The range of injuries suffered by bicycle riders who are hit by motor vehicles, or by riding into vehicle doors being flung open in front of them, is wide.
Unfortunately cyclists’ injuries are generally quite severe because cyclists have little protection e.g. no airbags and flimsy helmets.
When a cyclist is doored the cyclist is thrown over the handlebars and onto the road, often causing fractured wrists which is particularly significant for surgeons who ride to and from hospital) abrasions and lacerations.
The soft tissue injuries are often classified as being ‘minor’ by insurance companies.
Where vehicles and bicycles collide the cyclist’ injuries can be devastating, catastrophic and even fatal.
Cyclists’ injuries include spinal cord injuries resulting in paralysis, traumatic brain injury resulting in significant cognitive and behavioural deficits and fractures to upper and lower limbs.
These serious injuries constitute a greater than 10% whole person impairment thus entitling the accident victim to receive a significant sum of money for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and loss of amenities, aka non-economic loss.
Most motorcycle accidents do not end well for the motorcyclist. Even low speed collisions cause serious injuries, particularly if a motorcycle has collided with a car or other vehicle making a right-hand turn in front of it. These injuries include lower limb fractures and serious degloving injuries.
High speed motorcycle accident cause fatal injuries, spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries and/or significant lower and upper limb fractures.
Car and other motor vehicle accidents
Low speed accidents such as low velocity rear-end collision generally cause ‘whiplash’ injuries to the occupants’ neck because their heads move forwards on impact whilst the rest of their body is kept secure by a seatbelt. This extension and retraction of the head, often violently, ruptures blood vessels and ligaments and can cause discal injuries as well.
‘Whiplash’ injuries are often classified as ‘minor’ injuries by insurers and their doctors. Some insurance company doctors even state that no sufferer of a whiplash injury should have any symptoms within weeks of the accident. In my experience this is nonsense. Whiplash injuries, which cause headaches, neck and lower back pain can become chronic and lead to significant psychological issues such as depression and anxiety.
Because these soft tissue injuries are invisible to the naked eye the accident victim has the added problem of trying to convince medical examiners and others that they actually have pain and other symptoms.
It is not uncommon for insurers to refuse to accept the presence of symptoms from a whiplash injury and refuse to pay for medical expenses or to provide the accident victim with proper compensation or to approve medical treatment. This simply aggravates any psychological problems that the injured person may have as a result of the accident as they are made to feel like a criminal rather than a victim.
The severity of injuries suffered in high velocity motor vehicle accidents depends on the safety features in the motor vehicle e.g. airbags and whether or not the occupants of the vehicle were wearing a seatbelt.
The outcome for of an occupant not wearing a seatbelt is obvious. On impact they are thrown forwards into the windscreen of the vehicle or, if a rear- seat passenger into the back of the front seat, causing head and spinal injuries. The driver is thrown into the steering wheel causing internal injuries and fractured ribs and sternum.
The most common injuries suffered in high velocity collisions are neck and back injuries, sometimes damaging the spinal cord resulting in paralysis, traumatic brain injury and/or upper and lower limb fractures.
These injuries cause major dislocation to the injured person’s life including an inability to work,the need for extensive medical and rehabilitative treatment and therapy and significant ongoing symptoms and disabilities. Such injuries are generally assessed as constituting a greater than 10% whole person impairment which means that the accident victim will be entitled to receive an award of damages/compensation for pain and suffering etc, provided that the injuries were caused by someone else’s fault.
A contest between a pedestrian and motor vehicle is always an uneven one. Pedestrians can do little damage to motor vehicles. However motor vehicles can cause devastating injuries to the human bodies. This is why Courts/judges often describe motor vehicles as being lethal weapons.
Even low speed collisions between pedestrians and motor vehicles can cause significant injuries, particularly if the pedestrian is thrown into the air and then lands on to the roadway.
High-speed collisions between pedestrians and motor vehicles, if not fatal, result in very severe and often catastrophic injuries, including spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injury, internal injuries and multiple fractures. These injuries and the experience of the accident almost always result in the pedestrian suffering from a post-traumatic stress disorder ( PTSD )including nightmares, high anxiety and stress, depression and horrible mood swings.
A traumatic brain injury not only causes cognitive deficits such as unreliable memory, inability to concentrate and a short attention span. It also results in disinhibited, aggressive and even violent behaviour, a loss of smell and taste, severe headaches, impulsiveness, rigid and unreasonable attitudes and loss of empathy.
The severity of such injuries and the dire consequences for the accident victim should never be underestimated.
Written by Tom Goudkamp OAM