The bones that make up the shoulder are the scapula (shoulder blade), the clavicle (collarbone) and the humerus (upper arm bone).
The shoulder or glenohumeral joint is a 'ball and socket' joint, like the hip. The rounded top end of the humerus forms the ball, while the socket is a cavity called the glenoid, located on the scapula.
This configuration allows for a wide range of movement, but not much stability, especially because the socket part of the joint, on the scapula, is shallow. Without the carefully balanced stabilisation from muscles and connective tissue, shoulder injuries would be far more common than they are.
Talk with an experienced WorkCover lawyer to learn more.
Anatomy of the rotator cuff
The rotator cuff comprises of four muscles:
Put very simply, the supraspinatus is involved in raising the arm along with the deltoid muscle, and the other muscles are involved in the internal (medial) or external (lateral) rotation of the arm.
The muscles connect to the shoulderblade and arm bone with tendons. The tendons cover the head of the arm bone and keep it in place in the shoulder.
Movement and stability
The shoulder muscles and associated tendons allow for movement in the shoulder while providing stability.
There is a fluid-filled sac or 'bursa' between the tendons forming the rotator cuff and the top of the shoulder blade. This allows the tendons to move freely.
The shoulder joint has regularly moving parts, and some stability is sacrificed to allow for the range of motion required. The downside to this is that both features leave the shoulder susceptible to injury.
Common shoulder injuries include:
Symptoms can be as minor as shoulder pain that can be treated with paracetamol. Worse shoulder pain my require painkillers combined with anti-inflammatory medication and corticosteroid injections and may cause difficulty sleeping, especially on the injured side.
Other shoulder injury symptoms include:
In cases of more serious injuries, one of the shoulder tendons may become torn. Rotator cuff tears are described as either a full thickness or complete tear, or an incomplete or partial tear.
Most shoulder injuries can be treated and will improve with rest and physiotherapy. In more severe cases, such as a complete rotator cuff tear, shoulder surgery may be required.
You may be entitled to claim compensation for shoulder injuries in a number of circumstances. Some common scenarios in which compensation payouts are awarded for shoulder injuries include:
There are several mechanisms by which a shoulder injury might occur in the workplace or as a result of the work you do. Safework Australia reports that in 2019-2020, for injuries resulting in serious workers compensation claims:
In Queensland in 2019-20, over 4,000 people sought to claim workers compensation for strains or sprains to the shoulder.
Shoulder injuries caused by repetitive strain or stress are usually caused by performing tasks of a repetitive nature, especially for prolonged periods, especially when they are being done in an awkward position, or too quickly.
A workplace shoulder injury caused by repetitive stress will usually be in the form of:
Shoulder impingement syndrome can occur from bone spurs forming on the acromion bone in the shoulder. During arm lifting movements, this causes bone to rub on the tendons in the shoulder, leading to swelling, pain and damage to the tendon. Jobs where repetitive arm lifting movements or overhead work are required are therefore more susceptible to this syndrome.
A rotator cuff tear can occur due to overloading the shoulder joint, for example by lifting a heavy object. This can be a single incident, or preceded by weakening of the shoulder structures through repetitive strain, or ordinary wear and tear that happens with aging. Interestingly, degeneration or damage in one shoulder increases the risk of tears of the tendons in both shoulders.
The shoulder tendons can also be torn during an impact, for example where the shoulder hits or is hit by, an object or piece of machinery (as well as in a fall or motor vehicle collision). Tears of this type can be caused or accompanied by damage to a bony structure in the shoulder, like a broken bone or fracture, or a shoulder dislocation.
A report by the Australian Instititue of Health and Wellness (AIHW) found that transport accidents led to 63,900 hospitalisations and 1,400 deaths in 2018-19.
It further reported that 21% of the hospitalisations involved arm or shoulder injury.
As with any shoulder injury due to impact, a rotator cuff tear caused by the shoulder hitting or being hit by the road, part of a vehicle or debris during a car accident, may be accompanied by a broken bone, fracture or dislocation.
Additionally, the forces involved in a motor vehicle accident can lead to the tendons or muscles in the shoulder being stretched and torn.
Talk with an experienced motor vehicle accident lawyer for more information.
Shoulder injury from a slip and fall can occur at work or in personal or recreational activities, like sport.
The AIHW reports that in 2018-19 falls resulted in 231,000 hospitalisations, and 23% of those involved injury to the shoulder or arm.
According to SafeWork Australia, 23% of workplace injuries that led to serious workers compensation claims were caused by trips, slips and falls.
