Rib Fracture Accident: Treatment, Recovery, and Legal Recourse

Rib Fracture Accident

Written by Aaron R. Winston
Last Updated: October 3, 2023 2:49am CDT

Rib Fracture Accident

There are 206 bones in the human body, all providing different forms of support and flexibility that allow us to move and withstand physical damage. Of the 206 bones in the body, 24 are ribs, a vital part of our anatomy.

The rib cage offers protection and support and must be maintained to avoid damage to the internal organs.

Unfortunately, the significance of our bones does not make them invulnerable to damage. The reality is that bones can fracture when subject to the proper force.

Particularly when it comes to the 24 ribs in the human body, broken rib injuries are extremely painful and can suffer life-threatening injuries that can cause internal damage. This makes the fractures a serious injury that needs to be treated.

There are a lot of ways to suffer broken ribs. However, fractures most commonly result from accidents that subject us to severe physical trauma.

When we suffer one of these accidents, often a motor vehicle collision, it causes physical trauma that can cause our bones to fracture. Like many injuries, a lot depends on the severity of the injury.

Fractures can be mild or life-threatening, and the damage to our bodies will always impact our health at the very minimum short term.

Broken Ribs in Car Accident Cases

Rib fracture accidents are fairly common injuries that can be minor, but when a car accident is the cause, the risk of it being a severe injury increases exponentially.

High-impact accidents can cause a more serious rib fracture, leading to serious complications.

In car accident cases, the injuries might be due to the other driver’s negligence, as the crash is often because the other person was not paying attention.

Rib cage and rib bone infographic

People who suffer this type of injury from a car accident are left with the following questions: What can you do when you get a fractured rib from a careless driver or a negligent party in a car accident from a legal perspective?

This leads to the next question of whether you should contact a personal injury lawyer and what your options are about your medical bills.

Let’s get started.

What is a Fractured Rib?

When it comes to rib fractures, the term “fractured” is the correct medical term often used interchangeably with the word “broken” in medicine. To many, “broken” sounds more severe than “fractured.”

The interchangeable words exist on a spectrum from a medical perspective, with some fractures/breaks being less severe than others.

No matter how minor the severity of a particular fractured rib injury, it poses a health risk that a doctor should examine and treat, as even a minor fracture threatens your health and safety. There are multiple types of rib fractures.

The most significant difference is the break pattern (how the crack forms in the broken bone). Broken ribs are divided into two major break categories that will determine how a physician describes the break:

Displaced vs. Non-Displaced Broken Ribs:

  • Displaced Rib Fracture: A displaced rib fracture is the most serious type of broken rib since the force that caused the break moved the bone out of alignment. This results in a gap forming in the area around the break causing the pieces to become misaligned.
  • Non-Displaced Rib Fracture: A non-displaced rib fracture is still severe but differs from a displaced fracture in that the injury did not displace the bone. As a result, the pieces are not misaligned. However, the damage from a non-displaced rib fracture that has yet to heal could be exacerbated by a secondary injury causing the bone to displace later on.

In addition to motor vehicle accidents, rib fractures often result from sports injuries, especially body-to-body collisions associated with contact sports like football and hockey.

Broken Rib After a Car Accident

Car accidents pose a high risk of broken ribs scenario due to the likelihood of blunt force trauma to the sternum (Also known as the breastbone, which is a long flat bone in front of the chest wall).

Car crashes combine large objects with momentum, generating large amounts of force to the chest that results in bone fractures (or even a commonly fatal ruptured aorta).

Although ribs are one of the most resilient sets of bones in the human body, they are far from being immune to car accidents.

Car Accident Blunt Force Trauma to Sternum

The Cleveland Clinic reports that it is almost impossible for the average person to break their ribs without blunt force trauma and that 30% of people who experience this blunt force trauma to their chest will suffer at least one broken rib.

The position of seatbelts, the steering wheels, and the dashboard make sternum blunt force trauma more likely than other accident types.

Suffering From a Rib Fracture

The average person suffering a rib fracture without suffering significant blunt force impact is infrequent.

However, people with health issues such as degenerative conditions affecting their bones’ health are likelier to suffer a broken rib.

Regardless of what caused the fracture, a broken rib can cause serious problems in the following hours and days.

When someone is exposed to additional physical trauma (i.e., falling, a strong punch, etc.) and suffers a displaced fracture, it can cause the dislodged piece of the rib to move deeper into the body, which can puncture an organ.

What Are the Dangers of Fractured Rib Injuries?

Even though the average bumping into something like a wall or suffering a trip and fall accident isn’t likely traumatic enough to fracture your rib bones, the odds of suffering a broken rib increase greatly depending on the situation.

