Road rash is a common injury for a person to experience at some point in their lifetime. While road rash can be a common childhood injury when playing on the pavement, playgrounds, and gravel, it may also be a dangerous and potentially life-threatening injury when it occurs in an accident at higher speeds along the roadways. Although more commonly associated with motorcycle accidents, many accidents can result in this painful condition.

What Is Road Rash?

Road rash is a type of friction or burn injury that happens when a person’s skin is scraped off against a hard or rough surface. The skin tends to look raw. Normally, the superficial top layer of skin needs to be scraped off. In more serious cases of road rash, the injury can damage multiple layers of skin.

Road rash can cause bleeding or oozing, which may last several days depending on the severity and depth of the road rash. Road rash is known for its painful stinging and burning sensation, especially along the borders of the area with damaged skin. This pain is often immediate and can last for some time as the wound heals. In very deep road rash injuries, victims may feel less pain in concentrated areas with damaged nerves.

Signs of road rash include:

  • Red and raw looking area of skin
  • Pain, burning, or stinging sensation
  • Swelling
  • Bleeding or oozing

Stages of Road Rash

An abrasion is a medical term used to describe a road rash injury. These painful skin wounds can range in severity from minor to severe. While most abrasions consist of small scrapes, more severe cases can cause extensive bleeding and damage over large areas of the skin. A road rash injury will be staged according to its particular characteristics.

First-degree road rash

  • Superficial injury to the uppermost layer of skin
  • Some redness but no bleeding present

Second-degree road rash

  • A moderate abrasion
  • Affects the top layer of skin as well as the layer below
  • Mild to moderate bleeding may be present

Third-degree road rash

  • The most severe abrasion
  • Damage to several layers of skin
  • Heavy bleeding

Is Road Rash a Serious Injury?

While the majority of everyday road rash injuries are minor and can be treated at home, second and third-degree road rash injuries can be serious and require medical attention. In most severe cases, it may be difficult for the road rash injury to heal without more thorough medical intervention. Third-degree abrasions are often treated similarly to burn injuries and may require a skin graft for successful treatment.

Even minor to moderate road rash injuries that may not require immediate medical care can be susceptible to infection and complications after some time.

A road rash injury victim can experience intense pain and suffering due to the injury itself, or during the procedures and surgeries for treatment. Recovery can take quite some time and scars can be life-long.

Common Causes of Road Rash

A road rash injury can happen in many situations and accidents, but is more common in certain circumstances.

The most common causes of road rash include:

  • Motorcycle accident
  • Bicycling accident
  • Motorized recreational vehicle accident
  • Participation in sports
  • Slip and Fall accidents

When Do You Need Medical Care for Road Rash?

If you are in an accident and suffer road rash, you may initially attempt to treat the injury yourself at home. While road rash is not commonly a life-threatening injury, there are some warning signs that your health may be at risk following an accident. If your injury is not healing properly or seems to be worsening, you likely need to seek medical attention as urgently as possible to prevent further damage and problems.

Indications your road rash requires medical intervention include:

  • Chills and/or fever
  • Redness around the injury
  • Drainage of pus or other fluid from the injury
  • Foul odor from the injury
  • Increased swelling
  • Worsening pain and discomfort of skin
  • Heavy bleeding

Can You Treat Road Rash at Home?

For motorcyclists, bicyclists, and other active individuals, road rash can be an unfortunate but frequent occurrence. Many road rash injuries can be treated at home when they are minor. There are some steps you should take to evaluate your injury, lessen your pain, and treat your wounds.

Clean the Wound

The biggest risks and complications associated with road rash involve susceptibilities of the open wound to infection and bacteria. The most important thing to keep in mind in self-treating road rash is hygiene and cleanliness, which requires keeping the wound free from dirt, debris, and other bacteria that can cause an infection.

Wash your hands thoroughly and then proceed to cleanse your wound with antibacterial soap and water. Do not scrub but gently flush the wound under running water. Be sure to remove any debris that may be present in or around the wound. If debris penetrates the skin it may require medical care for proper removal and to avoid infection.

Heal the Wound

The best way to heal road rash from a motorcycle accident is to seek treatment from a medical professional. The infection risk is too great to try to treat at home.

