How much compensation are you owed after a workplace shoulder injury?
Both in and out of the workplace, you use your shoulders to help you lift, catch, throw, push, pull and reach. So not being able to use your shoulder or experiencing pain when you do can be quite debilitating. The good news is that if you suffer a shoulder injury at work or while performing job-related duties, then you may be eligible for workers’ compensation in North Carolina.
Whether your injury is severe and requires shoulder surgery or relatively mild, you may still need to file a work injury claim. With the help of a workers’ compensation attorney, you can know how much compensation you need for the pain, treatment bills and loss of time and wages while you recover.
Types of work-related shoulder injuries
There are many different types of work-related shoulder injuries, and they each vary in severity. Some of the injuries can be due to an accident, lifting heavy materials or repetitive stress injuries at the workplace.
The most common types of shoulder injuries at work are:
- Dislocation. When the upper arm pops out of the shoulder socket, it causes dislocation. Once your shoulder has been dislocated once, your shoulder joint is weakened and you are more susceptible to future dislocations.
- Fractures. This is when the bones break due to exertion of a lot of pressure. At times, the fracture might not reach the skin, whereas sometimes the broken bone punctures the skin (called an open fracture).
- Rotator cuff tears. A group of muscles and tendons called rotator cuffs are responsible for your shoulder’s stability. When you have a tear in your rotator cuff, your shoulder might ache, your arm could weaken and you might have issues raising the arm or sleeping on it.
- Bursitis. The shoulder muscles, ligaments and tendons have a cushion-like fluid sac known as bursae. Bursitis is the inflammation of the bursae, and it typically causes pain to the whole shoulder.
- Impingement. If your rotator cuff tendons are weak, and you object them to strain, you can suffer an impingement injury. When workers have to strain to raise their arms over their shoulder, that might be a symptom of a shoulder impingement injury.
Common causes of shoulder injuries at work
Your shoulder is made up of the humerus bone, scapula and clavicle, and held together with muscles, ligaments and tendons. Causing excess strain to the muscles, tendons, ligaments or bones leads to a shoulder injury.
Here are some of the common causes of a shoulder injury at work:
- Slip and fall. While at work, you might slip and fall due to a wet or damaged floor, or fall from a ladder or platform while working on a construction site. If you land badly on your shoulder, you can be hurt.
- Heavy lifting and pushing. If your work involves lifting or pushing heavy materials, you are more at risk of suffering shoulder injuries. People who work at construction sites, factories and warehouses are particularly vulnerable to these injuries.
- Working in awkward positions. Having to work in an awkward position for an extended period of time can put the worker at higher risk of suffering a shoulder injury. Many plumbers, construction workers and manufacturing workers suffer shoulder injuries due to awkward positioning.
Signs and symptoms of a shoulder injury
Before filing a claim for a shoulder injury at work, you will need to visit a doctor. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed below, then you may have a shoulder injury and you should seek medical attention immediately:
- Weakness of the arm
- Inability to lift your arm
- Pain at night, especially when resting on the arm
- Cracking when you move your shoulder
- Swelling of the shoulder
- Bruises on the shoulder
Treatment and prevention of occupational shoulder injuries
The treatment required will vary depending on whether your injury is severe or mild. For most mild shoulder injuries, the worker will require relaxation and time to heal. In other cases, the worker might need painkillers to help minimize pain, along with massage and bed rest. In some severe cases, the worker might have to undergo shoulder surgery, followed by physical therapy.
There are various ways of preventing shoulder injuries at work, such as:
- Avoid lifting heavy objects
- Make your workstation ergonomic
- Massage your shoulders often to relieve stress
- Take extra caution when working at heights
- Wear appropriate work shoes with good tread to avoid slipping
- Get enough rest after working
- Take breaks after working for a long period of time to minimize fatigue
Workers’ compensation for a work-related shoulder injury
If your shoulder was injured at work, you should seek medical attention and notify your employer, then fill out a workers’ compensation claim form. When injured, you may need treatment and rest from work. This compensation claim will help pay for your medical bills, as well as the wages you will lose while undergoing treatment and recovery.
In North Carolina, it’s the responsibility of most employers to purchase workers’ compensation. As long as you file a workers’ compensation claim for a qualifying injury, you should receive payments. Whether the injury was temporary or permanent, you will still get compensation.
There is no fixed amount for how much a settlement for a shoulder injury at work is worth. Ultimately, the amount you get will depend on various factors, including how severe the injury was, how much time you took to recover and how much your medical bills are.
If you are hurt at work, don’t wait too long to file your workers’ compensation claim. Once your claim has been approved, you should receive a settlement either as a lump sum or structured payment. The lump-sum settlement will be a one-time payment, whereas, in the structured settlement, you will get the benefits weekly or monthly for a specified period.
If your claim is denied or the compensation being offered isn’t enough to fully cover your expenses from an occupational shoulder injury, it’s time to consult with a work injury attorney near you to learn about your legal rights and options.