Accidents involving vehicles, high-impact sports, or steep falls pose an increased risk, as breaking your ribs is rare without suffering some kind of immense force to the chest.

Ribs can take about 3300 Newtons of force, which converts to about 742 pounds before breaking.

Your vehicle’s seatbelt can save your life in a car accident by preventing you from flying head-first through the windshield glass or hitting your head on the roof of your car.

The life-saving ability of seatbelts comes with a price, as in addition to causing whiplash, seatbelts transfer the force from car accidents to your ribs via your breastbone and chest wall, which can cause you to fracture your ribs and suffer pain.

What Are the Symptoms of a Rib Fracture? 

In most cases, the signs of a simple rib fracture may include some of the following symptoms:

  • Pain
  • Tenderness
  • Bruising (contusions)
  • Scrapes or soft tissue injuries
  • Shortness of breath

However, things get more complicated and precarious as a displaced broken rib could potentially endanger your life. Displaced rib fractures have a higher chance of requiring surgery to correct.

You hear stories and see TV shows where someone suffered a broken rib that has punctured a lung or a similar vital organ.

When this happens, it could cause internal bleeding and even obstruct your respiratory system by your lungs filling up with blood.

In these extreme but not rare cases, the rib may need to be treated surgically to avoid additional damage to your body. Some chest injuries caused by a displaced broken rib can result in complications such as:

  • A punctured lung
  • A collapsed lung (pneumothorax)
  • Difficulty breathing (pulmonary complications)
  • Organ damage (heart, liver, kidneys, spleen)
  • Pneumonia
  • Bone infection (osteomyelitis)
  • Swelling (emergency room visit required)
  • Blood in your cough (Hemoptysis) can be associated with a thoracic aortic aneurysm, a non-aortic blood vessel injury, or lung trauma.
  • Intense pain
  • Inability to move part of your body
  • Part of your body looks different or out of place
  • You can see bone

If you spot any of these, you need to go to the emergency room right away for immediate medical treatment.

The treatment recommended by the emergency room doctor for your fractured ribs will vary depending on the severity of the injury.

Broken Ribs

How Are Fractured Ribs Treated?

The primary treatment for a broken rib is to let it heal naturally by resting and limiting your physical activities that put stress on your body.

You should always be checked out by a doctor if you are in a car crash and experiencing symptoms associated with broken ribs, especially because severe symptoms may not develop until the following days.

A rib fracture can be a serious injury requiring medical intervention and treatment, with displaced rib fractures being the more serious of the two types of rib fractures.

Even a minor broken bone requires immediate attention since improper care could disrupt the healing process and cause the rib bone to be misaligned.

Except for minor fractures, breaking a rib poses potentially lethal complications.

Unlike many broken bones, like a leg or arm, which require the injured limb to be set in a cast or splint, treating a fractured rib is not as simple as treating a broken arm or leg.

That is because, unlike the bones in our extremities, the ribs are deeper in our bodies and cannot be immobilized with external fixations like casts or braces.

The standard way to treat a fractured rib (non-displaced) is to let it heal naturally by minimizing the potential strains your body might experience throughout the day, applying ice, and taking Tylenol or Aspirin per a doctor’s directions.

Treating a common fracture means reducing your physical activity to avoid straining and worsening the break.

A Broken Rib Can Be Very Painful

Things like poor posture, coughing, deep breaths, or laughing, can cause immense chest pain if you have a broken rib. Allowing your body to rest will give the bones time to heal so you can recover from your injuries.

Your doctor may prescribe you pain medication if the pain is unbearable.

When the fracture is severe enough, it endangers your life and could worsen no matter what you do. Some fractures are so bad that the broken rib section threatens to damage your organs.

If an X-Ray or chest CT scan shows any of these complications, you may require surgery.

Surgery is an inherently risky process that can endanger the patient and extend their recovery by several weeks. Fortunately, it is rare for a rib fracture to be severe enough to warrant surgical correction.

Even after surgery, you may need physical therapy to work on breathing exercises, walking, and rest. Breathing exercises are very important to ensure you do not develop respiratory complications.

How Long Does it Take for a Broken Rib to Heal?

Typically, the recovery time for a fractured rib is between 3 to 6 weeks. More severe breaks might take longer, especially if you are among the rare few who need surgery to correct the problem.

Treating a Fractured Rib

We understand how stressful it can be to miss work and be stuck with the financial burden of this injury, which is why a broken rib injury lawyer can be of help and a priority.

Hire a Car Accident Lawyer to Help You Get Compensation

Depending on the type of injury and the circumstances surrounding the car crash, it may be wise to speak with a car accident lawyer and file a personal injury case to help you get compensated for your rib injuries.

