The cartilage of the shoulder joint is the labrum. The labrum is the disc of cartilage that lines the glenoid. It stabilizes the joint and limits excessive movement of the humerus. Additionally, it keeps the glenoid and the humerus together.
Many different types of injuries can require arthroscopic shoulder surgery, which is where a surgeon repairs the shoulder by making several small incisions in the joint to insert a camera and tools.
For example, rotator cuff tears, labral tears, and impingement syndrome may all be treated arthroscopically. Approximately four million patients seek medical attention in the United States each year for shoulder injuries. Shoulder arthroscopy is performed on 1.4 million people annually.
Shoulder Injuries Heal Poorly and That Impacts Settlement
There are many things about shoulder injuries that are unique that have an impact on the appropriate compensation for victims. Let's start with the joint itself. The shoulder joint is the least constrained joint in our bodies. For example, your hip joint fits concentrically into a socket. The mobile shoulder joint does not concentrically fit. The socket is flat and the ball is round. What does this mean? The shoulder joint really needs functional soft tissues around it - the rotator cuff, the labrum, capsule, and so forth - to provide stability to the shoulder joints. What this means is that normal shoulder functionality requires a lot of moving parts to work well together.
The other important thing to understand about the shoulder when it comes to putting a settlement value on these injuries is that tendons, ligaments, tendons in the shoulder are poorly vascularized. This means they do not get sufficient blood supply. This impedes the healing process. The result is often poor and incomplete healing after a motor vehicle crash. Soft tissue shoulder injuries rarely heal with no scarring or last injury.
These challenges in healing a shoulder injury often result in progressive deterioration of the shoulder over time that can lead to shoulder arthroplasty in the future that may or may not be successful. These future challenges need to be baked into the settlement calculus. They often are not.
Finally, serious shoulder injuries are difficult to diagnose. Injuries like, for example, a tear of the cartilaginous labrum of the joint, are often difficult to see on an MRI. So are cartilage defects. Defense lawyers like to pretend things that because something cannot be fully seen with radiographic testing, it does not exist. It is our job as plaintiffs' lawyers to solve this problem by making these injuries come to life with the insurance company and, if necessary, a jury.
Victims know that their lawyer is not going to help them heal. Our job is to get as much money for our clients as we possibly can. Clearly, permanent shoulder injuries will have a greater settlement value than injuries that fully resolve. Higher-energy or high-level cases where the property damage to the vehicles is high is also going to be a driver of settlement value.
The average shoulder injury verdict approaches $100,000. Shoulder injury cases often settle for much less. Why? Insurance companies and even victims' lawyers habitually undervalue should injury cases. Because they do not properly factor in the challenges that are specific to shoulder injuries.
These case outcomes are instructive in helping you understand the value of these claims. But they are just one tool of many and, used alone, are not predictive of the value of an individual case.
- 2019, Maryland: $220,000 Settlement: Our client is hit when the defendant's vehicle attempts to make a U-turn in front of his motorcycle. He drives himself to the hospital. After a few weeks of therapy, his doctor recommends an arthroscopy that includes a rotator cuff repair, subacromial decompression, and biceps tenodesis (tendon repair). The defendant offers $98,000 to settle the case. Our law firm files suit and the offer ultimately increases to $220,000. The defendant's policy was $250,000.
- 2016, Maryland: $250,000 Settlement: Our client stops in heavy traffic on Route 97 in Glen Burnie and is hit from behind by a driver who is not paying attention. She has shoulder surgery and, thankfully, makes a fantastic recovery. GEICO offered their $50,000 limits, and Erie paid $200,000 in uninsured motorist coverage.
- 2014, Maryland: $315,000 Settlement. Our client was a passenger in a taxi cab that veered off the road and crashed into a ditch. An MRI revealed four torn tendons and “massive” damage to his rotator cuff. He underwent surgery to correct the damage and was ordered to wear a protective sling for 6-8 weeks following surgery. Miller & Zois handled this case.
- 2013, Maryland: $33,000 Verdict. A 56 year-old-woman is forced off the road when the defendant exits a parking lot in front of her vehicle. The plaintiff slams into a pole and totals her car. Her rotator cuff is torn during the accident. The shoulder needs surgery, but the plaintiff is unable to afford it due to a lack of insurance. State Farm admits that its insured driver caused the accident but claims that the shoulder injury pre-existed the accident. The Montgomery County court awards the plaintiff $33,000.
