Rotator Cuff Tear from a Car Accident

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The sudden, jarring motion that occurs upon impact in a car accident can cause various types of injuries to your upper body. One of the main types of injuries you may sustain is a torn rotator cuff, which often occurs if you tense up anticipating a rear-end collision. A rotator cuff tear from a car accident can be extremely painful and impair your movement and enjoyment of life, factors you must consider before accepting a settlement offer.

Identifying a Rotator Cuff Tear

A rotator cuff is made up of four muscles that connect as tendons to help the ball and socket joint of your shoulder function. The rotator cuff is responsible for helping you lift and rotate your arm. When the tendons tear or rip, you may lose motion in your shoulder and experience extreme pain when trying to lift your arm.

There are two types of rotator cuff tears: a partial tear and a full-thickness tear. A partial tear is where the tendon sustains damage but does not fully sever, while a full-thickness tear is a complete tear where the tendon completely disconnects either in the middle or from the head of the humerus.

Rotator cuff tears are injuries that may not be immediately apparent after an accident, especially partial tears. Symptoms begin with weakness or an inability to rotate or lift your arm. You may notice shoulder pain while at rest, especially if lying on the affected shoulder. You may also feel a crackling sensation when moving your shoulder in certain positions.

The Impact of a Rotator Cuff Tear on Your Life

Think about how many daily tasks you perform that rely on movement of your shoulders. Everything from getting dressed in the morning to driving to work relies on being able to lift your arm and rotate your shoulder. With a rotator cuff injury, these movements can be extremely painful, even impossible.

The longer you wait to have your injury treated, the worse it can become. Many tears begin as fraying of the tendons, where a spot gets weaker and weaker with time and wear. Treatment begins with an assessment, during which a doctor will test your range of motion and take imaging scans of your shoulder.

Once the doctor has diagnosed your rotator cuff tear, treatment will focus on controlling pain and restoring movement. You can often treat minor tears with rest, painkillers, physical therapy, and anti-inflammatory medications. However, surgery is often necessary if you lost any shoulder strength or if the injury was a complete tear.

Doctors may advise surgery if:

  • Your symptoms last for six months or more
  • You have significant loss of function and weakness in your shoulder
  • If your tear is larger than three centimeters


While the repair surgery is usually an outpatient procedure, recovery can take several weeks for full healing.

After surgery, you must immobilize your shoulder in a sling for four-six weeks. Once your doctor has cleared you to begin moving your shoulder, you will need to go through physical therapy to restore range of motion and improve strength. All in all, recovery from a rotator cuff surgery will likely take a minimum of two months.

Damages Recoverable after a Rotator Cuff Tear from a Car Accident

It is important to keep up with all doctor’s appointments and treatments to ensure your injury heals. Staying on top of your medical care is important because it gives more evidence to support your claim for damages. It also helps you estimate the full cost of your recovery so you can seek that amount in your settlement.

Medical bills can easily reach in the tens of thousands, even with insurance, due to surgery and rehabilitation. Additionally, depending on the nature of your job, you may be unable to work for the duration of your recovery.

Finally, you need to consider the emotional damage the injury has caused. If you missed out on important social activities or life moments, you may account for those missed opportunities as emotional damages.

Your car accident settlement should cover the medical expenses, lost wages, and may include additional compensation for the pain and suffering you experienced due to the injury. When the at-fault driver’s insurer offers you a settlement, run it by a car accident attorney to ensure it is enough to cover your current damages and any estimated future damages such as ongoing therapy.

A rotator cuff tear can require months of recovery and cost you precious time and money. When this type of injury occurred in a car accident caused by another’s negligence, you have the right to seek recovery.

Contact Max Meyers Law, PLLC to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation regarding your potential claim: 425-399-7000.

Max Meyers
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Max is a Kirkland personal injury attorney handling cases in Seattle, King County & surrounding in WA State.