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