Personal Injury Lawyers | Houston, Texas
Free Case Consultation 877-777-1529

Dealing With Broken Ribs From a Car Accident

A fractured rib can be painful and debilitating

The aftermath of a car accident can be a daunting and painful experience. One particularly agonizing injury that car accident victims often endure is a broken rib. The excruciating pain and long road to recovery associated with a broken rib can significantly impact your life and well-being.

Fractured ribs are all too common among car accident victims in Texas, and the injury’s complications can extend well beyond the day of the accident. While your primary focus should be on your recovery, the reality is that medical bills stemming from a broken rib can quickly accumulate and become a financial burden.

This is where an experienced Houston car accident attorney can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case. Instead of struggling with the stress of mounting expenses, you can concentrate on healing from your broken rib with confidence.

How can you get broken ribs from a car accident?

Your rib cage serves as a protective shield for vital organs like your heart and lungs. It's made up of many ribs, forming a flexible but strong enclosure around your chest. However, during a car accident, these sturdy ribs are vulnerable.

Ribs are naturally designed to be both strong and flexible, allowing for the normal expansion and contraction of your chest while you breathe. But during a car accident, when your body comes to a sudden stop, the ribs are at risk of severe damage.

Here are some common scenarios in which broken ribs can occur during a car accident:

  • Seatbelt impact: While seatbelts are vital for safety, the force exerted by a seatbelt during a collision can result in rib fractures and other seatbelt injuries. The abrupt halt caused by a seatbelt can put significant pressure on the chest area.
  • Steering wheel impact: In frontal collisions, the driver may experience chest impact with the steering wheel due to the sudden stop. This can result in rib fractures, particularly if the airbag does not deploy or the impact is severe.
  • Side-impact collisions: T-bone or side-impact collisions can also cause rib fractures, as the energy from the impacting vehicle is transferred to the occupants on the side of the collision.
  • Rollover accidents: During a rollover accident, the vehicle may experience multiple impacts, causing passengers to be tossed around. These impacts can result in rib injuries due to the force and pressure exerted on the chest and torso.
  • Secondary impact: Even in accidents where the primary impact is not directly on the chest, secondary impacts within the vehicle can occur. Passengers may collide with other objects or parts of the vehicle, leading to rib fractures.

It's important to note that rib fractures can vary in severity, from hairline fractures to more significant breaks. Regardless of the specific circumstances, if you suspect or have been diagnosed with broken ribs following a car accident, seeking immediate medical attention is essential for both your health and any potential legal actions you may pursue.

Warning signs of fractured ribs

Recognizing the warning signs of a broken rib after a car accident is essential for your health and well-being. Rib fractures can vary in severity, and symptoms may not always be immediately apparent. Here are some common warning signs to watch for:

  • Pain under the left rib cage: One of the most noticeable signs is sharp or aching pain in the chest or ribcage area, which can extend to the left rib cage. This pain may worsen when you breathe, move, or apply pressure to the area.
  • Difficulty breathing: Broken ribs can make it painful to take deep breaths or breathe normally. If you experience shortness of breath, it could be due to the pain and discomfort caused by the fractured ribs.
  • Tenderness and swelling: The affected area may become tender to the touch, and you might notice swelling or bruising around the injured rib or chest.
  • Delayed rib pain: Sometimes, rib fractures may not manifest immediately after the accident. Pain may develop gradually, and you might not notice it until hours or even days later.
  • Pain when moving: Any movement of the chest, such as bending, twisting, or lifting, can intensify the pain of fractured ribs. You may find it challenging to perform everyday activities.
  • Coughing or sneezing pain: Activities that involve the chest muscles, like coughing or sneezing, can trigger significant pain and discomfort.

It's crucial to remember that rib fractures can vary in severity, and some may require more extensive medical attention and treatment than others.

If your rib pain is getting worse rather than improving or remaining constant, it could indicate complications or additional injuries. Seek immediate medical attention if your pain intensifies.

How long does it take for broken ribs to heal after a car crash?

The time it takes for ribs to heal after a car accident can vary depending on several factors, including the severity of the fractures, your overall health, and how well you follow your healthcare provider's recommendations. In general, here's a rough timeline for the healing process:

  • Initial pain relief: Right after the accident, you may receive pain relief measures such as pain medications and, in some cases, immobilization with a rib brace or bandages. These measures aim to alleviate immediate pain and discomfort.
  • Initial healing phase (Weeks 1-2): During the first couple of weeks, your body begins the healing process. Fractured ribs usually start to form a callus at the injury site. You will still experience pain, and it's crucial to rest and avoid activities that could further strain the ribs.
  • Intermediate healing phase (Weeks 3-6): As you progress into the third and fourth weeks, the pain and discomfort should gradually start to diminish. By this time, the callus formation is solidifying the rib, but the bone may not be fully healed. You should still take it easy and avoid strenuous activities.
  • Advanced healing phase (Weeks 7-12): By the seventh week, most rib fractures are well on their way to healing. Pain should continue to subside, and you might feel more comfortable during normal activities. However, it's essential to remain cautious and avoid activities that could put undue stress on the healing ribs.
  • Full healing (Months 3-6+): Complete healing of rib fractures typically occurs within three to six months after the car accident. However, it can take longer in some cases, especially if complications arise or if there were multiple rib fractures.