Personal injury attorneys give free consultations to hear the details of your case, so these initial steps are completely risk-free for you.

What Legal Recourse do You Have?

Car accidents are a leading issue in the United States, with an average of 14,000 crashes per day. They also result in serious injuries and fatalities. Car accidents endanger the lives of the people operating the vehicles and their passengers.

In most cases, a car accident is caused by someone not paying attention to the road or driving recklessly.

That means one driver is at fault for the other’s injuries and can be held accountable within the bounds of state law. Most states allow victims of car accidents to file personal injury lawsuits against the driver whose negligence led to their injuries.

Must Prove the Other Driver is at Fault

If you suffered a cracked rib, an actual injury, due to a car crash caused by someone else, you likely have a strong claim for a larger settlement amount than someone who is only sore after being in a wreck.

That said, like all personal injury lawsuits, you will have to prove that the other driver was at fault for the accident.

You Need Evidence

However, this should not be too difficult in most cases since there are usually plenty of witnesses and other forms of evidence to corroborate your telling of the events.

However, you will also need to prove that your injuries were caused by the accident and that you sought immediate medical attention following it.

How Much is Your Broken Rib Settlement Worth?

Once you have proven the other driver is at fault, and the injuries to your rib were caused by the auto accident, your claim will likely lead to a settlement from the defendant’s insurance adjusters.

Medical Expenses From Your Broken Rib Injury Treatment

Your medical expenses establish a baseline for the value of the car accident settlement in most states. Still, lawsuits against another private citizen usually have maximum settlement amounts based on the other drivers or your insurance policy limit.

You should be able to sue the other driver for your loss. If the accident led to you suffering a fracture that required surgical intervention for you to recover, that should increase your settlement amount.

The cost of that surgery is considered during the settlement negotiations with insurance companies.

Seeking Legal Recourse

Lost Wages Caused by the Fractured Rib Accident

Additionally, if your rib fracture prevents you from working, the lost wages are usually factored into the settlement by your personal injury attorney. Since it takes weeks to recover from a typical rib fracture, this could be an essential component of your claim.

Car accidents are not the only situations where you might suffer a fractured rib. There are situations where an injury can occur while on publicly accessible property that is supposed to be maintained.

Fractured Rib From Slip and Fall Accident

Restaurants, shops, and other private businesses that allow public access are expected to maintain their facilities which is the standard of care.

They endanger their customers and visitors if they do not keep the locations they are responsible for safe.

Unfortunately, not everyone takes that responsibility seriously and might neglect aspects of the upkeep to save time and funds.

For example, if you enter a restaurant with solid tile floors that have recently been mopped, it is the restaurant’s responsibility to warn you about the wet floor.

If the wet floor sign is absent and you slip on the water and fracture your sternum or ribs upon impact in the fall, the restaurant owner can be liable for the injury.

As a result, you are justified to file a claim against the restaurant owner since they failed to warn you about a hazard, and you were injured because of it.

Lawsuits against businesses can yield larger settlements compared to those against private citizens.

That said, you should not file a personal injury claim solely to maximize your settlement value. Insofar as the judicial system is concerned, the main point of personal injury claims is to hold the at-fault party responsible for their negligence.

The settlement is designed to compensate you for the expenses incurred by your injuries and to accommodate any wages you lost due to being unable to work until you heal.

Unfortunately, these claims can complicate your financial situation since there are several additional fees you must account for when filing. These fees, combined with the medical expenses from your treatment and the general cost of living, can quickly become overwhelming.

Businesses Have Commercial Insurance Policy Limits

Due to commercial policy limits, lawsuits against businesses can yield larger settlements than those against private citizens.

That said, it’s important not to lie about how much of your medical expenses are in hopes of inflating your settlement amount, for it will likely come back to bite you in the long run, costing you your settlement.

At the end of the day, as far as the judicial system is concerned, the main point of personal injury claims is to help the not-at-fault party recover their losses by holding the at-fault party responsible for their negligence.

Car accident claims and personal injury settlements exist to allow you to get compensated for your suffering financially by having to pay for medical bills and other costs like buying a replacement vehicle.

Additional medical expenses and lost wages can make it challenging to keep up with the general cost of living, not even factoring in the current levels of inflation.

When this is the case, people are all but guaranteed to feel overwhelmed at times, so that makes it all the more crucial to hire a car accident attorney to represent you in your effort to recover financially.

Closing Statements on Broken Rib Injury Claims

Rib fracture injuries have the potential to cause a significant amount of harm, especially in situations where a major car accident caused the injury.

Rib fractures are a significant risk whenever we experience a traumatic injury involving great force. Motor vehicle collisions have a higher rate of rib injuries than other accidents like slip-and-fall incidents in private businesses.

