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Shoulder injuries impact every part of your life
What does brushing your teeth, turning your car’s steering wheel, and tying your shoes have in common?
They are all activities that require the use of your shoulder. In fact, your shoulder joints move every time you move your arm.
The important role your shoulder plays in movement means that if you’re 1 of approximately 7.5 million people every year who suffer a shoulder injury, life can become very challenging.
Fortunately, you may be able to ease the burden by recovering damages through a personal injury lawsuit or a workers’ compensation claim.
How does the shoulder work?
The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint with 3 main bones:
- Upper arm bone (humerus)
- Collarbone (clavicle)
- Shoulder blade (scapula)
These 3 bones are held together by muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
The primary function of the shoulder is to give strength and range of motion to the arm. This means your shoulder is responsible for allowing you to lift heavy objects and for enabling you to place your hands in the right position for any task.
Common shoulder injuries
Because the shoulder joint has the greatest range of motion of any joint in the body, it’s particularly susceptible to injury.
Most shoulder injuries involve the muscles, ligaments, and tendons that make up the shoulder rather than the shoulder bones. The 3 most common types of shoulder injuries are:
- Sprains. A shoulder sprain occurs when the ligaments in the shoulder are stretched or torn, and the bones of the AC joint (one of the smaller joints that make up the shoulder) become dislocated or separated. Shoulder sprains are generally caused by trauma to the shoulder (such as during a car accident or a fall). Shoulder sprains are separated into grades (from 1-6) based on severity.
- Strains. A shoulder strain occurs when a muscle or tendon in the shoulder is stretched or torn. This generally happens when the shoulder remains in 1 position for a long time (for example, when someone types on their keyboard for several hours) or from repeated overhead movements.
- Tears. A shoulder tear is an injury to the soft tissues that give the shoulder joint range of motion and stability. A tear can occur in the tendons, muscles, or labrum. Common tears include rotator cuff tears, biceps tendon tears, and labral tears.
According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, if you answer YES to any of the following questions, then you might have a shoulder injury and should schedule a visit to the doctor:
- Is your shoulder stiff?
- Are you unable to rotate your arm in all the normal positions?
- Does it feel like your shoulder could pop out or slide out of the socket?
- Do you lack the strength in your shoulder to carry out your daily activities?
Common causes of shoulder injuries
Slip and falls often lead to shoulder injuries. When a person falls, 1 of 3 (and sometimes all 3) things happen:
- The person extends their arm suddenly
- The person twists or bends their shoulder abnormally
- The arm or shoulder sustains a sudden impact
Though slip and falls are probably the most common cause of shoulder injuries, there are a number of other common causes including:
- Truck accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Workplace injuries
- Sporting activities (particularly those that involve repetitive overhead motions, such as swimming, tennis, and baseball)
- Calcium buildup in the tendons of the shoulder
- A pinched nerve or a herniated disc in the neck
- Invasive cancer that has spread to the bones of the shoulder or spine
Shoulder injury treatment
Appropriate treatment for a shoulder injury might include simple first aid measures, physical therapy, or surgery.
The type of treatment your doctor suggests will largely depend on:
- The location, type, and severity of the injury
- How long ago the injury occurred
- Your age, health condition, and activity level
Who’s liable for a shoulder injury?
If you injure your shoulder, there are 2 primary methods of recovering damages:
Personal injury lawsuits for shoulder injuries
A personal injury lawsuit is appropriate if another person’s negligence caused your shoulder injury.
In order to recover damages from a personal injury lawsuit based on negligence, you have to prove 4 elements:
- Duty. You must prove that the defendant owed you a duty of care.
- Breach. You must prove that the defendant breached their duty of care.
- Causation. You must prove that your injury was caused by the defendant’s breach.
- Damages. You must prove that you actually suffered an injury.
On February 15, 2016, Monica Patterson was working at a restaurant located at the Rockvale Outlets in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. During her shift, Monica called the Rockvale Outlets’ property manager and explained that freezing rain had been falling all day and that she was concerned about the potentially icy conditions of the parking lot.
Despite the telephone call, Rockvale Outlets failed to take any measures with respect to the parking lot.
Upon leaving work later that evening, Monica slipped and fell on her shoulder in the parking lot. A few days after the accident, Monica was diagnosed with a superior labral tear. She was required to undergo physical therapy and cortisone injections. When the shoulder didn’t heal properly, Monica underwent arthroscopic debridement surgery to repair the tear.
Monica Patterson sued Rockvale Outlets for $83,752.66 in medical costs and $42,496 in lost wages, alleging that the establishment was negligent for failing to correct a dangerous condition.
The parties ultimately negotiated a $200,000 pretrial settlement.
If you sustained your shoulder injury while performing a work-related task, you may be able to file a workers’ compensation claim.
Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance designed to provide compensation to workers who are injured on the job. The nice thing about filing a workers’ compensation claim is that, unlike personal injury lawsuits, you don’t need to prove that anyone did anything wrong. In most cases, you only need to prove that you were injured while performing a work task.
The downside of workers’ compensation is that most states don’t allow injured workers to sue their employer or get compensated for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.
How much is your shoulder injury case worth?
It’s difficult to estimate exactly how much you can recover. Some damages, such as medical expenses and lost wages, are easy to calculate. Others, such as pain and suffering and loss of quality of life, depend on several factors and depend on the subjective opinions of judges or jurors.
In most states, you can recover the following damages in a personal injury lawsuit for a shoulder injury:
- Medical expenses (past and future)
- Lost wages (past and future)
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of quality of life
In general, jurors tend to be sympathetic to a plaintiff if their shoulder injury prevents them from doing activities they previously enjoyed. As a result, plaintiffs who previously led very active lives (participating in a variety of sports and outdoor activities) tend to receive higher damage awards than more inactive people.
One of the best things you can do for your case is to keep detailed records of your medical expenses and the impact of your shoulder injury on your day-to-day life.
Damages worksheet to track expenses for your injury claim (medical treatment, property damage, lost wages, prescriptions)
Download in PDF format
Post-Accident Journal Form
Sample accident journal/diary to help you document the effect on your daily life
Download in PDF format
Have you suffered a shoulder injury?
Use the Enjuris Legal Directory to locate an attorney in your area. Most attorneys offer free initial consultations and will be able to give you some idea as to the strength of your case and the potential damages available.
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See our guide Choosing a personal injury attorney.