If you have been injured -- physically and/or mentally -- as a result of another…
In the busy streets of Atlanta, auto collisions are too often a reality. Unfortunately, these events can result in a range of injuries that can have a significant impact on the victim's day-to-day life. Among these, shoulder injuries stand out due to their potentially debilitating nature and the complexity of their legal proceedings. If you've been in a car accident resulting in a severe shoulder injury, you may be wondering about the average settlement for a shoulder injury and the factors influencing it.
Nathan Fitzpatrick is a top-notch car accident injury attorney in Atlanta and has successfully recovered millions for car accident victims. Here, he explains the long-term implications and types of shoulder injuries from car accidents, legal strategies victims can use, and more. After reading, you'll understand more about shoulder injury settlements due to car accidents.
The Impact of Shoulder Injuries in Car Accidents
Motor vehicle accidents can cause serious blunt force trauma even when they occur at moderate speeds, and shoulder injuries are quite common. The shoulder is made up of two joints that provide a wide range of motion, which means it is extremely vulnerable to trauma. Recovering completely from a minor shoulder injury can take weeks or even months, and surgery is often required to treat more serious injuries.
Importance of Seeking Fair Compensation
If you suffer car accident shoulder injuries caused by another road user’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your shoulder injury loss or damage. If you fail to act decisively and settle for less than you deserve, you may not receive enough to cover all of your medical bills and make up for your lost income. Insurance companies use experienced adjusters to negotiate auto accident settlements, and you should have a professional with just as much experience on your side.
Overview of Average Settlement Amounts
Average personal injury settlement amounts can be misleading because every auto accident is different. When injuries are minor and property damage is minimal, auto accident claims are usually settled for between $2,500 and $25,000. When auto accident victims suffer more serious injuries that prevent them from working for long periods, personal injury claims are usually settled for between $50,000 and $200,000. If lives are lost, or car accident victims are left permanently disabled, settlement amounts can reach seven figures.
Types of Shoulder Injuries Commonly Caused by Car Accidents
Ball-and-socket joints like the shoulder can move in any direction, which means they can be pulled into all manner of unnatural positions in a car crash. The bones, tendons, and ligaments in the shoulder are fairly robust, but they can be severely damaged by high-speed impacts. The most common types of shoulder injuries suffered in car accidents are sprains, strains, fractures, and dislocations.
1. Rotator Cuff Tears and Strains
Acute rotator cuff tears are a common severe shoulder injury. These injuries are called acute because they are caused by sudden and forceful trauma. In an auto collision, a rotator cuff tear or labrum tear often occurs when passenger vehicle occupants place their arms against an object like a steering wheel or seat back to brace themselves. Rotator cuff tears are painful and restrict shoulder movement, and a lump usually develops at the point where the collarbone meets the shoulder.
Additionally, severe rotator cuff injuries, including a severely torn rotator cuff, can result in permanent disability, as the victim may be left unable to move the affected shoulder. In many of these cases, rotator cuff surgery becomes necessary to restore function and alleviate shoulder pain.
Given the severity of rotator cuff injuries and the potentially life-altering effects of a torn rotator cuff, a claimant could receive substantial compensation when filing a rotator cuff injury settlement, particularly if they have undergone surgery. The profound impact of these injuries on a victim's life and the legal implications that follow highlight the importance of legal counsel in navigating such cases.
2. Dislocated Shoulder
A shoulder is dislocated when the upper arm bone becomes detached from the shoulder blade’s cup-shaped socket. Shoulder dislocations are fairly common in car wrecks because the shoulder is the body’s most flexible joint. A dislocated shoulder is very painful and makes even minor movements all but impossible. Most people who suffer this injury are able to move normally after a few weeks, but these injuries and the related shoulder pain sometimes never heal completely.
3. Fractured Collarbone
The collarbone or clavicle runs from the rib cage to the shoulder blade. Clavicle fractures account for about 5% of all adult broken bones, so they are quite common. Clavicles usually break in the center when an individual throws their arms out in front of them to break a fall. Clavicle fractures make moving the arm difficult but not impossible, and they can usually be treated by fitting a sling. However, surgery may be needed to treat serious clavicle fractures.
4. Shoulder Impingement Syndrome
Shoulders become impinged when the rotator cuff rubs against the top of the upper arm bone and the outer edge of the shoulder. This rubbing causes swelling that impedes movement and causes irritation, but these symptoms can usually be treated with rest, ice packs, and anti-inflammatory medications. Prolonged physical therapy may be required to regain full use of the shoulder, and surgery is sometimes needed to treat serious impingement syndrome.
