A car accident can injure nearly every body part. Some injuries heal without medical treatment, while others involve long-term issues such as chronic pain and loss of function in the affected part of the body. One common physical complaint of those in car accidents is shoulder pain.
There are many shoulder pain causes, and treatment varies widely, depending on the type and severity of the injury. If a car accident from someone else's recklessness caused your shoulder injury, you can seek compensation through the personal injury claims process. An experienced car accident lawyer can determine if you can file a claim.
Common Car Accident Injuries that Result in Shoulder Pain
Car accidents injure about three million people in the U.S. each year. These accidents occur on any roadway and at any hour of the day or night. While people often associate personal injury claims with catastrophic injuries involving the spinal cord or the brain, more common injuries include shoulder pain. Shoulder pain, while typically not as severe as injuries to the spinal cord and brain, can result in lost wages, extraordinary medical expenses, and even chronic pain. Here is a brief look at some of the common injuries suffered in car accidents.
Rear-end accidents are among the most common when it comes to car accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), rear-end collisions account for around 29 percent of all accidents. Rear-end accidents are the most common cause of whiplash, an injury to the neck's soft tissues that occurs when the sufferer's head snaps back and forth from the force of the collision.
#2. Bone Fractures
The shoulder is a complex and highly flexible joint featuring a few different bones, each of which the force of a collision can fracture.
These bones include:
- The humerus, the large bone in the upper arm.
- The scapula, commonly known as the shoulder blade. The humerus fits inside the scapula to form the ball and socket of the shoulder.
- The clavicle, commonly known as the collarbone (often broken in car accidents due to pressure from the seatbelt).
- The acromion and the coracoid process, which are both bony projections that protrude from the scapula.
#3. Rotator Cuff Tear
A rotator cuff is a group of muscles surrounding the shoulder that provides the joint with its range of motion. The force of a collision can tear these muscles, causing pain or weakness in the shoulder, particularly when moving or lifting the arm.
#4. Sprains or Strains
Shoulder sprains or strains occur when you stretch or tear the ligaments of the shoulder, which are tissues that connect the bones of the shoulder. When this injury occurs in a car accident, it is often the result of the sufferer outstretching their arms to “catch themselves” during the accident, a blow to the shoulder, or a forced twisting of the arm.
#5. SLAP Tear
Superior labrum anterior posterior (SLAP) tears are an injury in which the protective tissue surrounding the socket of the shoulder -—known as the labrum—detaches from the biceps muscle in the arm. The labrum holds the muscle in place. This type of tear can occur from repetitive shoulder motion or acute trauma, like the trauma of a car accident.
A shoulder dislocation occurs when shoulder bones pop out of their natural position. A strong force or sudden blow often causes this injury. Dislocation requires a medical professional to put the bones back into their proper position. While the pain from this injury commonly subsides within a few weeks, the condition can create an unstable joint and cause future dislocations.
The Common Effects of Shoulder Pain
While some shoulder injuries suffered in car accidents will resolve with minimal medical treatment, many require surgery and pose a risk of lingering issues in the joint. The injury can cause permanent loss of the joint's range of motion, affecting future earning capacity if the sufferer's job depends on the ability to lift or raise the arm. The injury can also prevent the sufferer from participating in activities or hobbies they enjoy, and there might be psychological effects.
The Process of Seeking Compensation for Shoulder Pain
Prospective clients often ask us if their injury is serious enough to warrant a personal injury claim. If your injury causes you to miss work, incur medical expenses, and deal with the pain and suffering or other effects listed above, it is severe enough to seek compensation. A car accident claim often begins with your lawyer's demand to the at-fault party's insurance provider. This demand details the claim, documents expenses, and requests payment for the value of your claim.
If the insurer fails to pay the demand or does not offer a fair settlement for the claim, you can file a car accident lawsuit in civil court. If you file in court, a judge or jury will determine liability and calculate the compensation you should receive. While most personal injury claims resolve by settlement and never appear in a courtroom, an estimated 4 percent of claims result in litigation.
How Much Is a Shoulder Pain Claim Worth?
When a person is injured in a car accident, they can seek compensation for the expenses of their injury, such as medical treatment, wage loss, and property damage. They can also seek compensation for the quality-of-life effects they experience due to the injury, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of the enjoyment of life, and more.
The value of a shoulder pain claim can vary widely, depending on the circumstances of the accident, the nature of the injury, the treatments required to improve the condition, and the long-term effects. Even if all shoulder injuries were created equal, many unique factors determine a claim's value, making it impossible to generate an “average” claim for compensation of a shoulder injury.
Factors that affect the value of your claim include:
- The severity of the injury. The more medical expenses you incur for its treatment and the larger effects it has on your life, the higher the value of your claim.
- How much you earn. You can recover compensation for income loss. If your injury requires you to miss work or lose your earning capacity, and damages are determined by how much you earned when the accident occurred, those with higher wages will likely have higher wage loss claims.
- How much insurance the at-fault party has. The auto liability policy of the at-fault party compensates most personal injury claims. However, these policies limit how much coverage the at-fault party chooses to pay. Many drivers pay for the minimum amount of insurance required by the state. For example, the minimum amount of bodily injury liability insurance that drivers registered in Illinois must have is $25,000 for injuries to one person, or $50,000 if the accident caused injuries to more than one person. This amount is not much in light of medical care and other expenses, particularly if the accident injures more than one person.
What Happens if the At-Fault Party Has No Insurance?
According to the Insurance Information Institute, about one in every eight drivers on the roadway is uninsured. If an uninsured driver caused your accident, you can seek compensation for your claim, but the process is a little more complex. You can file a lawsuit against the at-fault party directly. However, most uninsured drivers do not have the money to compensate for car accident injuries out-of-pocket. Your attorney can help you explore wage garnishment to collect on the claim.
Your lawyer can also carefully investigate your claim to look for additional sources of liability with insurance resources that provide you compensation. Additionally, they can help you look through your insurance policies to see if they can help pay for your injury expenses.
How an Attorney Can Help With Your Car Accident Claim
An experienced car accident attorney wears many hats in the personal injury claims process. They are responsible for providing guidance and information to help you understand the process and make important decisions, such as determining whether a settlement offers fair compensation or when your claim should go to court. They are also responsible for clearly communicating the details of your claim to the at-fault party's insurer or the court.
Your lawyers file your lawsuit within the statute of limitations and protect your right to use the court to seek compensation.
Your attorney looks carefully at the details of the accident to determine liability and obtains the documentation needed to prove expenses. They negotiate settlements, often while preparing evidence for court. They assist you in collecting your settlement or award and paying creditors, such as hospitals and group health insurance providers, who placed a lien on the settlement.
What's more: Car accident attorneys work on a contingent fee basis, meaning their payment is dependent on their ability to obtain compensation for your shoulder injury. This method allows you to obtain their services, but wait to pay them until you receive your settlement or award.
Call a Car Accident Lawyer About Your Shoulder Pain
You need a local car accident lawyer who has fought and won difficult cases, including those involving high-powered insurance companies, major corporations, and even municipalities.
Many attorneys push for a quick settlement for their clients with shoulder injuries. However, you want a firm that regularly obtains maximum compensation for its clients, whether by settlement or litigation. Look for a firm that is comfortable with negotiation and litigation and has decades of experience with both processes.
Contact a lawyer near you for a free case evaluation to learn more about seeking compensation for your shoulder pain following a car accident.