Shoulder Injury in a Massachusetts Car CrashCar accidents are a leading cause of serious injury not only in Massachusetts, but across the United States. When we get behind the wheel, we don’t often think about being hurt in a car crash. Unfortunately, and statistically, there is always a probability of being injured in an accident. Sometimes, when we realize we are about to be involved in a crash, we tense up and brace our hands against the steering wheel. A serious crash can cause our shoulders to absorb a lot of force that can result in an acute tear of the rotator cuff or other shoulder injury. These injuries can result in very expensive medical bills, lost wages, and significant pain and suffering and you may not know what to do.

Our Framingham personal injury firm has handled many accident cases involving injuries to shoulders, including torn rotator cuffs, in car crashes. Shoulder injuries can be severe and debilitating and require extensive medical treatment at a significant cost. If you hurt your shoulder in a motor vehicle crash that was caused by another driver, you may be eligible for financial compensation.

Rotator Cuff Injuries Are Very Common In Car Crashes

A torn rotator cuff is a very common injury in motor vehicle accidents, and we see it regularly in our office. In fact, thousands of people suffer from this type of injury in motor vehicle accidents whether it is a rear-end collision or a head-on collision. A torn rotator cuff is a painful and debilitating injury that severely limits a person’s range of motion, making even simple everyday tasks painful, if not impossible.

What is the Rotator Cuff?

The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and attached tendons that converge around the shoulder joint at the top of the upper arm bone above the elbow known as the humerus. The four tendons are (1) the supraspinatus, (2) the infraspinatus, (3) the teres minor, and (4) the subscapularis.

These tendons and muscles hold your arm in place and allow it to move in different directions. The rotator cuff is relatively weak, and the jolt of a car accident can put significant stress on it causing partial tears, swelling, or the tendons to pull directly away from the bone.

Symptoms of a Damaged or Torn Rotator Cuff

There are a variety of symptoms of a torn rotator cuff that typically affect the upper extremities. After being involved in a car crash, you may feel pain in your shoulder. You may not know the extent of the injury right away, but if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you should seek medical attention right away.

  • Pain in the Shoulder: The usual and most common symptom of a rotator cuff injury is pain. The pain is typically felt in the shoulder and can radiate down into the arm. The pain can be severe, but may also be a dull achy pain, especially with rotation or movement.
  • Shoulder Weakness: A rotator cuff injury usually causes weakness in the shoulder. This weakness can make lifting objects or performing overhead activities difficult and painful. Since the tendons in the shoulder hold your arm in place, an injury to these tendons can cause the shoulder to feel weak and unstable during routine movements.
  • Limited Range of Motion: Since the four rotator cuff muscles and tendons are responsible for specific movements of the shoulder, an injury to the rotator cuff muscles and/or tendons may cause limited range of motion. Specific movements, such as raising your arm over your head, reaching behind your back, or rotating your arm, may be limited with a rotator cuff injury and cause pain.
  • Popping or Clicking: A rotator cuff injury or tear may cause a popping or clicking sound when moving the shoulder or arm. The popping or clicking noise in the shoulder during movements is usually a sign of rotator cuff damage and is caused by the muscles and tendons moving over the bone. This is generally experienced along with the other symptoms.

While there are other symptoms of a rotator cuff injury or tear, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms after a car accident, you should see a doctor right away for an evaluation.

Treatment Options for a Torn Rotator Cuff

There are many treatment options for an injury to the shoulder or rotator cuff. The treatment, obviously, depends on the severity of the damage or tear to the rotator cuff muscles and tendons. Typically, the treatment options for a shoulder injury consist of conservative, non-surgical treatment, or surgical intervention.

The standard conservative, non-surgical treatment option is usually rest, ice, and therapy. After suffering a shoulder or rotator cuff injury in a car accident, it is best to rest the shoulder to reduce pain, swelling, and soreness. Applying ice over the shoulder will also help reduce inflammation and may help with pain. Working with a physical therapist will help strengthen the muscles and tendons in the shoulder joint. When the muscles heal and strengthen, the pain and range of motion should improve. This conservative treatment option is generally recommended initially, again depending on the severity of the injury and symptoms.

If conservative, non-surgical treatment fails, surgery may be considered or be necessary. The most common operation for a torn rotator cuff is arthroscopic surgery. This type of surgery involves making a small incision using a small camera and specialized surgical tools to go into the shoulder and repair the torn tendon. Sometimes, open surgery may be required. This is where the orthopedic surgeon will make a larger incision in the shoulder area to access and repair the damaged or torn tendon.

Recovery from rotator cuff surgery can take many months. The post-surgical recovery will include physical therapy to strengthen the shoulder and recover full range of motion. Sometime, however, range of motion may not be fully restored leaving an impairment.

Personal Injury Cases Involving Rotator Cuff Injuries Suffered in a Car Accident

Injuries to the shoulder and rotator cuff are common in car accidents. Since the shoulder is such a crucial body part for everyday activities, damage to the rotator cuff can significantly impact our lives. Medical treatment for rotator cuff injuries or tears can be very expensive and result in costly medical bills. Additionally, a rotator cuff injury may prevent an accident victim from returning to work and lead to lost wages.

