Motorcycle accidents frequently cause foot and leg injuries. Research has found injuries to riders’ lower extremities are the most common form of motorcycle crash trauma. Some foot and leg injuries are particularly severe—bikers commonly suffer crushed ankles, second or third-degree burns, or traumatic amputations, for example.
Below, we explore aspects of motorcycle accidents that cause serious foot and leg injuries. We also discuss how an experienced motorcycle accident injury attorney can pursue compensation for an injured biker contending with lower extremity trauma.
The Numbers on Motorcycle Crash Foot and Leg Injuries
Numerous studies have analyzed data on motorcycle crash injuries. Time and again, they have found that lower extremity (foot and leg) injuries rank among the most common types of motorcycle accident trauma.
Depending on which study you consult, lower extremity injuries account for between 30 percent and 70 percent of the non-fatal injuries bikers suffer. A large study of motorcycle wrecks in the United States conducted by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) put that number at roughly 47 percent, for example.
How Foot and Leg Injuries Happen in Motorcycle Accidents
Bikers’ feet and legs are extremely vulnerable to injury in a motorcycle accident because they’re relatively unprotected and closest to the ground. In a recent study titled A review of common motorcycle collision mechanisms of injury, published in the medical journal EFORT Open Reviews, a group of Yale University School of Medicine researchers analyzed how various motorcycle accident injuries happen.
Their study examined lower extremity injuries in particular and concluded that many injuries to the foot and ankle occur when a rider falls to the low side when a motorcycle tips over—an accident the authors referred to as a lowside crash.
The Yale study identified three mechanisms common in lowside crashes that tended to cause lower extremity injuries:
- Limb entrapment, in which the rider’s leg gets pinned between the bike and the ground or another fixed object, frequently resulting in tibia fractures or foot and ankle injuries. (Though not noted in the study, limb entrapment can also result in burns to the inner leg from contact with hot engine components and severe road rash to the outer leg from sliding along the pavement beneath a tipped-over bike.);
- Crash modifying maneuvers, in which a rider, in anticipation of a lowside crash, stretches their low side leg out to try to catch themselves but instead ends up with a foot or ankle fracture or, worse, a mangled leg;
- Tire-spoke injury, in which the rider’s foot gets caught in a rear tire spoke, resulting in severe trauma to the heel or ankle, sometimes requiring amputation.
These, of course, are not the only ways foot and leg injuries happen in motorcycle crashes. They’re simply three of the most common mechanisms identified by researchers as likely to cause lower extremity injuries. Bikers can also sustain severe trauma to their feet or legs when a collision throws them from the saddle to the ground or into a fixed or moving object, resulting in foot or leg fractures, road rash, or a leg pinned or run over by another vehicle.
Severe foot and leg injuries can also happen if a car, truck, or bus collides with the side of a bike, crushing the rider’s lower body between the motorcycle and the other vehicle.
Factors Affecting the Severity of Motorcycle Crash Foot and Leg Injuries
Injuries to the lower extremities in a motorcycle crash tend to become especially severe when certain factors are present. Here’s a review of the aspects of a crash that can turn a bad injury into an extreme one.
The speed of the vehicles involved in a motorcycle crash has a direct correlation to the severity of the injuries it causes to a biker. Simply put, the higher the speed, the greater the force of impact, and the more severe or catastrophic the motorcyclist’s likely injuries. Speed also correlates to a greater likelihood of a motorcycle accident occurring because it decreases driver and rider reaction times, stretches stopping distances, and makes staying in control more difficult.
The road surface where a motorcycle accident occurs can have significant implications for the severity of a rider’s leg and foot injuries. Pavement acts like sandpaper against a rider’s body in a slide, so the coarser the surface, the more damage it can do to a rider’s legs. Unpaved roads that are uneven or undermined by rocks and tree roots can also pose dangers by creating obstacles that can snag or impact a biker’s foot and ankle.
Motorcycle Boots and Leathers
Researchers have noted that wearing protective gear cannot entirely protect you from suffering leg and foot injuries in a high-speed motorcycle crash. But most wrecks happen at lower speeds in which gear can make a big difference in preventing trauma. And even at high speeds, leathers and boots can reduce the severity of a foot or leg injury. But it’s important to wear both.
A recent study published in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention concluded that boots and leathers significantly reduce the risk of severe injury when worn together but far less so when worn separately.
Seeking Compensation for a Motorcycle Crash Foot or Leg Injury
Motorcyclists who sustain foot and leg injuries in a crash often have the right to hold an at-fault party or insurance company financially accountable. With the help of a skilled motorcycle accident injury lawyer, an injured rider can hope to obtain payments to cover a wide range of expenses and losses.
Who should pay for foot and leg injuries?
The law generally entitles a biker to claim monetary damages whenever someone else’s careless or wrongful actions play a role in causing a motorcycle accident. Liability can fall to a single party or on multiple individuals, businesses, or entities. One of the most important jobs for an attorney who represents a biker suffering crash-related foot or leg injuries is to identify as many potentially liable parties as possible.
