Acute lung injury and acute respiratory distress syndrome are clinical entities of multi-factorial origin frequently seen in traumatically injured patients requiring intensive care. We performed an unsystematic search using PubMed and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews up to January 2012. The purpose of this article is to review recent evidence for the pathophysiology and the management of acute lung injury/acute respiratory distress syndrome in the critically injured patient. Lung protective ventilation remains the most beneficial therapy. Future trials should compare intervention groups to controls receiving lung protective ventilation, and focus on relevant outcome measures such as duration of mechanical ventilation, length of intensive care unit stay, and mortality.