Rotator cuff refers to the four muscles and tendons surrounding a shoulder joint. Since they support a wide range of motion, they are often vulnerable to injury. Workplace and car accidents are common causes of these injuries.
These are frequently challenging cases to litigate. Insurance adjusters often consider them pre-existing conditions and claim the accident had nothing to do with the current pain. Here is an overview of rotator cuff injuries and what you can expect in your accident claim if you sustain one.
Shoulder injuries are as common as whiplash. They occur from seat belt pressure or the sudden jolt from the collision. If you suffered previous shoulder injuries, you are more likely to sustain a rotator cuff injury in a car accident.
Blunt force trauma is another cause of rotator cuff injuries. If you are hit as a pedestrian or bicyclist, a fall to the pavement can wrench your shoulder and tear the rotator cuff. Falls on work sites are also a common cause of these injuries.
Those who perform repetitive tasks are the most vulnerable to this injury. You may already have tendinitis in your shoulder if you perform work that involves lifting over your head constantly or other repeated shoulder activity. When these tendons and muscles are constantly challenged, a fall or jolt can exacerbate the injury.
Pain occurs immediately after impact. You may find it difficult to remove your seat belt or pull yourself from a seated position. That night, you will have difficulty finding a comfortable sleeping position and likely feel throbbing pain.
Most people seek attention for this injury immediately because it is limiting. Besides pain, rotator cuff injuries limit range of motion and cause progressive weakness. If you face these symptoms after an accident, do not delay seeing a doctor. This is not an injury capable of healing on its own.
Compensation for rotator cuff injuries includes coverage for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. There is no set range for your settlement amount since injuries vary in intensity.
Many of these injuries can be treated with hot/cold packs, physical therapy, and rendering the shoulder immobile with a sling. Narcotic painkillers are often necessary for sleep. After a doctor confirms this injury through imaging and range of motion tests, they will normally start with conservative treatment and monitor your progress. If you improve with these efforts, you likely do not require surgery.
Sometimes pain management is the most important factor as you heal. If you do not respond well to painkillers, your doctor may prescribe a cortisone shot.
More serious injuries often require surgical intervention. The procedure used is arthroscopic surgery which finds the damage and repairs it. Prognosis is normally pretty good even in the most serious cases. Since the timing of surgical intervention does not affect prognosis, doctors will normally exhaust all other treatment avenues before taking this step.
Compensation for these injuries is normally fairly high because they are so limiting. Even if you work a sedentary job at a computer all day, a rotator cuff injury will irritate. Stiffness and pain is normal anytime you cannot wear your sling and the repetitive motion of typing will cause discomfort. If you work in construction or manufacturing, there is a good chance you will require substantial time from work.
Potential damages increase more if you need surgery. Besides the limits before surgery you often have to keep your shoulder immobilized for a time afterward. Plus you will require additional physical therapy and pain management.
If you were injured driving on the job, you can also collect workers’ compensation in addition to any personal injury damages.
Settling Your Case
Rotator cuff injuries can be proven objectively through x-rays and range of motion tests. Unlike back and neck symptoms, there is usually no argument over whether this injury exists. If you need surgery that gives an insurance adjuster even less ground to deny your claim.
The problem lies in pre-existing conditions. Many defendants claim that the rotator cuff injury is due to repetitive motion or previous conditions. They will attempt to remove or de-emphasize the accident as a factor in making it worse.
That approach will not eliminate a workers’ compensation claim since it is often work conditions contributing to repetitive motion injuries. However, if you attempt to claim personal injury damages, expect push back.
These factors make rotator cuff injuries challenging to litigate. There is a good chance your claim will be denied initially making it more work to prove your entitlement to damages. That is when you need a good attorney.