Shoulder injuries are extremely common in automobile accidents. Because our instincts take over in the critical moments during an accident, we often throw our arms out to brace ourselves against an imminent impact. Very often, the result of the impact can cause serious injuries to the shoulder – a joint in our body upon which we depend for nearly all day-to-day activities.
When we suffer a shoulder injury, it can severely limit our ability to function. Unfortunately, the extent to which our shoulder may be injured can remain undiagnosed in the moments or even days following an accident. Because such injuries don’t always bleed, or announce themselves right away – especially if there are other acute injuries – these injuries do not always receive the medical attention they require. The results are people all over the country suffering with debilitating shoulder pain for the remainder of their lives.
In this article, we will tell you a bit about several shoulder injuries, how they manifest themselves, and what treatment options you may have if your shoulder has been damaged. We will also tell you what you need to be able to prove in a court of law that your shoulder injury was caused by the negligence of someone else.
Let’s say you were riding your bicycle to the university library in the Georgia town where you attend school. As you learned when you were a child, you are following all the applicable rules of the road. As you pass through an intersection, a speeding BMW to your left fails to stop at the sign, and nearly crashes into you. You avoid the impact of the car, but fall with your bike taking the impact of your fall on your right shoulder.
The BMW’s driver stops and helps you to your feet. He is genuinely concerned and apologizes profusely. He asks if he should call an ambulance. (You think not.) Together you inspect your bike for damage and find that the bike seems unharmed. You are not bleeding anywhere except a small scrape on your knee. The driver offers to pay for your frayed jeans and gives you his phone number in case anything else develops. You each go off in your own direction and life continues as usual.
As the day progresses, though, you notice that your shoulder is aching and throbbing. Lifting your arm is painful, and, at home you notice discoloration or bruising around the area that took the brunt of the fall. You think the shoulder is just bruised and will feel better in a day or two.
When the pain doesn’t ease up after a week, you go to the nearby emergency care facility. After X-rays reveal an abnormality in the shoulder, you’re referred to an orthopedic doctor who diagnoses deep tissue bruising and a torn rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is part of the tendons and tissues around the shoulder joint which work together to hold your upper arm to the shoulder socket.
Without the treatment your orthopedist recommends your rotator cuff damage may lead to permanent loss of motion or weakness, and may result in progressive degeneration of the shoulder joint. Even though it is usually necessary to rest or immobilize the arm and shoulder, when the shoulder is held still for long periods of time, sometimes this can cause a syndrome known as frozen shoulder, where the connective tissue enclosing the joint to becomes thickened and tight (frozen shoulder). The successful treatment of a rotator cuff injury has many components. You will absolutely need medical care – and lots of it.
When you phone the driver who nearly hit you, he essentially tells you that he has no idea how you hurt yourself. You were fine after the near-miss, after all. Your injury is not his problem.
Faced with mounting medical costs and a bleak future without the care you need, you seek the help of a personal injury attorney. (Good for you!)
In Georgia, the law holds people accountable for the damage their negligence causes. In your case, your attorney will seek to force the stop-sign-running driver to pay for the pain and suffering you are and will continue to experience as well as your past and future medical costs.
Shoulder injuries are generally divided into three categories; fractures, dislocations, and soft-tissue injuries. In time through this series, we will attempt to discuss these injuries more thoroughly, but some examples of such injuries are:
- Bone Fracture. The forces involved in a car accident are powerful enough to break, or even shatter, bones
- Deep Tissue Bruising
- Sprains & Strains
- Rotator Cuff Tear
- SLAP Tear
Because it performs so many intricate functions, the shoulder joint has the greatest range of motion of any joint in the body. The shoulder consists of a large joint made up of the scapula (also known as your shoulder blade,) the clavicle (commonly called your collar bone,) and the upper arm bone (humerus.) The bones are held together by soft tissues including ligaments, tendons, muscles and joint capsule (the rotator cuff,) all of which are necessary to enable your arm to work. Injury to any part of this shoulder-system can make every-day life difficult, particularly in your case when it limits your use of your dominant right hand.
In order to prove that your injury occurred at the time of the near-miss with the negligent driver, you will need all the help you can get. Documentation is critical to proving any injury.
First of all, you did not report the traffic infraction the driver committed. There is no “official” record of the accident. You have no witnesses. You do have your daily journal entries that are filled with information about your pain, but essentially it is the word of an adult male who drives a BMW against a student who works part-time at Pizza Hut.
You didn’t seek medical help immediately, so the driver will claim that you were injured either before or after the accident. After all, you said you were “fine,” right? (For future reference, leave the medical diagnoses to the doctors. Even if you are a medical student, you are not qualified to diagnose yourself. It’s a very good idea to seek medical help whenever you fall or are involved in any kind of accident.) Your personal injury lawyer has a lot of work to do.
All the medical records from before and after the accident will be necessary to prove that your injured rotator cuff was not present before the day of the accident and that it wasn’t evident in any previous medical examinations.
Other records will be helpful in your case. Your performance records involving sports in which you might participate will help to demonstrate that you were uninjured previously. Academic records and awards will prove that you are a studious fellow who is a good and responsible citizen at your school will give your story a bit more weight and stature before the judge and jury.
Your attorney may also seek to discover facts about the BMW driver that might reveal other traffic infractions or bad habits that might shed light on his personal habits and/or failings.
Can we recover enough money to pay my medical costs?
If you are able to overcome the absence of witnesses and official documentation of the event, you may be able to substantiate your claim for damages.
You have copies of your current medical bills. Since your doctor has outlined your future medical care, and since surgery may be necessary, those future costs can be fairly well estimated.
You cannot ride your bike. Now you might have to use public transportation or drive a car, resulting in extra expenses. The cost of a vehicle and ongoing maintenance may come into play.
The damages you’ve suffered in terms of the losses associated with your performance as a student will also be fairly easy to establish. You happen to be right handed. You use your right hand and arm to take notes and to study, but your injury prohibits those activities. You may have to engage a tutor. Perhaps your 4.0 grade point average will suffer, causing you to be a less likely candidate for work in the future. That, too, has an impact on your ultimate recompense. Many factors must be weighed in order to establish a value for what you’ve lost.
It’s very easy to imagine that all people can be taken at their word. It would be a better world if we could do just that. Sadly, many other citizens of the planet are less noble than we’d like.
When you’ve been injured and somebody else is at fault, you don’t have to suffer the consequences alone. In the State of Georgia, the law makes it possible for you to recover some of what you’ve lost. Your shoulder may never be exactly the same as it was, but there may be help in paying for your rehabilitation. What you’ll need is an astute personal injury advocate to lift you over some of the hurdles that come with litigation.
At The Millar Law Firm we spend every day of every week with the issues of injured people on our desks. We are eminently qualified to take on the problems your case presents. Call us today for a free case evaluation. We’ll look at the facts and help you determine what your next step will be. This review won’t cost you a dime – but may supply a bit of hope for your future.