Knowledge base

Rotator Cuff Injury Compensation

Shoulder pain is one of the most common musculoskeletal issues suffered by Australians and 65 to 70 per cent of all shoulder pain complaints are due to rotator cuff injuries.

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Can I claim rotator cuff injury compensation?

Rotator cuff injury

You may be able to claim compensation for a rotator cuff injury if it resulted from someone else’s negligence or carelessness. Negligence may arise in a variety of settings.

Rotator cuff injury at work - can I claim compensation?

If you are injured at work, you may be able to claim compensation from your employer. Employers must provide proper and adequate means for employees to carry out their work. This includes:

  • providing safe systems of work
  • maintaining safe machinery and equipment
  • maintaining a safe workplace; and
  • providing employees with adequate facilities, training, supervision and instruction.
Factory workers at risk of suffering a rotator cuff injury

If you are injured because your employer neglects to provide safe systems of work, equipment or a safe environment, you may be able to sue for personal injury compensation. This includes injuries incurred over a long period of time, late onset injuries, and aggravations of pre-existing injuries.

Jeff is performing maintenance on a large piece of machinery when it turns on unexpectedly and causes him shoulder injuries. Jeff has received no training in respect of the machinery and it was not fitted with a kill switch or electrical isolation. Jeff can claim compensation from his employer for his personal injuries.
Rick injures his shoulder while performing work on a piece of machinery that turns on unexpectedly. Rick has been trained in respect of the machinery, but fails to use proper procedures to ensure there is no power connected to the machinery before conducting maintenance. Rick would not be able to claim compensation for his injuries as they were due to his own negligence. However, he could apply for Workers Compensation payments while he is off work.

See also: WorkCover claims

Rotator cuff injury from car accident - can I claim compensation?

CTP Claim for rotator cuff injury caused by car accident

If you sustain an injury in a car accident and it was totally or partially due to the fault of another driver or vehicle owner you can claim compensation from the owner of the vehicle that caused the accident through their Compulsory Third Party insurer.

Jenny is injured in a car accident when a delivery truck fails to stop at a red light because its brakes have not been properly maintained. Jenny can claim compensation from the owner of the delivery truck through its CTP insurer.

See also: Motor vehicle injury compensation claims

Rotator cuff injured in a public place - can I claim compensation?

Occupiers (including owners of private property and public authorities), have a duty of care toward people coming onto their premises. They must take reasonable care to make sure entrants are not exposed to risks that are likely to cause injury.  This means if there is something that is potentially dangerous on their property they must rectify it or warn people of the danger.

Common scenarios -which can lead to a public liability compensation claim- include someone slipping on a floor surface, tripping over an unexpected obstacle on the ground, falling into an unmarked hole in the pavement, or being hit by falling debris from a building site.

Examples: Jeff is sitting in a doctor’s waiting room, when a ceiling tile falls from the ceiling striking him on his shoulder / upper arm causing a rotator cuff injury. Jeff can claim compensation for his injuries from the doctors surgery. 
Medical treatment for rotator cuff injury
Rachel is also sitting in the doctor’s waiting room. She passes her baby up to her husband from a seated position, overloading her shoulder joint and causing tears to her rotator cuff. Rachel is unable to claim compensation since her injury was not caused by an act or failure to act by the doctors surgery.

Injured rotator cuff - what can I claim for?

General damages

General damages can compensate you for the pain and suffering you have experienced as well as any permanent loss of enjoyment of life as a result of your injury. They are calculated by reference to the ISV Scale which rates the seriousness of any injury between 1 and 100 and accords a monetary value range to that rating.

For example an extreme shoulder injury such as joint disruption with a poor outcome after surgery is rated 31 to 50 with a corresponding compensation range of $65,960 to $131,200 whereas a moderate shoulder injury including permanent and significant tissue disruption from tendon or ligament tears is rated 6 to 10 with a corresponding compensation range of $8,630 to $15,350.

Medical costs

Medical costs involved in rotator cuff injury recovery

To diagnose and treat a rotator cuff injury you may need to consult your general practitioner, consult a specialist, obtain x-rays or MRIs, take pain medications and wear medical supports or apparatus. The expenses you incur to obtain medical treatment including costs of consultations, diagnostic scans, travel costs, medication and medical equipment may be claimed as compensation.   You can also claim for medical costs you will incur in the future as a result of your injury.

Hospital and surgical costs

Rotator cuff injuries may require surgery to repair tendon or ligament tears. Surgery may also be required to mobilise a frozen shoulder. Surgical and hospital costs paid by you can be claimed as compensation as long as the surgery was necessary to treat your condition.

Rehabilitation costs

Rehabilitating after a rotator cuff injury may involve physiotherapy, chiropractic treatments, acupuncture, home and vehicle modifications and ergonomic aids. Your reasonable costs of rehabilitation can be claimed back as compensation.

Loss of income and future earning capacity

Protecting your rights to lost income compensation

If you suffer a rotator cuff injury you may need time off work for several weeks or months immediately after the incident. You can claim compensation for lost income.

If your rotator cuff injury prevents you from working to the same extent as you did prior to the injury you may also be able to claim loss of future income earning capacity.

Occupations that require manual labour and overhead work may be difficult or impossible for someone who has suffered a rotator cuff injury and their capacity to earn income in the future may be reduced. This is usually estimated as a lump sum figure based on the age of the person, their usual occupation and other skills.

Loss of superannuation

Compensation can be claimed for superannuation that would have been paid on lost income.

Care & assistance

Claiming for care and assistance costs

Rotator cuff injuries may prevent you from being able to perform tasks such as personal care, cleaning, laundry, mowing your lawns, caring for the garden or other domestic chores. If you formerly performed these duties but are now unable to due to an injury you can claim compensation for care and assistance provided to you by friends, relatives or paid contractors.