The mechanism by which the shoulder is injured in a fall can be as simple as landing on an outstretched arm.
Like all personal injury claims, workers compensation claims for shoulder injuries require several types of evidence. A solicitor experienced in shoulder injury claims can provide specific advice in your case. As a general guide though, injured workers wanting to claim compensation for a shoulder injury will need evidence proving:
Yes, there are strict time limits to make personal injury claims, whether you make a statutory (WorkCover) or Common Law claim.
A claim must be made to WorkCover or a self-insurer within 6 months from when the injury occurred or when your injury is first linked to your workplace duties by a doctor.
Common Law claims
Most shoulder injury compensation claims will be based on a claim of negligence. Very basically, a negligence claim is available when a person or organisation that owes you a legal duty to care for your safety and wellbeing fails to do so to a reasonable standard, and you suffer injury as a result.
Generally speaking, in negligence claims you are required to commence a claim with the court within 3 years of the injury occurring. Before lodging a court claim there may be certain steps you must take under the law to notify the person you are claiming against that you intend to make a claim.
These time limits can be relatively straightforward to work out if your injury is caused by a single incident. However, a shoulder injury can develop over time, which might affect when you need to lodge your claim.
It's also important to remember that getting ready to lodge a claim for compensation takes time. Your lawyer will need to obtain and consider medical evidence, financial information, details of your employer and employment and other important material.
Obviously, the first step after an injury is to get the right treatment. However, you might also consider speaking to personal injury lawyers early to preserve your rights to claim compensation. We offer a free consultation for any potential case, where we can discuss the claims process, including time limits to start your claim. If you decide to proceed, we will ensure your shoulder injury claim is progressed efficiently and doesn't miss any deadlines.
Queensland workers compensation statistics show that it takes, on average, just under one year from the date of lodgement to the date of finalisation for Common Law claims. The time may be longer for non-work related injuries, as establishing negligence can be more complicated in these claims.
The length of time it takes to resolve your shoulder injury compensation claim will depend on whether or not you can reach a settlement with your employer or the negligent party, or more precisely, their insurance company, as an insurer will usually be the ones making the compensation payouts. If you can, it will mean you get your compensation payment much more quickly than if your case has to go to a trial or hearing in court. Whether or not a settlement can be reached often depends on the strength of the evidence in the case and the experience, knowledge and negotiation skills of your representative.
Statutory claims with WorkCover or a workers compensation insurer are usually decided much more quickly, sometimes less than 20 days after lodging the claim, if they are given all the right information. This allows you to start getting WorkCover payouts for some of your lost wages and medical expenses to help in your recovery. Seeing a lawyer early about a no win no fee claim means you start receiving payments while you consider all your claim options, including a Common Law claim.
There is no cost to lodge a workers compensation claim upon WorkCover or a self-insurer.
For Common Law claims, the legal fees depend on the amount of work required. Some factors affecting the legal costs in a personal injury claim include:
Shoulder injuries can range widely in severity. Some can be managed with simple first aid, rest and painkillers. The most serious need surgery.
To determine how much compensation you are entitled to, WorkCover or a court will look at many factors including:
Given all these factors, it's difficult to give an average figure that would be helpful to you in trying to understand the type of compensation payout you might receive in a shoulder injury claim.
It is possible to represent yourself to make a claim for workers compensation if your shoulder injury happened at work or was substantially caused by your employment. A statutory claim to WorkCover or a self-insurer can be relatively straightforward, as long as you have your evidence together and stick to the time limits. However, many people find they appreciate having legal representation as they navigate the claims process.
As part of the WorkCover process, you may be offered a lump sum payment. Depending on the severity of your shoulder injury, you may be able to accept this lump sum payment and also be eligible to make a claim for compensation in the courts.
Alternatively, if your shoulder injury happened somewhere other than work, for example if a car accident caused the injury, you may wish to seek compensation through a Common Law or court claim.
Making a Common Law claim in Court can be stressful and many people find it daunting. Personal injury law can be complex and the legal process bewildering if you're not accustomed to it. While claiming compensation is not likely to ever be easy or stress-free, our personal injury lawyers can advise you on the law, prepare your case, and answer any questions you have along the way. In the hands of experienced compensation lawyers, your claim can be managed while you focus your energy on your recovery.
If you suffer injuries whilst at work, and you are looking for further information in terms of making a claim. Here at Smith's Lawyers, we offer a free consultation for injured people looking to seek compensation. As mentioned before, we also have a "No Win. No Fee. No Catch." policy, which means you will never be out of pocket.
Get in touch with us today to give yourself the best opportunity to understand your rights.
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