Flail Chest—Broken Rib Cage: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Pursuing an Accident Claim

What Is Flail Chest (Broken Rib Cage)?

flail chestA Flail chest occurs when a segment of the thoracic cage is separated from the rest of the chest wall. This limits the lungs ability to expand when breathing making it extremely hard and painful to breathe. Also known as a broken rib cage, a flail chest can be a life-threatening medical condition.

People with flail chest usually also suffer from pulmonary contusions or bruising of the lungs. Any organ behind the rib cage is at risk for injury, and because the lungs are the largest organ behind the rib cage, they often are battered and bruised following a fractured rib cage. Weakened lungs can also affect blood oxygenation levels in the body.

What Causes Flail Chest?

Chest wall injuries are extremely common following blunt trauma. The number one cause of a broken rib cage injury is an automobile crash — about 74% of all cases of flail chest or broken rib cage injuries are caused by vehicle collisions. The next significant cause of broken rib cage injuries are falls by elderly people in nursing homes, hospitals, or inside their home.

What are the The Symptoms of Flail Chest?

Broken rib cage injuries vary from minor bruising, swelling and tenderness for isolated rib fractures to severe chest crush injuries which may lead to a pulmonary contusion, causing painful breathing and respiratory problems. Pain levels throughout treatment and recovery vary greatly and change over time.

How is Flail Chest Diagnosed?

After a clinical exam by medical professionals, x-rays or CT scans confirm the diagnosis of flail chest.

How is Flail Chest Treated?

Surgery is the best treatment for flail chest. Bones are wired and screwed together. Medication is often prescribed for pain management and can include opioids or over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen Treatment depends on the severity of the break. Minor breaks or cracks can be treated with rest and limited activity. Pain medications, like ibuprofen or narcotics, are prescribed for pain management. In serious cases, surgical repair will be necessary if the bones move out of place or to remove bone pieces.

Compensation for Flail Chest

If you are experiencing chest pain and shortness of breath after a traumatic incident or a car crash, you may have broken your rib cage, or have flail chest. Make sure you are examined and diagnosed by a medical doctor immediately. You may be able to pursue compensation for damages such as medical bills, pain and suffering, permanent injury or disability, costs of physical therapy and rehabilitation, lost wages from missed work, diminished earning capacity, mental anguish and emotional distress, punitive damages, and/or property damage or loss.

Massachusetts Fractured Rib Cage Lawyer

If you or a loved one has suffered a broken rib cage because of someone else’s negligence and would like to discuss your legal options, contact our personal injury claims attorneys today for a free consultation. The Law Offices of Gerald J. Noonan has a proven track record with over 35 years of legal experience representing victims of chest injuries in southeastern Massachusetts.

For a free initial consultation, call (508) 588-0422 to schedule your free, no-obligation case review and consultation and you will have taken your first step towards getting fair compensation for your injuries or for the loss of a loved one. You can also click here to use our Free Case Evaluation Form.

Free Legal Consultation, Brockton Accident Attorneys

We offer a free, no-obligation legal consultation to help you understand your rights and the value of your case.


Our adult and child personal injury trial lawyers assist motor vehicle accident victims throughout all of Southeast Massachusetts including, but not limited to, those in the following counties, cities and towns: Plymouth County including Brockton, Plymouth, Bridgewater, Marshfield, Hingham, Duxbury, Wareham, Abington, Rockland, Whitman, Hanson, Middleborough; Norfolk County including Quincy, Stoughton, Dedham, Weymouth, Braintree, Avon, Holbrook, Randolph, Canton, Sharon, Brookline, Franklin; Bristol County including New Bedford, Fall River, Taunton, Attleboro, Mansfield, Easton, Raynham, Norton; and the Greater Boston area including Cambridge, Dorchester, Lynn, Revere, Chelsea, Everett, Roxbury and Somerville.

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