In Queensland there is a minimum threshold for this type of compensation.

Professions at risk of developing rotator cuff injuries

Professions that require overhead work have a higher incidence of rotator cuff injuries. This may include construction workers, heavy labourers, carpenters, slaughterhouse workers, fish and meat processing workers, sewing machine operators, industrial workers and athletes.

Common rotator cuff injuries

The rotator cuff is made up of four small muscles and stabilises arm movement. These muscles are vulnerable to tears and inflammation. Incidence of a rotator cuff injury increases with age.

Football and sports are a common cause of rorator cuff injuries

  • Rotator cuff impingement - tendons are trapped and compressed during certain shoulder movements
  • Rotator cuff tendonitis - inflammation of the tendons due to repeated micro-trauma
  • Shoulder bursitis - inflammation of the shoulder ‘bursa’ (a fluid filled sac that helps reduce friction in the joint)
  • Calcific Tendonitis - small calcium deposit forms within the tendons of the rotator cuff
  • Rotator cuff tears - tear occurs in the rotator cuff tendons
  • Bicipital Tendonitis - inflammation of the bicep tendon

Common causes of rotator cuff injuries

Rotator cuff injuries may result from a variety of causes including:  a single traumatic event such as a direct impact, acute overload or gradually as a result of degeneration.

Younger individuals more often sustain rotator cuff injuries after repetitive overhead activities or trauma.

  • Working overhead: repetitive overhead lifting and other activities such as in construction and painting may cause tears or inflammation of tendons
  • Road accidents or other trauma: a direct impact on the shoulder may cause damage to the rotator cuff structure including fractures, dislocations or tendon tears
  • Acute overload: a single instance of overloading the shoulder muscles can damage muscles and tendons
  • Falls in the workplace: falls can result in direct impact on the shoulder causing tears or inflammation in the rotator cuff
  • Slips or trip and fall incidents: trauma to the shoulder from a slip or trip can cause tendon or muscle tears or inflammation
  • Sporting injuries: athletes that frequently use their arms overhead such as in swimming, throwing sports, lifting weights, golf and tennis may be particularly vulnerable to developing rotator cuff injuries
Estimating compensation for long term rotator cuff injuries

Potential long term impacts of rotator cuff injuries

Rotator cuff injuries can affect your mobility with pain and weakness and can prevents a person from being able to carry out daily activities. It can cause sleep difficulties, shorten a sporting or manual labour career and impair a person’s ability to carry out general employment tasks.

About half of all new shoulder injuries resolve in 8 to 12 weeks, however the remaining half can persist longer than a year or two. Recurrence of symptoms is common and a poorer prognosis can be expected with older patients and females.

How will my settlement be calculated?

In general terms, the settlement amount for a rotator cuff injury is gauged by comparing what your life was like before the injury and what it is like now, as a result of the injury.

Someone whose injury has had a greater impact on their life will be entitled to more compensation than someone whose injury has had only minimal impact.

The amount of compensation payable for a rotator cuff injury will vary greatly from case to case, depending on a variety of variables such as:

  • the severity of the prolapse: more severe injuries will attract more compensation
  • the age of the patient: young people are likely to receive greater compensation than older people for a similar injury as it will impact their lifestyle and employment for a longer period of time.
  • level of health prior to the incident: an active and healthy person may suffer more from an injury because they are unable to exercise the way they did prior to the accident and may become predisposed to mood disorders and other health conditions they may not have suffered were it not for their injury.
  • pre-incident lifestyle: injured claimants who formerly engaged in activities they can no longer participate in may experience greater a impact from their injuries.
  • occupation: greater compensation will be payable where a person’s ability to work in their former occupation is impacted severely by their injuries, for example, a professional ruby player will suffer a greater loss as a result of a rotator cuff injury than a person who works part-time in an office and will therefore receive greater compensation for their injury.

Calendar time limits to start a rotator cuff compensation claim

How long do I have to start a rotator cuff injury claim?

For most personal injury claims, a legal action must be commenced within 3 years of the date of the injury. If you miss this deadline, you will lose the right to claim compensation.

However, depending on where your injury occurred or who you are claiming against, specific pre-court procedures may apply which may have much shorter time limits. If you miss these time limits you may lose your right to claim unless you can provide good reason for delaying and why you should be allowed to proceed with your claim. 

Those aged under 18 will typically have until they are 21 to start the claims process.

In addition, getting accurate records such as CCTV or reliable witness statements for example may be difficult if starting a claim several years after the incident.

In summary, it’s best to seek expert legal advice as soon as possible to ensure you understand your rights and the required evidence to make a strong claim can be gathered. View time limit information article for more detail.

Next steps: what to do if you have suffered a rotator cuff injury?

Next steps to follow after suffering rotator cuff injury

Depending on the nature of your injury and the circumstances which caused it, compensation may or may not be available. You should always seek expert legal help to see if you are able to make a claim.

Reach out to our personal injury lawyers in Sunshine Coast, Brisbane, and Gold Coast. Smith's Lawyers are Queensland injury compensation experts and run all claims on a truly risk-free basis, 'No Win. No Fee. No Catch.®'. Unlike the vast majority our competitors, this means no upfront costs or risks.

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Last update on:
June 1, 2021
Disclaimer: This information is designed for general information in relation to Queensland compensation law. It does not constitute legal advice. We strongly recommend you seek legal advice in regards to your specific situation. For expert advice call 1800 266 801 or chat via live chat to arrange free initial advice with our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith.

Next steps — get advice now

It’s important to get advice for your specific situation. Check if you can make a risk-free compensation claim and get free initial advice from our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith.

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