The risk of rib fracture is still low since the force needed to crack the ribs is high, and most accidents do not generate enough momentum to create it.

Contacting a law firm and filing a lawsuit is a viable option for those who have broken their ribs because of someone else’s negligence.

Unfortunately, there are financial challenges that arise with legal cases that can make the cost of litigation overwhelming.

Legal Funding For Broken Rib Accidents

When dealing with a broken rib injury, plaintiffs are left with sudden costs resulting in their moving slowly through the lengthy litigation process while often lacking short financial resources as well.

Fortunately, that is where we at Express Legal Funding can step in and assist injured people who have hired a no-win, no-fee lawyer by advancing pre-settlement funding on their claim.

Our clients who get approved lawsuit funding can use it to keep up with their regular and unexpected expenses and make new purchases, such as car repairs, to help them stay financially afloat.

A Personal Injury Lawyer

Also, how pre-settlement funding works is that it is people who apply and get approved can access the settlement fund money they need now and not only later after their case is settled or won in court.

Plus, lawsuit funding cash is also a risk-free advance on the claim proceeds, not a loan. So the typical lender and borrower rules do not apply.

As the legal funding company, we can offer you non-recourse pre-settlement money in exchange for you assigning us the right to receive a share of your claim’s potential proceeds.

It’s a buyer and seller purchasing an investment agreement. What this translates is that means the funding is completely risk-free.

So if you get funding from Express Legal Funding and go to court but lose, that is ok when it comes to your obligation to us, as you will owe us nothing, and the original funds are yours to keep.

(Important details about pre-settlement financing for Missouri consumers: The consumer legal financing we can provide to injured and damaged claimants in Missouri are recourse loans, which is different from non-recourse cash advances with the repayment of the funds contingent upon there being a settlement or verdict proceeds.

Pre-settlement lawsuit loans and post-settlement loans in states like Missouri are recourse loans and must, technically, by law, be repaid to the lender in MO. Express Legal Funding-Missouri, LLC is a loan company licensed to give these loans to consumer borrowers in MO.)

If you have an ongoing lawsuit in which you are suing someone for money and have hired a “no win, no fee” car accident law firm and cash on hand now and not only later when your case ends and the settlement check is delivered, we are the company to call to apply for legal funding help.

Call us or apply online anytime, 24/7, using our fast legal funding contact form, to learn more and hear more facts to help determine whether help from Express Legal Funding, a nationwide lawsuit funding provider based in Plano, Texas, is the best financial choice for you.

We are here to help!

About the Author

Author profile
Strategy Director at Express Legal Funding | Author Website

Aaron Winston is the Strategy Director of Express Legal Funding. As "The Legal Funding Expert," Aaron has more than ten years of experience in the consumer finance industry. Most of which was as a consultant to a top financial advisory firm, managing 400+ million USD in client wealth. He is recognized as an expert author and researcher across multiple SEO industries.
Aaron Winston earned his title "The Legal Funding Expert" through authoritative articles and blog posts about legal funding. He specializes in expert content writing for pre-settlement funding and law firm blogs.
Each month, tens of thousands of web visitors read his articles and posts. Aaron's thoroughly researched guides are among the most-read lawsuit funding articles over the past year.
As Strategy Director of Express Legal Funding, Aaron has devoted thousands of hours to advocating for the consumer. His "it factor" is that he is a tireless and inventive thought leader who has made great strides by conveying his legal knowledge and diverse expertise to the public. More clients and lawyers understand the facts about pre-settlement funding because of Aaron's legal and financial service SEO mastery.
Aaron Winston is the author of A Word For The Wise. A Warning For The Stupid. Canons of Conduct, which is a book in poetry format. It consists of 35 unique canons. The book was published in 2023.
He keeps an academic approach to business that improves the consumer's well-being. In early 2022, Aaron gained the Search Engine Optimization and the Google Ads LinkedIn skills assessment badges. He placed in the top 5% of those who took the SEO skills test assessment.
Aaron's company slogans and lawsuit funding company name are registered trademarks of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. He has gained positive notoriety via interviews and case studies, which are a byproduct of his successes. Aaron R. Winston was featured in a smith.ai interview (2021) and a company growth case study (2022).
In 2023, Aaron and Express Legal Funding received accolades in a leading SEO author case study performed by the leading professionals at WordLift. The in-depth data presented in the pre-settlement funding SEO case study demonstrate why Aaron Winston maintains a high-author E-E-A-T. His original writing and helpful content continue to achieve unprecedented success and stand in their own class.

Aaron was born in Lubbock, TX, where he spent the first eight years of his life. Aaron attended Akiba Academy of Dallas, TX.

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