If you suffered a shoulder or rotator cuff injury in a car accident that was caused by another driver, you may be entitled to financial compensation for your damages. After a car crash, it is critical to consult with an experienced Massachusetts injury lawyer that specializes in car accident cases. While you may be entitled to compensation, the auto insurance companies will employ the use of many strategies and tactics to either not pay you anything or pay you less than you deserve.

Proving Negligence is Vital to a Successful Injury Case

Before considering the amount of fair compensation for an injury from a car accident, proving negligence is crucial. If you cannot prove that the other driver was negligent and the cause of the crash and your injuries, you cannot recover compensation for your damages and losses.

Negligence refers to the failure to exercise the standard of care that a reasonably prudent person would have exercised in a similar situation. Under Massachusetts law and in a personal injury lawsuit, there are four elements of negligence that the plaintiff bears the burden of proving. They are:

  1. Duty:  The plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed them a duty of care. Massachusetts law requires drivers on the roads of the Commonwealth to use reasonable care for their own safety and for the safety of other motorists;
  1. Breach:  The plaintiff must prove that the defendant breached or violated the duty of care. For example, if a driver is distracted when driving or following too close and rear-ends another vehicle, that driver may be held to have breached their duty to drive safely;
  1. Causation: The plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s breach of their duty caused the injuries suffered in the car crash. For example, if a distracted driver rear-ends a vehicle and causes the driver or occupant of that other vehicle to suffer a shoulder injury, their breach of duty will be found to have caused the shoulder injury and other losses;
  1. Damages:  The plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s negligence caused the plaintiff to suffer damages. Damages are what is considered in determining the value of a personal injury case. These include the injury, financial losses (i.e., medical expenses and lost earnings), and pain and suffering.

Only if the plaintiff can prove all four elements of negligence, can they recover compensation for their injuries and damages suffered in a car crash. Therefore, proving negligence is vital in personal injury cases.

Proving negligence isn’t always as easy as it seems. The insurance companies and their lawyers often contest negligence and may try to place blame on the accident victim for causing the crash. They do this by claiming comparative negligence or contributory negligence. This legal theory asserts that the accident victim caused or contributed to the crash, which may result in being unable to recovery any compensation or a reduction in the amount of compensation sought.

Car accident victims should speak with an experienced Massachusetts accident attorney to protect their legal rights to compensation and rebut any claim of comparative negligence. Our Framingham accident lawyers have extensive trial experience specifically litigating negligence cases. We can anticipate the legal strategies used by the insurance companies and know how to successfully present evidence to prove the other driver was negligent and the cause of our client’s injuries and damages.

How Much Are Rotator Cuff Injuries Worth From a Massachusetts Car Accident?

Determining the value of a car accident case depends on several factors. These include the severity of the injury, the amount medical treatment required and its cost, the impact on the ability to work and earn wages, and the extent of the pain and suffering endured.

Determining the amount of medical bills incurred by the accident victim is imperative in assessing the fair amount of compensation.  The treatment options for rotator cuff injuries or tears vary, which in turn affects the amount of compensation warranted in an accident case. Generally, the cost of conservative, non-surgical treatment is less than surgery and post-surgical recovery. Thus, a rotator cuff injury requiring surgery may result in greater financial compensation than those that don’t.

Also, if a rotator cuff injury prevents an accident victim from working and earning their paycheck, the amount of the lost earnings must also be considered in determining the worth of an accident case. The type of occupation, amount of time out of work for the injury, and the amount of wages lost will differ for each person and injury. For example, a laborer or construction worker may not be able to return to work with a shoulder injury for a while due to the requirements of their job. Whereas an office worker may only miss limited time since they might be able to perform their office duties even with a shoulder injury.

The value of an injury case also takes into consideration the pain and suffering endured by the accident victim. Pain and suffering damages are intended to compensate the accident victim for the physical and mental distress caused by their injury. Valuing pain and suffering in an accident case, however, can be complicated. There is no actual mathematical formula to calculate someone’s pain and suffering. Generally, the severity of the injury, duration of the pain, length of treatment, and impact on someone’s enjoyment of life are considered in determining appropriate monetary compensation.

If you are wondering how much your shoulder or rotator cuff injury is worth, you should seek the advice of a professional, experienced personal injury attorney. Our Framingham accident attorneys specialize in representing victims of car accidents and routinely value injury cases. We understand the components of damages and what needs to be obtained and presented to get clients the compensation they deserve. In doing so, we use a team of experts to establish the amount of economic damages and non-economic damages.

Generally, settlements or verdicts for accident cases involving a rotator cuff tear can be significant. This is because it is considered a serious injury and causes significant pain and suffering. Sometimes, a rotator cuff tear may result in permanent or partial disability. The amount of recovery for shoulder and rotator cuff injuries from car accidents can range of $20,000 to well over $100,000. If you suffered a shoulder injury in an accident, feel free to schedule a free consultation with our Framingham accident lawyers so we can evaluate your case and the amount of reasonable compensation.

Charles S. Pappas
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Massachusetts injury lawyer & workers' compensation attorney serving accident victims in Webster & Framingham.