Symptoms and Long-Term Implications
Severe shoulder injuries are quite painful, which is why they are usually diagnosed at auto accident scenes and treated promptly. However, the shoulder is a complex meeting of three bones and two joints, so an MRI scan may be needed before a proper diagnosis can be made. Fractures and dislocations can be diagnosed visually, but determining the severity of strains, sprains, and impingement requires sophisticated equipment. Scans should be run as soon as possible because shoulder injuries can become more serious when they are left untreated.
Medical Diagnosis and Treatment Options
MRI machines use magnetic imaging technology to see inside shoulder joints and identify torn rotator cuffs and other injuries, but these tests do not reveal how recently ago tissue was damaged. To check for auto accident injuries, doctors may run arthrogram tests. This is done by injecting dye into a damaged shoulder and then taking an X-ray.
Treatment options for shoulder injuries range from rest to major surgery. Splints or slings may be used to limit movement while shoulder injuries are healing, and regaining a full range of motion may require weeks or months of physical therapy. When surgery is required to treat shoulder injuries, arthroscopic techniques are preferred as they cause less disruption to the area being operated on.
Rehabilitation and Recovery Process
Recovering from a serious shoulder injury and shoulder pain is a multi-stage process. Emergency medical technicians immobilize injured shoulders at accident scenes and may administer painkilling medications, and then emergency room doctors run tests to assess the severity of the injury and take steps to prevent further damage. Auto accident victims may then be prescribed drugs to reduce pain and prevent inflammation while doctors determine whether or not surgery is required.
Shoulder injury rehabilitation often takes weeks or months. Physical therapy exercises can be performed at home or in an outpatient facility, and they are designed to improve strength and flexibility gradually. Strength exercises rebuild the muscles that support the shoulder, and stretching exercises restore movement. These exercises are usually performed for at least four weeks.
Determining Fault in Car Accidents
Determining who caused a car accident in Georgia is important because The Peach State does not have a no-fault insurance law. Georgia is a tort or at-fault state, which means that motorists who cause accidents are responsible for paying the costs and expenses of injured parties. Evidence that can be used to determine fault in a car accident includes police reports, vehicle inspections, eyewitness accounts, and footage captured by nearby security cameras.
Negligence and Liability
All people have a duty to do all that they reasonably can to protect others from injury. This duty requires drivers to maintain their vehicles properly, remain vigilant at all times and follow traffic laws. Drivers act negligently when they fail to meet this duty of care, and they become liable when their negligent behavior causes injury, loss, or damage to other road users. When juries are tasked with deciding whether or not the behavior was negligent, they consider what a reasonable person would do in the same situation.
Comparative Negligence and Its Impact on Settlements
Georgia law follows the modified comparative negligence doctrine, which means car crash victims can file lawsuits and recover damages even if they were partly responsible for causing the accidents that injured them. An accident victim is only barred from recovering damages when their degree of fault equals or exceeds the other party’s level of fault. However, the damages awarded to lawsuit plaintiffs are reduced to reflect the role they played. For example, if a jury determines that a plaintiff was 25% responsible for causing an accident, the damages they are awarded will be reduced by a quarter.
Seeking Compensation Through Insurance Claims
Lawsuits can be expensive and drag on for years, which is why many car accident victims choose to settle with insurance companies. A quick settlement saves both sides valuable time, but accident victims should not take the first offer an insurance company makes. Insurance negotiators tend to have a figure in mind when negotiations begin, and their first offers are usually well below this figure.
Dealing with Insurance Companies
If you are involved in a car accident in Georgia that was caused by another road user’s negligence, the insurance adjuster you deal with will be tasked with settling your claim for as little as possible. Experienced insurance adjusters are skilled negotiators, and they phrase their questions in a way that minimizes accident injuries and expenses. During settlement negotiations, you can expect to be asked about the medications you are taking, the way you maintain your vehicles, and your preexisting medical conditions.
Understanding Insurance Policies and Coverage Limits
Drivers in Georgia are required to maintain bodily injury coverage of at least $50,000 per incident and $25,000 per person and property damage coverage of at least $25,000 per incident, but these limits may not provide enough money to pay the claims made after a serious accident. Insurance companies will not pay more than an auto policy’s limits, which is why severely injured car accident victims often file personal injury lawsuits.
When to Consider Legal Representation
You should consider obtaining legal representation following a car accident if you suffer shoulder pain that causes you to take time off work. Insurance companies try to settle car accident claims for as little as possible, and this is especially true when injuries are serious, and the figures involved are likely to be significant. In these situations, it may be wise to hire an experienced professional to negotiate on your behalf.
