A rotator cuff injury can flip your life upside down. Our accident attorneys see a lot of rotator cuff injuries in serious traffic collision cases. Every part of our bodies are vulnerable in a car or truck accident. But the shoulder is particularly at risk because the balls of our upper arms are bigger than the shoulder socket that holds the ball. This is why we see so many of these injuries.
If you have a rotator cuff injury because someone else was not paying attention, you are entitled to compensation. If you want to know what the settlement value is for a rotator cuff injury, you have the right question. You deserve to be fully compensated for the harms you have suffered. This page is mostly dedicated to helping you better understand the trial and settlement value of your claim.
Our Maryland personal injury lawyers have settled or taken to trial scores of rotator cuff accident lawsuits. So our attorneys are well versed in the science of these cases and what you can expect in a settlement payout.
But let's first talk about the injury itself because the severity and scope of rotator cuff injuries drive settlement value. Your rotator cuff is the muscles and tendons in your shoulder. Trauma readily causes damage to these muscles or tendons. Typical causes of a rotator cuff injury may include falling, lifting, and repetitive arm activities — especially those done overhead, such as throwing a baseball or placing items on overhead shelves.
The rotator cuff is essentially a cuff of tissue. It is firm, gristly tissue that covers and attaches to the ball and socket of the shoulder joint. It consists of a group of muscles, tendons, and ligaments. This controls the shoulder's mobility and stabilizes the ball of the shoulder within the shoulder joint. The rotator cuff is made up of four muscles and tendons. These combined to form a “cuff” over the upper end of the arm.
The four muscles that make up the rotator cuff - the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis, and teres minor. They originate from the scapula and form a single tendon unit. The rotator cuff is attached to the shoulder blade and then inserted into the upper part of the humerus. The function of the rotator cuff is to hold the shoulder joint together and hold the ball of the humerus snug in the socket while large muscles move the arm around in space.
The supraspinatus tendon is the tendon that is most commonly torn when people suffer a rotator cuff tear. As defense lawyers are quick to point out, rotator cuff tendons, just like lots of our other joints and tendons, tend to degenerate as we age.
One of the challenges with rotator cuff injuries is there is not a good flow of blood to this area of the body to heal the injury. Surgery is sometimes the only solution because this allows for new blood supply along with reattaching the rotator cuff. So surgery is often successful but there are no guarantees. (From a legal perspective, as we discuss below, the average compensation for a shoulder injury requiring is much higher than one that does not have surgery.)Rotator Cuff Settlement and Verdict Statistics
The value of rotator cuff injury claims varies wildly. Five variables drive the value of these claims:
- The diagnostic severity of the injury
- The age of the victim (values much higher for victims under age 30)
- Prior medical history
- A complete or partial tear
- Whether the victim had surgery
The most important of these variables is the severity of the injury. Rotator cuff cases where there is a surgery are generally more valuable than those without a surgical procedure (such as a PRP). Most orthopedic surgeons use arthroscopic repair today. If the surgery is an open procedure, that is generally going to lead to a higher settlement value. Reverse shoulder replacement cases in particular also often have a greater value.
The more difficult rotator cuff cases are where the client has a preexisting injury. In these cases, the challenge is the films show a degenerative shoulder injury as opposed to acute trauma. Good lawyers in Maryland (particularly in Baltimore) can still win many of these lawsuits. But they are more of a challenge.
One way to harm a good injury case is to not follow your treatment plan. Studies show that the physical therapy that you get after surgery is strongly correlated with a good outcome. If you do not follow your therapy plan, the insurance company is going to hit your accident lawyer over the head with that fact during settlement negotiations.
The statistical data on verdicts and settlements vary wildly.
- $70,000 average verdict nationally
- $140,000 median settlement/verdict in Washington D.C.
- $30,000 median settlement/verdict in Virginia
- $50,000 median settlement/verdict in Maryland
If untreated by surgery, a rotator cuff tear will not heal in the sense that the tear will eventually mend itself. A rotator cuff tear will remain a tear for the remainder of the individual's life unless surgical action is taken.
If you are an injury lawyer working on a settlement or getting ready for trial, you want to remember to point out to the insurance company or jury that one of the real harms and losses is the surgery itself. It is painful and it comes with risks.
