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What Is A Major Cause Of Death In Motorcycle Accidents?

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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt
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More than 5,000 riders are killed in motorcycle accidents each year. As lawyers experienced in representing those injured in motorcycle accidents, we have seen firsthand the devastating effects that head trauma can have on motorcycle riders and their families. If you or your loved ones have been involved in a motorcycle accident, it is important to get experienced legal help as soon as you can.

Summary of the Key Findings

  • Motorcycle deaths are most frequently due to head injury
  • Brain injuries can also lead to long-term disability and death
  • Many motorcycle deaths can be prevented with the use of helmets

Leading Cause Of Motorcycle Accident Fatalities

A motorcycle bumped onto a car

What is a major cause of death in motorcycle accidents? Well, fatal crashes and those with serious injuries are often not because of reckless driving.

Rather, fatal accidents and fatal injuries often occur because the motorcycle rider is simply not seen by other vehicles.

Also, death in motorcycle accidents can be because, even when in full protective gear, motorcycles provide much less protection to their riders than a passenger vehicle does for its driver.

“Head injury is a leading cause of death and serious injury in motorcycle crashes” – National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.


Evaluations conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have found that head injuries are a leading reason people die from motorcycle accidents [1]. This is particularly true for motorcycle riders who do not wear helmets, as they are much more likely to suffer severe or fatal head trauma from motorcycle accidents.

If you have been involved in a motorcycle accident, it is vital to seek medical attention immediately, even if you do not think you were seriously injured. Head injuries from traffic accidents can often be subtle and may not be immediately apparent, but they can still be very serious.

Related Article: Common Causes of Cars & Motorcycles Collision

6 Types Of Head Injury

Two patients having different brain injury

Two major types of head injuries can occur in fatal motorcycle accidents:

  • Closed head injuries occur when the brain is damaged by impact with the skull in a motorcycle crash, and
  • Penetrating head injuries happen when an object pierces the skull and injures the brain.

Both types of head injury can be severe, and they may result in one of these outcomes:

1. Traumatic Brain Injury

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is an insult and injury to the brain caused by an external force. This force can include a blow to the head, a fall, or even a shaking or twisting motion. Traumatic brain injuries can be very dangerous and may cause permanent disability or death.

2. Skull Fractures

If the force of the impact is substantial enough, it can cause a skull fracture. A skull fracture is a crack in one of the bones that make up the skull and can range from a hairline crack to a complete rupture.

3. Subdural Hemorrhage

A subdural hemorrhage is a type of brain bleed that can occur when blood vessels near the surface are torn due to an impact. This bleeding puts pressure on the brain and can be life-threatening.

4. Cerebral Contusion and Laceration

A cerebral contusion is a brain injury that occurs when the brain collides with the skull. This can cause bruising and bleeding in the brain. A cerebral laceration is an even more severe type of brain injury, which happens when the impact tears the brain tissue.

5. Cerebral Edema

Cerebral edema is a condition that can occur after a head injury in which the brain swells. This swelling can put excess pressure on the brain and lead to dangerous complications.

6. Intracerebral Hemorrhage

An intracerebral hemorrhage is a type of brain bleed that occurs when a blood vessel ruptures and bleeds into the brain tissue. This can cause severe damage to the brain and may not be survivable.

5 Long-Term Outcomes of Brain Injury

A brain MRI scan collage

Even when motorcyclists recover from their acute brain injury, they may still experience long-term health problems from brain damage. These can include:

1. Degenerative Brain Disorders

People who have suffered from a traumatic brain injury are at risk for developing degenerative brain disorders like Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease. These disorders can cause serious health problems and may require extensive care.

They can arise years or even decades after the initial injury and may gradually worsen over time – with impaired memory, movement, and thinking.

2. Personality Changes

A brain injury can also cause personality changes and emotional difficulties, which may be mild or severe. These changes can include impulsivity, uncontrolled anger, and mood swings. Depression and anxiety are also common.

3. Cognitive Issues

People who have received a brain injury may also experience cognitive impairments. These can include problems with memory, attention, and executive functioning.

They can also include changes in sensation, including sensitivity to light or sound, dizziness, and difficulty with balance.

4. The Altered States of Consciousness

A patient lying in hospital bed Some of the worst outcomes in TBI (other than death) are altered states of consciousness. These include comas, vegetative states, and even brain death.

A coma is an unconscious state in which a person cannot be awakened and does not respond to any stimuli. 

This is in contrast to a persistent vegetative state, where a person is awake but does not show any signs of awareness. 

Brain death is the most severe outcome and occurs when all brain activity has ceased and bodily functions have to be maintained with machines such as respirators.

5. Other Complications

Other long-term complications of a brain injury can include:

  • Seizures
  • Headaches
  • Chronic pain
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disorders
  • Visual problems

Paralysis, numbness, and difficulty swallowing also occur commonly after a brain injury, depending on the severity and location of the initial injury.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the chances of dying in motorcycle accidents?

Overall, your lifetime risk of dying in a motorcycle accident is approximately 1 in 100,000 [2]. However, this fatal accident risk number varies depending on several factors, including how often you ride, your gender, where you ride, and whether you wear a motorcycle helmet.

What is the primary reason motorcycle accidents occur?

The primary reason motorcycle collisions occur is because the rider and the bike are not visible to the other driver. This can occur during lane splitting or head-on collisions. It also can be because of various factors such as the angle at which the motorcycle is traveling beside the passenger cars, environmental conditions like darkness or rain, and distracted driving by other motorists.

Motorcycle Accident Injuries

Any head trauma received in a motorcycle accident should be taken seriously, as it is the leading cause of death in motorcycle accidents.

After you have received medical treatment for your serious injuries, you should contact Schmidt & Clark, LLP lawyer’s who will help you understand your legal options and can fight for the compensation you deserve.




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