Keep in mind that everyone's healing process is unique, and the timeline can vary. Regular follow-up appointments with your healthcare provider will help monitor your progress and adjust your treatment plan accordingly.

Rib fractures that fail to heal correctly can result in conditions such as:

  • Mal-Union: This occurs when the fractured rib heals in an abnormal position, leading to impaired function and a bent appearance.
  • Delayed Union: In cases of delayed union, the rib fracture does not fully heal even six months after the initial injury.
  • Non-Union: Non-union signifies that the bone cannot naturally fuse together without surgical intervention. This situation may arise due to multiple fractures, displacement, poor blood supply, or infection.

These conditions not only cause ongoing pain and discomfort but also put you at risk of breathing problems, damage to internal organs, and serious infections. Consequently, if you experience any signs of rib pain, chest tightness, a persistent cough, or a fever, it's crucial to contact your healthcare provider promptly.

Complications from a broken rib

Rib fractures, while inherently painful, can also give rise to a host of complications when not adequately addressed. These complications have the potential to significantly impact an individual's overall well-being and quality of life. Among the most common complications associated with broken ribs are:

  • Severed aorta: A severe rib fracture may lead to a severed aorta when a sharp bone fragment punctures a blood vessel. This critical condition results in internal bleeding and demands immediate medical attention due to its life-threatening nature.
  • Punctured lung (pneumothorax): A broken rib can puncture a lung, leading to a condition known as pneumothorax. In pneumothorax, air escapes from the lung and accumulates within the chest cavity, causing the lung to collapse.
  • Lacerated organs: In cases of severe rib fractures, the sharp edges of broken ribs can lacerate nearby organs, resulting in internal bleeding. Emergency surgical intervention may be required to repair damaged organs or control bleeding.
  • Pneumonia: Reduced lung function attributable to a broken rib can increase the risk of developing pneumonia. Symptoms of pneumonia may include fever, coughing, chest pain, and ultimately, infection.
  • Flail chest: When multiple ribs are fractured, it can lead to a condition known as flail chest, wherein a segment of the chest wall becomes unstable. With flail chest, the lungs struggle to draw in air and expand properly, impairing breathing. This complication is life-threatening due to its impact on respiratory function.

How much compensation for broken ribs in a car accident?

Determining the exact amount of compensation for broken ribs in a car accident can be challenging, as it depends on various factors unique to each case. Several elements are typically considered when calculating compensation, including:

  • Medical expenses: This covers the cost of medical treatment, including hospital stays, surgeries, diagnostic tests, medications, physical therapy, and follow-up appointments related to your broken ribs.
  • Lost Wages: If your injuries prevent you from working, you may be entitled to compensation for lost income during your recovery period.
  • Pain and suffering: This accounts for the physical pain and emotional distress you experienced due to your fractured ribs.
  • Permanent disability or disfigurement: If your broken ribs lead to long-term disability or disfigurement, you may receive compensation for the impact on your quality of life.
  • Future Medical Expenses: If you require ongoing medical care, rehabilitation, or future surgeries due to your broken ribs, these anticipated costs can be factored into your compensation.
  • Punitive Damages (exemplary damages): In cases of extreme negligence or intentional harm, punitive damages may be awarded to punish the at-fault party and deter similar behavior in the future.

To determine a specific compensation amount, it's essential to consult with an experienced car accident attorney. They can evaluate the details of your case, gather evidence, negotiate with insurance companies, and, if necessary, represent you in court to seek the maximum compensation you deserve for your broken ribs and associated losses.

Protecting your rights with a car accident lawyer

In the aftermath of a car accident resulting in broken ribs, it's essential to remember that insurance companies don’t always have your best interests in mind. They may attempt to limit or deny your claim, making it challenging to obtain the compensation you need to recover fully. This is where experienced legal representation can make a significant difference.

At Smith & Hassler, our dedicated team of Houston car accident attorneys understands the tactics insurance companies use to minimize payouts. We are committed to protecting your rights and ensuring you receive the compensation you deserve for your losses.

Don't let insurance companies take advantage of you during this difficult time. Contact Smith & Hassler today for a free consultation to discuss your case and explore your potential legal options.

Click here to download a printable PDF version of this article, "Dealing With Broken Ribs From a Car Accident."

Smith & Hassler

1225 N Loop W #525
Houston, TX 77008
Toll Free: (877) 777-1529
Local: (713) 739-1250
Map and Directions


10039 Bissonnet St Suite #214
Houston, TX 77036
(713) 804-6863
By appointment only


14200 Gulf Fwy Suite #103
Houston, TX 77034
(713) 929-2230
By appointment only


15201 E Freeway Service Rd
Suite 203
Channelview, TX 77530
(281) 559-6566
By appointment only

We're located in the Heart of Houston
Free Case Evaluation Click Here
Free Case Consultation