Keep a Watchful Eye

In the first few days following a road rash injury, your wound will likely bleed and ooze. Make sure to clean the wound and replace the covering frequently whenever the covering becomes saturated. Wherever you replace bandaging, you should also reapply antibiotic ointment.

Take notice of your injury and its progress. If its appearance is worsening or your pain is not improving, you should seek urgent medical attention. Infections are common following open wounds such as road rash because it can be challenging to keep the area clean at all times.

Complications that Can Arise from a Road Rash Injury

If you suspect at any time that you have an infection developing in your wound, you should seek medical help as soon as possible. While a road rash injury itself is not life-threatening; complications can arise from a road rash injury.

Possible complications from road rash include:


The wounds that occur with road rash are exposed to the elements at the time of the accident and for some time thereafter as your body and skin begin to heal. An open wound such as a road rash often is covered in debris from the accident and can be susceptible to exposure to other bacteria if not covered and cleaned properly throughout the healing process. If caught early, an infection can usually be treated quite efficiently by a medical provider. But, if an infection is left untreated for too long, additional damage and complications can occur which can place your health at risk and require more invasive medical intervention.


While small road rash injuries can be barely noticeable, severe road rash injuries that cover a large area of the body may lead to scarring that can last a lifetime. Although some scarring normally occurs in road rash cases, severe road rash injuries can lead to permanent scarring and disfigurement for the victim. Early medical intervention and proper medical treatment might help you reduce the likelihood of severe scarring.

What Is the Average Time it takes for Road Rash to Heal?

A victim of severe road rash will often describe it as an unpleasant and painful experience. The healing process is often slow and the care required to keep the wound clean and infection-free can be tedious and worrisome.

On average, most minor to moderate road rash injuries can heal in approximately 14 days with proper care and treatment. However, serious road rash injuries that require surgery such as skin grafts can take much longer to heal. Injuries that succumb to infections can create challenges that extend recovery time.

What Should You Do If You are Injured with Road Rash?

If you are injured in an accident that causes road rash, you should immediately evaluate your injuries to determine if medical attention is warranted. If you were in a motorcycle accident or bicycling collision, visit an emergency room for a complete evaluation of your health and body. This can rule out serious injuries that you may not notice in the immediate moments after an accident.

If you feel your road rash injuries are manageable with at-home care, you should follow through with all steps to cleanse and heal your wound proactively. Keep a close eye on any changes in appearance or discomfort and do not hesitate to reach out to a medical provider if your injury is slow to heal or appears to be worsening.

Can You Recover Compensation for Your Road Rash Injuries?

Road rash injuries are quite common in accident victims such as motorcyclists, bicyclists, slip and fall victims, or occupants in car accidents. If you are in an accident that a negligent party caused, you may pursue compensation for the road rash injuries you have suffered in addition to any other damages you have sustained.

Although road rash is usually not a life-threatening condition; road rash injuries can be painful and affect your life in many ways. Whether it is missed work due to hospitalization, pain and discomfort, or the various medical expenses for treatment and recovery, you could face expenses and impacts due to injuries caused by an at-fault party. For severe injuries, you could face disfigurement and scarring that could affect the remainder of your life as well as painful procedures such as skin grafts or plastic surgery.

Damages that you can seek for a road rash injury include:

  • Medical expenses. This can include bills related to emergency care as well as long-term treatment and surgeries that you may need in the future.
  • Income losses. You can recover any missed work or income losses related to your road rash accident from the parties responsible. In addition, if your injuries cause permanent damage that will affect your income potential in the future, you may be eligible for additional compensation.
  • Pain and suffering. There is no question that road rash is a painful injury. Even with pain management medications and other treatments, victims can experience significant discomfort, aches, and overall suffering that would not have occurred had it not been for another person’s negligent actions. Motorcycle accident claims allow for a road rash victim to recover compensation for the pain and suffering they must endure because of their injuries.
  • Future expenses. An injury such as a road rash could have implications far beyond what you may have originally imagined. If your accident leaves you with devastating scars or other damage, this could affect your life for years to come. In a motorcycle accident claim, an attorney can help you estimate all of the damages you may suffer from your injury now and in the future, and you may demand compensation for such damages as part of your claim.

If you or a loved one are injured in an accident resulting in road rash and that accident was due to the negligence of another party you may seek monetary compensation for your losses. Contact a motorcycle accident attorney in your area to discuss the specifics in your case and your legal options.