woman-holding-stomach-in-painRib injuries, which range in severity from mild bruises to life-threatening breaks, are a common type of seemingly “invisible” car accident injury. They sometimes present immediate symptoms, causing intense or excruciating pain. But a fracture, even when serious, may not be noticeable until it prompts further complications and requires a sudden trip to the doctor’s office or emergency room.

Although a rib injury can upend an accident victim’s life with little warning, survivors do not have to put their recovery in the hands of an insurance company. The Law Office of Matthew A. Lathrop, PC, LLO, has spent more than 15 years helping Nebraskans assert their rights to a fair recovery. Read on to learn more about your options for compensation, or contact us today to speak to an Omaha car crash attorney and find out how much your claim could be worth. 

Car Accidents and the Most Common Causes of Rib Injuries

Rib fractures are common injuries that can be caused by everything from sports accidents to accidental slips and falls. However, car accidents have long been recognized as a leading cause of blunt force-related rib injuries. 

Motor vehicle collisions can cause rib injuries in many different ways. These include, but are not limited to, the following: 

Seat Belt Related Trauma

Seat belts keep an automobile’s occupants firmly in place, preventing them from moving forward if and when their car suddenly decelerates. In accidents involving rapid deceleration, seat belts can inflict trauma by placing tremendous pressure on the chest and ribs. 

Fixed Object Impact

In head-on car crashes, motorists are sometimes pushed forward by momentum. If their airbag does not deploy, or the impact is particularly severe, drivers could collide with their steering wheel or dashboard. This is a common cause of rub injuries, especially upper rib injuries. 

Other fixed objects inside a vehicle also present risks. In side-impact collisions, for instance, a driver or passenger could strike the door, cracking their ribs in the process. 

Airbag Deployments 

Airbags are designed to prevent serious injury, but sometimes they cause injury.  Since most airbags are engineered to inflate within a fraction of a second, they necessarily generate significant force that can easily fracture the bones of the chest and ribs. 

Physical Force

Accidents can transfer physical energy to, from, and between each involved vehicle. In some cases, this energy can be transferred directly to victims, causing rib fractures and any number of other injuries

Rib Injuries and Complications

Even if a rib cracks or fractures, victims do not always notice any immediate symptoms. It is somewhat common for broken ribs to go undiagnosed, with initial signs often attributed to other causes. 

Common early warning signs of a broken rib could include: 

  • Pain or difficulty when breathing
  • Bruising in and around the chest 
  • Discomfort when bending down or twisting the body 

Some low-grade rib injuries can heal on their own, even without treatment. 

However, any apparent chest pain or difficulty breathing could give rise to further complications, which are sometimes more painful and dangerous than the fracture itself. Complications could include any of the following: 

Punctured Lungs 

A broken rib can puncture the lungs, causing a condition termed “pneumothorax.” If a car crash victim develops pneumothorax-related complications, air can escape from the lung and accumulate inside the chest cavity. Left untreated, a punctured lung could lead to a collapsed lung, a life-threatening condition. 

Severed Aorta

Fractured ribs can also puncture or sever blood vessels. If an aorta is damaged, victims may suffer extensive internal bleeding—another life-threatening condition that may not have any immediate symptoms. 

Punctured Internal Organs 

The sharp edges of fractured ribs can lacerate adjacent internal organs, including the spleen, liver, or kidneys. 

Your Potential Damages in a Rib Injury Personal Injury Lawsuit

Car accident victims have a legal right to file a claim for compensation against the person who caused their injuries. Depending on the circumstances of your claim, you could be entitled to damages including, but not limited to, the following: 

  • Your existing medical expenses
  • Anticipated health care needs
  • Physical rehabilitation
  • Lost income from work
  • Diminished earning potential 
  • Emotional pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Disfigurement

Although Nebraska does not cap damages in most personal injury claims, negotiating a fair settlement can pose unexpected challenges. Since many rib injuries are neither serious nor life-threatening, car insurance companies sometimes undervalue cases involving fractured or otherwise damaged ribs—sometimes offering compensation for medical care but refusing to accept that a victim may have suffered any other losses. 

The Law Office of Matthew A. Lathrop, PC, LLO, will work hard to help you overcome potential obstacles to a fair recovery. 

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