Benefits of Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney
A personal injury attorney with experience in car accident cases could help you prepare for settlement negotiations by gathering important information before discussions begin. Once negotiations are underway, your attorney will work to get you the best possible settlement. Attorneys could study court records to find similar claims, and they could then base their negotiating positions on the amounts recovered in those cases. Hiring an attorney also encourages insurance companies to negotiate in good faith because it makes clear that litigation is an option.
Statutes of Limitations and Filing Deadlines
Georgia’s statute of limitations gives car accident victims only two years to file personal injury lawsuits. This does not mean car accident cases have to be resolved within two years, but lawsuit paperwork must be submitted to the court with jurisdiction during this time. The clock starts to run when the accident occurs, but it may be paused or “tolled” if the defendant is incarcerated, flees, or takes steps to conceal their identity.
Factors Influencing Settlement Amounts
Personal injury settlements can include various kinds of compensation and the amounts recovered will be based largely on the evidence that is presented. Hospital bills and paystubs can be used to establish healthcare costs and lost income, but determining appropriate compensation for mental anguish and pain and suffering can be challenging. Settlement amounts are higher when injuries are severe and have a long-term impact on day-to-day life.
Medical Expenses and Future Medical Needs
Negotiations over medical expenses can become contentious in a car accident case when the plaintiff has a preexisting condition that could have contributed to their injuries. When advocating on behalf of car accident victims, personal injury attorneys may wait until their clients reach the point of maximum medical improvement to ensure that their future medical needs are met. This is the point where doctors determine that continued treatment will not improve the patient’s outcome.
Lost Wages and Diminished Earning Capacity
Accident victims can recover compensation for lost income if their injuries left them unable to work or forced them to accept jobs with lower rates of pay. They could also be entitled to compensation if their injuries caused them to miss out on a promotion or bonus. Documents like paystubs and timecards establish lost income, so good recordkeeping is crucial. Accident victims should keep track of all of the doctor, hospital, and physical therapy appointments that cause them to miss work, and they should make sure that their attorneys have this information.
Pain and Suffering Damages
General damages are awarded in Georgia personal injury cases when assigning a dollar value for pain and suffering or emotional distress is difficult. Georgia law does not place a monetary cap on general damages, but it does require awards to be reasonable. Pain and suffering damages compensate accident victims for the physical and emotional consequences of their injuries, and they are calculated in one of two ways. A daily pain and suffering figure can be multiplied by the number of days the pain was endured, or a multiplier can be used to adjust the damages awarded to cover medical costs, property damage, and lost income.
Impact on Daily Activities and Quality of Life
General damages are also awarded to compensate accident victims with injuries that impede their daily activities or affect their quality of life. The age and lifestyle of accident victims often influence these awards. A young person who works in the public eye will probably receive more compensation for facial scars than a retired person, and an accident victim who plays organized sports will likely be paid more for the long-term impact of a shoulder injury and shoulder pain than a sedentary individual.
Comparative Case Studies and Precedent-Setting Settlements
Insurance companies and personal injury attorneys scrutinize court records for similar cases and check settlement amounts before starting car accident negotiations. From time to time, a claim settlement establishes a new paradigm. The Fitzpatrick Firm has been involved in several of these cases. Attorney Fitzpatrick has negotiated a $3.5 million settlement for a client injured in a truck crash, won a $1.3 million verdict for a passenger vehicle occupant hurt in a side collision, and secured $300,000 to settle a rear-end accident claim.
Role of Expert Witnesses in Assessing Damages
Personal injury attorneys call on expert witnesses when juries need specialized information. Medical experts could explain why an injury caused so much pain or took so long to heal, and physical therapists could speak about the ways a shoulder injury prevented an accident victim from working or taking part in daily activities. Expert testimony may be needed to determine how much influence preexisting conditions had on accident injuries, and psychologists could be called in to explain how emotional trauma can affect the lives of accident victims.
Calculating the Value of Your Claim
The value of your car accident claim will be determined by the severity of your injuries and how much they affected your earning capacity and day-to-day activities. Your personal injury attorney and the insurance company representative will probably both have a figure in mind when negotiations begin, and their tenacity and level of preparedness will largely determine the outcome.
Initial Settlement Offers and Counteroffers
Insurance companies make opening settlement offers to get discussions started. These initial offers are rarely accepted, but they establish a base figure that further negotiations can build on. Insurance companies open with a figure that is less than they are willing to pay, and personal injury attorneys respond with a counteroffer that is higher than the number they are willing to accept.