The risks associated with rotator cuff surgery include infection and death. There is also a risk of nerve or vessel injury, inability to repair the injury, continued pain, and arthritis. There is also no guarantee of function or abilities after surgery. This is a part of the claim that often gets overlooked. The pain and suffering from the fear that your loss of function is permanent.
Here are a few sample settlements and verdicts in these cases around the country. Many of these settlements and verdicts were handled by the personal injury lawyers at our Maryland-based firm, Miller & Zois.
Keep in mind these are civil tort lawsuits. The settlement compensation you receive in a workers' compensation case is likely to be a lesser amount than you would receive in a third-party negligence lawsuit.
This is not a scientific sampling. It may not reflect the value of your case even if the facts are similar. But the results and payouts are interesting. Our hope is they give you some idea of how other similar claims have been valued and narrow the range of the expected settlement ranges in your case.
- 2019, Maryland $40,000 Settlement: This was a very minor rotator cuff injury our client suffered. The injury thankfully resolved very quickly without surgery or significant physical therapy.
- 2018, Maryland: $175,000 Settlement: Our client is hit when by a truck making an unsafe right turn. He had a few injuries, most notably a rotator cuff injury. Insurance companies undervalue rotator cuff cases. This claim was no exception. The insurance company offered $20,000 pre-suit, arguing the client receive little medical attention (which was true). This was a non-starter. We filed a lawsuit. We assumed we were going to trial but the offer kept coming up and up. When the offer reached $175,000, our client decided to settle the case.
- 2018, Connecticut $41,612 Verdict: A 25-year-old student was a passenger in a car accident caused by the defendant when he ran a stop sign and struck her vehicle on the front right side. Plaintiff suffered a left rotator cuff tear resulting in 3% permanent partial disability. Liability was admitted. The battle was over how much money to award. After a bench trial, the plaintiff was awarded $41,612 for her injuries.
- 2017, New Jersey $100,000 Settlement: A 56-year-old plaintiff driver claimed that the defendant carelessly crossed over the center line causing a head-on collision. As a result of the accident, the plaintiff suffered a torn left rotator cuff that required arthroscopic surgery to repair. He also suffered a broken left ankle and claimed to have a herniated disc. The case settled for policy limits of $100,000.
- 2017, Florida $181,337 Verdict: The defendant rear-ended the plaintiff on a two-lane road in Escambia County, Florida. The plaintiff was subsequently diagnosed with a tear of the right rotator cuff which he claimed was the result of the car accident with the defendant. Like most of these cases, liability. The trial was solely about damages. There was no dispute that the plaintiff’s rotator cuff was torn. But the defendant's personal injury lawyer claimed that the force of the accident was not enough to have caused the injury. The jury was not persuaded. It awarded the plaintiff $181,337 in damages that included $81,000 for past medical expenses. The interesting thing about the cases is the jury apparently reached this verdict despite its finding that his injuries were not permanent.
- 2016, Maryland: $250,000 Settlement: A Miller & Zois client is traveling on Route 97 North in Anne Arundel in the far left lane. She stops her vehicle and is rear-ended. She has surgery to repair her shoulder and has a quality recovery. GEICO offered their $50,000 limits, and Erie paid $200,000 in uninsured motorist coverage.
- 2013, Michigan: $65,000 Verdict: Plaintiff is injured when his car is rear-ended. Plaintiff claims that he suffered a rotator cuff tear and undergoes arthroscopic surgery. Plaintiff files suit against the uninsured driver and his uninsured motorist carrier, Auto-Owners Insurance Company. Defendants contend that the accident was the fault of Plaintiff for slamming on his brakes for no reason. Plaintiff denies the contention, and a jury awards him $65,000.
- 2012, Maryland: $340,000 Verdict. The victim suffered a rotator cuff injury in a classic left turn case. Like most shoulder injury cases, this man also had other serious injures as well, including a disc injury. Defendant made no offer to resolve the case before trial. Miller & Zois handled this case.
- 2012, Maryland: $50,000 Settlement. Plaintiff is traveling on Washington Boulevard on a motorcycle in Baltimore City. Defendant takes a left turn in front of him. He is diagnosed with a torn rotator cuff and had two surgeries. The Plaintiff, an engineer (and a great guy), would have had a much larger recovery. But, as in many of these motorcycle cases, he had not uninsured motorist coverage and the defendant had no assets and a $50,000 liability policy.
