You’re driving your car when all of a sudden you hear the sound of screeching tires. You tense up and brace your hands against the steering wheel knowing a collision is about to happen.  Upon impact your shoulders absorb the force leaving you in extreme pain.  You’re in shock, your mind is racing and adrenaline is flowing through your body.  Although you don’t know it at the time, but you just suffered an acute tear of the rotator cuff.  

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 an injury from 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. The rotator cuff is a group of four tendons and muscles that converge around the shoulder joint at the top of the upper arm bone above the elbow known as the humerus. These tendons and muscles hold your arm in place and allow it to move in different directions. The rotator cuff is relatively weak and a car accident can put too much stress on it causing partial tears, swelling or the tendons to pull directly away from the bone. A rotator cuff tear can cause pain and weakness in the shoulder.  These symptoms will make it difficult to move the shoulder in certain directions and prevent over-head activities and the inability to lift heavy objects.

Rotator cuff tears are usually only discovered through an MRI.   The treatment for a rotator cuff injuries vary.  We have represented clients with serious tears that required surgery to repair.  In other cases our clients rest and ice their shoulder and receive cortisone steroid injections that temporarily reduce the pain.  Either way, injured clients usually undergo weeks of specialized physical therapy to try and get full range of motion back to the shoulder.

If you were in a car accident and suffered a shoulder injury, you should first get medical attention.  It is just as important to seek legal advice before taking any action beyond seeking medical help.  This is because, in some situations, relating your rotator cuff tear to you accident can be extremely difficult.  Insurance companies will often argue that the shoulder injury is the result of degenerative conditions or wear and tear of the shoulder and not caused by the car accident.  While it is true that rotator cuff tears are sometimes caused by wear and tear, the impact from a serious car accident can also cause these tears. This is why it is critical to consult with an experienced lawyer that specializes in car accident cases before you speak with the insurance company. 

Settlements or verdicts for accident cases involving a rotator cuff tear can be significant.  This is because it is a serious injury and causes significant pain and suffering and, in some cases, permanent or partial disability.  Our office has obtained damages in the range of $20,000.00 to over $100,000.00 for clients with these types of injuries. 

Charles S. Pappas
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Massachusetts Personal Injury & Workers' Compensation Attorney