Tactics and Strategies for Negotiating Severe Shoulder Injuries
Experienced personal injury attorneys rarely reject insurance company offers immediately. Instead, an attorney may ask an insurance adjuster to explain why their offer is so low. This allows an attorney to understand the insurance company’s negotiating position before they make a counteroffer. Asking these questions can also uncover misunderstandings or differences of opinion that must be cleared up before productive talks can take place.
Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution
The civil courts in Georgia are extremely busy, which is why judges may order parties involved in personal injury disputes to attend mediation sessions before their cases go to court. Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution method that is designed to be less adversarial, and it can sometimes provide a breakthrough when litigation seems inevitable. Mediators are usually retired judges or distinguished attorneys who help the disputing parties find common ground and the sessions they preside over take place behind closed doors.
The Role of a Structured Settlement
Car accident victims sometimes prefer structured settlements to lump-sum payments because they want to be sure that money will be available to take care of their future needs. An accident victim who accepts a structured settlement does not receive money directly from the defendant. They are paid by an annuity from an insurance company funded by the defendant.
Frequently Asked Shoulder Injury Questions
Car accident victims who are thinking about taking legal action usually have a lot of questions. Here are the answers to some of the car accident lawsuit questions we hear most often.
How Long Do I Have to File a Personal Injury Claim?
Georgia’s statute of limitations gives accident victims two years to file personal injury lawsuits. The case can continue past this deadline, but the initial paperwork must be filed within two years. However, the time limit imposed by the statute of limitations can be paused if the defendant is sent to jail or flees.
Can I Negotiate a Settlement Without a Lawyer?
You could choose to negotiate a car accident settlement without a lawyer, but you may recover less than you are entitled to. Insurance company negotiators try to settle car accident claims for as little as possible, so it may be wise to go into negotiations with an experienced professional on your side.
How Long Does It Take to Reach a Settlement?
Car accident settlement talks may be completed quickly when injuries are minor and the sums involved are modest, but negotiations over compensation for serious injuries can last for weeks or months. In these situations, attorneys may prepare for settlement discussions by gathering as much useful information as possible during the discovery phase.
Can I Receive Compensation for Emotional Distress?
Car accident victims in Georgia can recover damages to compensate them for their emotional distress and pain and suffering, but calculating how much they should be awarded is a complex process. Expert witnesses may be called in to establish how much suffering and distress accident injuries caused, and then a per diem amount or a multiplier could be used to arrive at a dollar figure.
What If the At-Fault Driver Is Uninsured or Underinsured?
If you are involved in an accident in Georgia with an uninsured or underinsured motorist, you may be able to recover damages by filing a lawsuit against them. However, individuals who do not pay for car insurance rarely have funds available to compensate accident victims. You could also file a claim with your own insurance company if you have uninsured driver coverage.
What is the Average Shoulder Injury Settlement in Georgia?
Settlement amounts for personal injury vary a lot because each car accident is unique. If the injuries and property damage are small, claims can settle for somewhere between $2,500 and $25,000. For car accidents causing severe injuries that stop people from working for a long time, the settlement can be between $50,000 and $200,000. However, in tragic cases where people die or get disabled permanently, the settlement amount can go into the millions.
Do Rotator Cuff Injuries Always Require Surgery?
A torn rotator cuff refers to the muscles that stabilize the joint. This injury, along with other soft tissue injuries involving nearby muscles, ligaments, or tendons, doesn’t always require surgery. The decision for surgical intervention often depends on the severity and nature of the torn rotator cuff. Minor tears can sometimes heal with non-surgical treatments, such as physical therapy, rest, or medication.
However, larger torn rotator cuffs or injuries that significantly affect daily life and cause shoulder pain may necessitate rotator cuff surgery. Furthermore, if a torn rotator cuff doesn’t improve with conservative treatments, surgery might be the next step. Surgery isn’t always required for rotator cuff injuries and your related shoulder pain, but it can be a crucial part of the recovery process for more severe tears.
If You've Been Injured In a Car Accident, Request a Complementary Case Review From The Fitzpatrick Firm
If you are injured in an auto accident in Georgia because another road user acted negligently, you may be entitled to compensation. The Fitzpatrick Firm has a great deal of experience in this area, and we advocate fiercely on behalf of auto accident victims. If you would like to schedule a complimentary case review to discuss your legal options with our personal injury law firm, you can call us at (678) 607-5550 or complete the form below. We will be glad to consult with you regarding your shoulder injury case.