- 2013, Maryland: $93,612 Verdict. A motorcyclist sustains a partial thickness rotator cuff tear that results in permanent injury. The defendant changed lanes abruptly, and the plaintiff runs into the back of the vehicle. Plaintiff additionally suffers abrasions to his lower body and unspecific injuries to his neck and back. The driver claims that a phantom vehicle cut him off causing the swerving maneuver. A Towson jury awards the plaintiff $93,612 for his injuries.
- 2012, Maryland: $335,639 Verdict. A 50-year-old couple is injured when a construction site adjacent to their home collapses. The husband suffers a torn rotator cuff that requires surgery and eighteen months out of work. The wife receives serious lacerations around her eye that cause permanent disfiguration. The defendant had been attempting to construct a home for the past several years, and his negligent building skills resulted in the collapse. The Calvert County jury awards $335,630 when the defendant improperly answers the complaint and fails to appear at trial.
- 2012, Maryland: $43,481 Verdict. Defendant driver swerves across two lanes of traffic into the opposing road and runs head-on into plaintiff. The plaintiff receives a rotator cuff tear that requires decompression and debridement surgery. Additionally, plaintiff suffers strains of the cervicothoracic, thoracolumbar, and lumbosacral spine. The defendant disputes the necessity of the medical treatment and the causation of the injuries, but a Prince Frederick jury awards $43,481 in relief.
- 2012, Maryland: $72,162 Verdict. A 45 year-old-woman in stop-and-go traffic is sandwiched between the two defendants in an auto collision. The plaintiff sustains a painful rotator cuff injury. An Annapolis jury determines that the back defendant was the driver at fault, and the front defendant settles a separate injury claim for an undisclosed amount.
- 2012, Maryland: $ 58,000. A man in his 60s receives bilateral shoulder injuries when defendant driver turns into his lane while attempting a left turn. Defendant argues that the injuries were degenerative and predated the accident. An Ellicott City jury, however, determines one of the shoulder injuries to be related to the crash and awards $58,000.
- 2012, Maryland: $10,000. A woman sustains a cervical strain, cervical radiculopathy, and a shoulder rotator cuff tear when the defendant driver crashes into the woman’s vehicle. The defendant admits liability for the collision but denies the extent of the plaintiff’s injuries. A Baltimore County jury finds for the plaintiff but awards only $10,000. Clearly, they did not buy the plaintiff's case.
- 2012, Maryland: $5,000 Verdict. A woman is completely stopped at an intersection when the defendant driver struck her vehicle after colliding with another, non-party vehicle. Plaintiff receives a torn rotator cuff in her dominant arm and requires several months of therapy and pain treatment. Eventually, Plaintiff has surgery to repair the shoulder damage. Defendant argues that the shoulder injury came from a prior condition, and she did not experience enough pain to have torn her rotator cuff. An Upper Marlboro jury originally awards $3,826, but the payout amount is raised to $5,000 due to a high/low agreement.
- 2012, Maryland: $384 Verdict. A 45-year-old man’s car is run into as he waits behind a disabled vehicle. The defendant driver, acting in the scope of her employment, Enterprise Leasing Company, was driving at an excessive rate of speed and failed to control the vehicle. The plaintiff suffers a rotator cuff injury as well as bilateral shoulder strains. The Baltimore County jury awarded only $384 to plaintiff and his wife for loss of services. We don't have more details on this case. There may be a good reason the verdict was so small. We put in this verdict to underscore that not every shoulder injury case results in a good outcome. You have to fight hard with the best lawyers, and you have to fight with medicine and medical records to win these cases.
The average value of a shoulder injury case is about $93,556.
The average rotator cuff award nationally is about $70,000.
The value of your shoulder case is generally calculated by adding up your past and future lost wages and medical bills plus your pain and suffering.
How much is your pain and suffering worth? That is the hard part. There are so many variables that go into a pain and suffering award that it is difficult to estimate without really understanding the case and the medical records, the jurisdiction, and the impact the injury had on the victim's life.
The amount of a workers compensation settlement depends on the jurisdiction. Generally speaking, the value of an on-the-job shoulder injury is going to be less than the value of a third-party tort claim against a non-employer defendant.
If you have suffered a shoulder injury in an automobile or truck accident and want to consider a lawsuit or a claim for an out-of-court settlement, call one of our lawyers at 800-553-8082 or click here for a free no-obligation Internet consultation.