Brain Injuries and Motorcycle Accidents

Cruising Kentucky's parkways and scenic byways on a motorcycle is definitely one of life's pleasures. However, it also carries risk. Motorcycle accidents claimed the lives of nearly 5,000 Americans in 2015, the most recent year for which there is published data, and they made up 14 percent of all accident fatalities.

Counting fatalities tells only a small part of the picture, though. In 2015 there were 88,000 motorcycle accidents that resulted in injury. Many of these resulted in traumatic brain injury and paralysis.

Unfortunately, when motorcyclists collide with another vehicle or object, physics is against them. Unlike motorists, who have benefited from safety mechanisms like seatbelts and airbags, motorcyclists are propelled through the air, making them far more vulnerable to injury or death. In fact, motorcycle accidents result in injury 80 percent of the time, as opposed to 20 percent in the case of motor vehicle accidents.

Brain Injury Is the Leading Cause of Death or Disability in Motorcycle Accidents

Kentucky motorcyclists are particularly susceptible to head injury, which can range in severity from a simple concussion to a fatal blow. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs when you suffer a blow or jolt to the head, causing the brain to strike the skull. The skull does not need to be broken for a serious injury to develop; a lot depends on the angle and force of the impact.

After a motorcycle accident in which you sustain a mild head injury, you may experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Loss of consciousness for a short time
  • A feeling of being dazed, confused or disoriented
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Problems with speech
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Dizziness or loss of balance
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering details.

Some more severe symptoms include convulsions, slurred speech, an ever-worsening headache, and weakness or numbness in the fingers and toes.

The classic signs of traumatic brain injury do not even have to be present. You may feel fine after the accident, only to develop symptoms days, weeks, or months later. For that reason, it is crucial that you see a doctor for a complete examination as soon as possible.

No Helmet? Can You Still Collect Damages?

Kentucky repealed its universal helmet law in 1998. Motorcyclists in the Blue Grass State are required to wear a helmet only if they are under 21 years of age, have been licensed for less than a year, or have no healthcare coverage.

Since the universal helmet law's repeal, motorcycle fatalities have increased 50 percent. Over half of those killed were not wearing a helmet. Moreover, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that helmets could potentially reduce the level of fatalities by 22 to 37 percent and the incidence of traumatic brain injury by 44-65 percent.

Because wearing a helmet has been shown to decrease the risk of head injury, the law may consider you negligent if you weren't wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, and the amount of compensation you receive could be limited.

It's important to remember, though, that trauma to your brain and spine can occur due to a variety of causes. If you can prove that your injuries would have occurred even if you had been wearing a helmet, you may be entitled to collect full damages for your loss of work, pain and suffering, and medical bills.