Road rash can happen during any traffic accident. Motorcycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and bicycle accidents often leave victims with the severe skin damage that characterizes road rash. Even car accidents can cause road rash when accident victims are ejected from their vehicles.

Oftentimes, road rash heals within a few weeks. But in some cases, road rash can cause permanent disfigurement.

Here are some facts about the causes and effects of road rash.

How Does Road Rash Happen?

Road rash happens when your skin slides along a rough surface, like asphalt or concrete. Road rash often results from traffic accidents — hence the name.

Road rash combines two injuries into a single painful outcome:


The rough road surface scrapes the skin from your body. The severity of the abrasion depends on the depth of the scrape.

An abrasion that only affects the outer layer of skin, called the epidermis, will usually cause bleeding and pain. But a shallow abrasion will not generally produce scarring.

An abrasion that goes into the dermis could damage nerves, blood vessels, and tendons. Scars can also result from abrasions that reach the dermis.


As your skin scrapes across the pavement, you suffer a friction burn. The burn damages the skin and the underlying tissue.

Doctors rate the severity of a burn using the familiar three-degree scale.

First-degree burns only damage the epidermis. You may experience pain and redness.

Second-degree burns damage the epidermis and the dermis. Symptoms include redness, pain, swelling, and blistering.

Third-degree burns destroy the epidermis and damage or destroy the dermis. Road rash does not normally cause third-degree burns.

What Are the Symptoms of Road Rash?

The symptoms of road rash combine the symptoms of abrasion and a first- or second-degree burn. Road rash often leads to

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Dead loose skin
  • Pain
  • Pus

You can treat minor cases of road rash at home by cleaning the wound, treating it with antibiotic ointment, and dressing it. A minor injury often heals within a few weeks.

Severe road rash may require treatment by a doctor. Large areas of damaged skin can lead to complications like infection. Deep wounds can damage nerves, blood vessels, and tendons. They can also produce scarring.

What Are the Complications from Road Rash?

Complications that can arise from road rash include:


Infections happen when bacteria enter an open wound. Road rash has a high risk of infection since it occurs from scraping along a dirty surface.

Localized infections can damage tissue and even lead to a need for amputation. Infections can also spread to the bloodstream, where they can cause sepsis.

Debris in the Wound

The nature of road rash creates a high likelihood of debris in the wound. Gravel, metal, and glass can become embedded in the skin as it slides across the pavement.

Debris in the wound can increase the risk of infection. As a result, doctors often try to remove as much debris as possible from road rash injuries.

Traumatic Tattoo

A traumatic tattoo happens when a road rash causes small particles to become permanently embedded in the dermis. Like an ink tattoo, the skin tissue grows around the particles, leaving a permanent mark.


Scarring happens when the body replaces damaged skin with thicker and less pliable skin. Doctors have treatments for reducing the risk of scars. But severe road rash might require skin grafts and other treatments that increase the risk of scarring.

What Compensation Can I Recover for Road Rash?

You can seek compensation for your medical expenses and lost income if your road rash happened due to someone else’s negligence. In minor cases, you might treat road rash at home. But in severe cases, your road rash might require medical treatment and bed rest.

You can also seek compensation for pain and suffering from severe road rash. Significantly, Florida law allows you to seek pain and suffering damages for car accident injuries that cause “significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement.” 

This statute excuses you from Florida’s no-fault system so you can seek damages for injury after a car accident.

For more information, call us at (813) 222-8545 or reach out to us via email by visiting our contact us page.