- 2012, Georgia. $56,552 Verdict: Plaintiff, a homemaker, is rear-ended on an interstate exit ramp. She initially claims lower back pain. Two weeks after the accident, she begins to complain of shoulder pain. She is diagnosed with a torn labrum in her right shoulder and undergoes surgery. After continued shoulder complaints over the next nine months, she undergoes two more procedures on the same shoulder for rotator cuff repairs. She additionally undergoes lumbar surgery for aggravation of spinal stenosis. She files a personal injury claim, seeking over $200,000 in medical costs. Her personal injury attorneys ask the jury for $750,000 in economic and non-economic damages. The Defendant, insured with GuideOne, admits liability but disputes everything beyond the initial shoulder injury. The jury apparently sides with the defense and awards the Plaintiff $56,552.
- 2011, Pennsylvania. $47,500: Plaintiff, a 64-year-old woman is lying in bed when, if you can imagine, the Defendant’s vehicle crashes into the wall of her house, knocking her out of bed. She strikes her shoulder against the wall. Defendant is arrested for DUI. The plaintiff is diagnosed with a rotator cuff tear. Plaintiff undergoes surgery. Records show that the Plaintiff previously underwent rotator cuff repair surgery, 15 years before the subject collision. The defense contends that Plaintiff suffers from unrelated health issues, including circulatory problems and a knee condition, limiting her mobility and her rotator cuff injury was not acute by chronic. The case settles the day before trial for $47,500.
- 2010, Florida. $500,000 Verdict: Plaintiff, 34, is working as a landscaper, blowing grass to the shoulder of the road when he is struck by a vehicle. Plaintiff is diagnosed with a rotator cuff tear and aggravation of a pre-existing lumbar disc herniation. Plaintiff undergoes shoulder surgery and lumbar surgery. The defense maintains that Plaintiff caused the collision by stepping into the path of the oncoming vehicle and that Plaintiff did not sustain a permanent injury. Plaintiff returns to employment, but in a limited capacity with a different employer. He claims that his accident-related injuries diminished his future earning capacity. The defense emphasizes his accident history that includes four prior accidents and a visit to his orthopedic surgeon four days before the accident. The jury finds that Plaintiff suffered a permanent injury as a result of this crash, but found Plaintiff to be 40% comparatively negligent. Plaintiff is awarded $500,000 in damages, which is reduced to a net of $300,000.
- 2010, Maryland $70,000 Settlement: Our client had a surgical repair but, thankfully, she was young and made a full recovery without remaining symptoms. This was fortunate for her but it did have a bit of a chilling effect on her settlement offer.
- 2009, Maryland $150,000 Settlement: This is a Delaware case our personal injury law firm handled along with counsel there. (Long story why we filed in Delaware.) She received an insignificant offer, in part because she received a lot of physical therapy for her shoulder injury but did not get surgery. We filed suit and the case settled shortly after that. She had just under $25,000 in medical bills.
Again, keep in mind that these are all civil third-party lawsuits. Workers' compensation and social security disability cases are valued differently (and usually much lower).
The average value of a personal injury lawsuit in Maryland involving a torn rotator cuff is between $35,000 to $150,000. The most severe shoulder injuries may have a settlement value of $200,000 or more.
The severity of the rotator cuff injury has the most impact on the potential settlement value of the case. Minor or partial tears of the rotator cuff are less serious and have a lower settlement value. Complete tears are more serious and often require surgery so they have a higher value. Above, we list the five variables that drive the value of these cases and the type of surgeries that usually fetch more settlement dollars. Remember, these are not workers' compensation claims. Injured workers typically get less in compensation for the same injury than you would get in a civil tort claim.
Shoulder injuries very common in car accidents. The sudden impact of an accident can cause the tendons in the shoulders to overstretch and tear. Rotator cuff tears can be partial or complete.
Yes. Severe rotator cuff tears can sometimes result in a permanent loss of full motion range in the shoulder. This can significantly restrict a person’s ability to perform certain functions and qualify as a permanent partial disability. These cases typically have a great trial and settlement value.
Our Maryland personal injury lawyers are experienced in handling rotator cuff injury cases. If you have suffered a serious injury in a motor vehicle collision in Maryland or Washington D.C., call us at 800-553-8082 or get a free online consultation. (If you are outside of Maryland and D.C., contact us online and ask for a recommendation for a personal injury attorney in your jurisdiction. We do not have a lawyer to refer to in every jurisdiction. But we do in most states.)