We Are Whelchel & Carlton, LLP

Why can rib fractures caused by crashes be more dangerous for seniors?

On Behalf of | Mar 22, 2024 | Personal Injury

Anyone who has ever broken a rib knows how extremely painful it can be and how long it seems to take to heal. Rib fractures are still a common injury in the wake of car crashes, even though most cars have air bags. Hitting the steering wheel or the dashboard can cause multiple rib fractures. Sometimes, even the force of the seat belt against the chest in a sudden, violent crash can fracture ribs.

For older people, it’s typically easier to break one or more ribs than it is for younger ones simply because their bones have lost some density and are frailer than they used to be. They also may be more likely to drive or ride in an older car without airbags.

Serious respiratory complications, like pneumonia

Besides the pain they’re likely to experience for some time, there’s another consequence for seniors who suffer fractured ribs. These fractures can contribute to serious respiratory issues that can even potentially prove fatal – particularly if they aren’t diagnosed and treated properly. That’s why it’s crucial for seniors (and anyone) to get a medical evaluation after a crash even if they don’t feel like they’ve been seriously injured.

One study found that the risk of death rises significantly if someone breaks four or more ribs. However, according to one doctor, one broken rib in an elderly person can be as serious as eight broken ribs in someone who’s forty.

When a person has fractured a rib, simply breathing normally can be excruciatingly painful. Often, people will take smaller breaths and try not to cough, even if they need to. All of this can lead to a build-up of secretions in the lungs and increase the risk of pneumonia. Older people are already more likely to get pneumonia than younger ones.

Just because someone suffers complications from their injuries that a younger person may not have, that doesn’t mean that an at-fault driver isn’t responsible for the compensation necessary for medical treatment as well as any other expenses and damages. As a result, victims of injurious crashes should avoid agreeing to a settlement that may not be fair before they’ve sought out experienced legal guidance.