Shoulder injuries are surprisingly common in the American workplace, typically due to the heavy lifting, stretching and performance of other heavy labor tasks. A shoulder injury can be severe, painful and debilitating.
A typical worker often first seeks out conservative medical care, such as injections and therapy to see if the injury can be resolved without surgery. Unfortunately, many times, the worker must undergo surgery on their shoulder and ultimately physical therapy.
While in this status of recuperating from the conservative care or surgery, the worker is generally put in a status known as “temporary total” (TTD) or “temporary partial” (TPD) disability. If he or she is unable to work at all, they are placed in TTD and receive two-thirds of their average monthly wage. If they are in a partial work ability designation, such as light-duty, then their earnings are deducted from TTD payments and so they would get a check from the insurance company and their employer.
Typically, shoulder injuries are so severe that there aren’t many opportunities for light-duty work, or the employer doesn’t have opportunities for light duty if the injured worker is in a heavy labor trade.
In such cases, the worker will ultimately finish his or her recuperation until they reach a point known as “maximum medical improvement”, or MMI. This is the point when the worker can go to the doctor every day, but will not get any better or any worse.
When MMI is reached, the doctor who has declared the individual most improved, but not cured, rates the injured worker based on a medical book known as the AMA Guidelines to Permanently Disability. This book allows the doctor to put a numerical rating on the injured worker’s shoulder.
However, the most important aspect at this point in the case is the listing of what the worker can and cannot do in terms of work—or, in other words, what are his or her work restrictions.
Even if they are able to work, what can the injured worker do with their injured shoulder in terms of pushing, pulling, lifting overhead and weight limitations?
This is an important question—as are these:
How much should I settle for a shoulder injury?
An appropriate and fair shoulder injury settlement varies greatly depending on the severity of the injury and the nature of a person’s work. For example, a fair settlement for a severe rotator cuff tear might be high if the injured worker is young and works as a delivery driver, whereas an appropriate settlement for the same injury might be lower if the injured employee was about to retire and works at a desk job.
Since each case is different depending on the type of injury and unique circumstances of the claim, it’s important you speak with a knowledgeable work injury attorney to help you determine how much you should settle for.
How much will I get for a shoulder injury?
Many shoulder injury settlements approach $100,000 or more, but some settle for far less. While we can’t calculate precisely how much your case is worth without knowing more details, we can tell you that insurance companies regularly undervalue shoulder injury cases. For this reason, you should never accept a settlement offer until you’ve spoken to an experienced attorney.
What shoulder injuries require surgery?
While some shoulder injuries heal with a little rest, physical therapy and other nonsurgical treatments, others require intensive surgery. Surgery should always be a last resort, but some injuries will worsen over time without a quick procedure.
If nonsurgical intervention doesn’t work, surgery may be required for the following shoulder injuries:
- Partial and full rotator cuff tears (impingement syndrome)
- SLAP (superior labrum anterior and posterior) tear
- Bicipital tendinitis
- Repeated dislocation
- Frozen shoulder
- Distal clavicle osteolysis
- Severe displaced fractures (acromioclavicular joint separation)
- Fractured head of the arm bone (proximal humerus fracture)
- Severe rheumatoid arthritis (if experiencing pain and limited mobility)
- Traumatic shoulder injuries (from a fall or car accident)
What are common shoulder surgeries?
If a shoulder injury doesn’t respond to conservative, nonsurgical treatments, it might be necessary to undergo surgery. These procedures can range from minimally invasive operations to open surgeries, and the recovery times vary.
Common types of shoulder surgeries include:
- Rotator cuff repair
- SLAP repair
- Bankart repair
- Acromioclavicular (AC) joint repair
- Shoulder replacement surgery (or partial replacement, known as a hemiarthroplasty)
- Reverse shoulder replacement surgery
- Biceps tendon surgery
- Shoulder fracture repair
How much does a shoulder injury cost?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that medical expenses alone for a work-related shoulder injury totals $20,000 per year on average, NOT including the cost of surgery (which can easily add up to tens of thousands of dollars alone). What’s more, the injured worker misses 21 days of work, on average, for treatment and recovery.
Can I get disability for a shoulder injury?
In addition to workers’ compensation, individuals who suffer a serious shoulder injury or torn rotator cuff on the job in Arizona may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. While shoulder conditions and pain aren’t specifically listed as a disabling impairment by the Social Security Administration (SSA), many shoulder injuries may qualify under Listing 1.02: Major dysfunction of a joint.
In order to be eligible for Social Security disability, you must meet the requirements that determine if your injury qualifies as a disability—namely that your disabling shoulder injury must have lasted 12 months, or be expected to last for at least 12 months. This injury must be confirmed by medical evidence and prevent you from returning to any type of work.
How can a work injury attorney help me?
Even though the pain and discomfort you or a loved one may be experiencing on a daily basis due to a shoulder injury is very real, it’s common for employers and workers’ compensation insurers to dispute these work injury claims or try to convince the injured worker to settle for far less than it will cost to get appropriate treatment.
This is where we can help.
We get to know the injured worker’s employment and professional background so that we can determine what jobs he or she might be able to fit into, as well as their prior work history and educational ability. Knowing these skills, past work history and education can help us better advise the injured worker whether or not they can return to some kind of gainful employment and earn a monthly wage or not.
Shoulder injuries are common causes of workers’ compensation claims, and most are complicated. If you require the assistance of a Certified Specialist by the Arizona Board of Legal Specialization, don’t hesitate to contact the Law Offices of Robert E. Wisniewski to schedule your free initial consultation.
Have more questions?