In any given accident scenario, liability for the biker’s trauma could reside with:
- The driver of another motor vehicle whose careless actions behind the wheel caused a collision with a motorcycle
- The employer of an at-fault driver who crashed into a motorcycle while driving a work vehicle
- A manufacturer of defective automotive parts that contributed to a loss of control, leading to a wreck
- A government entity or contractor responsible for hazards that made a road unreasonably dangerous for riding
- A bar, restaurant, or social host that served alcohol to an obviously intoxicated or underage driver who caused a crash
- An insurance company that issued coverage to the injured rider or a liable party
These are just some examples. A virtually unlimited universe of parties could make poor decisions or engage in dangerous conduct that saddles them with liability for a biker’s foot and leg injuries. The most reliable way for an injured rider to find out who owes money for crash-related injuries is to connect with an experienced motorcycle accident attorney as soon as possible.
What compensation is available?
The law generally entitles riders to seek compensation for the full range of harm they suffered in a wreck—not just for the physical damage done to their feet and legs but also for the emotional, financial, and overall life consequences of their trauma.
Every case differs, but a skilled motorcycle accident injury attorney can often secure payment for a biker’s:
- Past and future medical expenses involved in treating or living with foot and leg injuries and any health complications they cause
- Costs of repairing or replacing a damaged bike, the rider’s protective gear, or other personal property
- Other expenditures made necessary by the wreck or the rider’s foot and leg injuries
- Lost earnings and job benefits from missing work while recuperating from foot and leg injuries
- Lost future earnings and benefits if foot and leg damage limit a biker’s ability to return to work
- Physical pain and discomfort from the injuries and medical treatments for them
- Emotional struggles tied to the challenges of suffering or recovering from foot and leg trauma
- Loss of mobility and ability to enjoy favorite activities
- Diminished quality of life and loss of independence
- Scarring to or disfigurement of legs and feet
If the misconduct leading to a motorcycle accident was particularly extreme or intentional, a lawyer can also sometimes secure a court award for punitive damages, which punish the at-fault party. And in the case of a foot or leg injury contributing to a biker’s cause of death, the victim’s surviving spouse and family can often seek compensation for their loss through a wrongful death lawsuit.
To find out more about the types and amounts of compensation you might claim after a bike wreck inflicts severe foot or leg damage, contact a knowledgeable motorcycle accident injury lawyer as soon as you can.
Protecting Your Rights After a Severe Foot and Leg Injury
As we’ve explained, you have potentially significant financial claims to make after sustaining foot or leg trauma in a motorcycle wreck. But turning those claims into cash isn’t necessarily guaranteed. Hiring a skilled lawyer right away is the safest way to protect and pursue your rights. In addition, you can help your cause by following the tips below.
Get Medical Care
In our experience, bikers sometimes have an instinct to minimize the trauma they’ve suffered in a wreck. But it can be a serious and costly mistake to tough it out or ignore injuries until they worsen. The single most important thing an injured rider can do to protect their rights is to go to the doctor immediately after a crash causes any injury to their feet or legs—even if the pain isn’t so bad or they think they’ll heal on their own.
Leg and foot trauma that seems minor can easily turn into major, potentially life-threatening health problems like blood clots or sepsis. The only safe option to protect yourself against a catastrophic health result is to go to the doctor immediately. Plus, by visiting a medical professional, you ensure that records will exist of the extent of your injuries and how they happened. That’s valuable evidence for a lawyer to use in getting you the money you deserve.
Say No to Any Settlement Offer Made to You Directly
Never accept any offer made directly to you to settle or “make things right” after a motorcycle wreck causes a foot or leg injury. This includes offers from drivers at the accident scene and from insurance companies in the days or weeks afterward. The money offered never amounts to what you have the legal right to receive. And taking it could rob you of the right to secure full payment down the road.
This is particularly important to remember in low-speed motorcycle crash situations. For example, suppose a car bumper slow-rolls into your legs and knocks you and your bike over. It’s not unheard of for the driver in that situation to apologize immediately and reach for his wallet to offer you cash to keep insurance out of it. Tempting as it might seem to take his money, resist the urge and decline. An experienced lawyer can almost always get you far more than whatever the driver offers.
The same goes for insurance companies that contact you out of the blue to offer you a settlement for your potential claim. They’ll usually offer more than what a driver tries to hand you on the spot, but it’ll still be far less than what you have the right to receive. Leave negotiations with an insurance company to a skilled lawyer who can get you enough to cover your expenses and set you up for a full recovery.
Contact a Motorcycle Accident Injury Lawyer Today
Severe foot and leg injuries are an unfortunately common outcome of motorcycle accidents. But that doesn’t make them any less traumatic or disruptive to your life. You deserve compensation for the harm done to you. A skilled motorcycle accident lawyer can fight to get it for you. Contact a motorcycle accident attorney in your area today for a free consultation.