Rib Fractures and Child Abuse

Children who are physically active can sustain rib fractures accidentally through sports injuries, trips and falls, and playground accidents. Rib fractures can also occur from blunt force trauma in car accidents. Yet in many cases, rib fractures signal child abuse. This is most common when the victim is less than two years old, since infants this young typically do not have the strength or mobility to cause such rib fractures. If your child has a suspicious rib fracture injury, it is worthwhile to investigate the possibility of child abuse.

Signs a Rib Fracture is from Child Abuse

According to data from Child Welfare, there were 678,000 reported victims of child abuse in the U.S. in 2018. Child abuse and neglect resulted in 1,670 child deaths the same year. While not every rib fracture stems from child abuse, it is a possibility. Infants’ bones are soft and more flexible than adults and older children, requiring significant force to bend enough to break.

Parents should obtain as much information as possible about the nature of a rib fracture injury, as soon as they can. Find out where the injury occurred, who was supervising, and what story the caregiver has to explain the injury. Anything that doesn’t add up, such as conflicting stories or unexplained injuries, may signal abuse. Red flags that a rib fracture is indicative of child abuse include:

It can be difficult to investigate infant fractures, as parents may not realize something is wrong right away. A radiologist’s opinion of your child’s injuries can help determine the age of a fracture better than just x-rays. As a fracture begins to heal, follow-up x-rays can help examine the injury. The presence of callus during healing can make the fracture more visible on x-rays.

When to Speak to an Attorney

Once your child shows any signs of abuse in his or her rib fracture injury, seek help from an attorney. An attorney can investigate the incident and help you pinpoint the responsible party. It is sadly not uncommon for teachers and daycare workers to be guilty of child abuse. In moments of frustration or intent to harm, criminal/negligent caregivers can kick or punch infants in the chest, leading to impact rib fractures. Rib fractures can also occur due to crushing of the rib cage, or severe shaking of an infant’s body.

Rib fractures are common in child abuse situations. Children who are victims of abuse have rib fractures more often than non-abused children. It is always worthwhile to look into the cause of your child’s injuries with the intent to spot abuse, especially in the event of a rib fracture or other common non-accidental trauma (NAT). Other NATs include bruising or burns in odd locations, corner fractures, and abusive head trauma such as shaken baby syndrome. As soon as you suspect abuse caused your child’s injuries, talk to an attorney.

Child abuse by a teacher, daycare worker, or even a trusted friend is grounds for a criminal lawsuit against the offender. You may also be able to file a civil lawsuit to pursue compensation for your child’s physical injuries, pain and suffering, medical bills, and emotional distress. Childhood injuries aren’t always the result of accidents. Discuss your child’s rib fracture injury with a lawyer to get to the bottom of an abuse situation.