Any precise dollar amount you end up with will obviously depend on the unique facts of your case, but there are a few common factors to consider when valuing a shoulder injury claim. We'll discuss those factors later on in this article, but first let's look at some examples of civil lawsuit verdicts and settlements where a shoulder injury came into play.
Typically, a shoulder injury involves the tendons, muscles and ligaments at the joint, although fractures of the bones that meet at the shoulder joint can occur.
There two broad medical categories assigned to shoulder injuries. The first is "instability," when one of the shoulder joints is out of alignment, causing pain when raising the arm and/or a feeling of the shoulder slipping out of place. The second category is "impingement," when the shoulder muscles rub against the top of the shoulder blade. Impingement is typically a result of repetitive overhead arm movements.
Valuing an injury case means coming up with a best guess at what a jury might award the injured person (the plaintiff), while also considering what the person being sued (the defendant, usually represented by an insurance company) would be willing to pay. There's also the question of the amount each side might be willing to agree upon in order to settle the case before going to trial (and putting their respective fates in the hands of an unpredictable jury).
That's obviously a lot to consider. But the two big factors in valuing any shoulder injury case are:
Estimating with any degree of accuracy how much the plaintiff might receive is quite difficult for one main reason: at trial, it will most likely be a jury that ultimately decides just how much money the defendant or their insurance company must pay the injured plaintiff.
Some damages, like medical bills and lost income, are easier to predict because "concrete" losses like these will mostly be based on the amount the plaintiff demonstrates he or she has paid or lost, and/or will continue to pay or lose. For subjective, less concrete damages like “pain and suffering,” predictions are often an educated guess based on awards in similar shoulder injury cases in the past. Because every case and every jury is different, even the best analysis will still only predict pain and suffering damages within a broad range.
How the shoulder injury affects a particular plaintiff is also key in valuing damages. For example, if the plaintiff was a very active person who enjoyed a variety of sports and outdoor activities before suffering a partially-disabling shoulder injury, her damages will likely be higher in the eyes of a jury than if she had been relatively physically inactive before the injury. Conversely, if a plaintiff had a prior shoulder injury that made him more susceptible to re-injury, his damages might go down.
Learn more about damages in a personal injury case.
The other major factor in valuing a case is the likelihood that the defendant will be found liable at trial. If the plaintiff has little or no evidence proving the defendant was at fault for the plaintiff’s shoulder injury, the value of the case goes down considerably. Even if the potential damages are high, a defendant will be less willing to settle and more inclined to take its chances at trial in this situation. Similarly, where fault is up in the air, the plaintiff will be more inclined to accept a low settlement offer rather than run the risk of getting nothing at trial.
If you're thinking about filing an insurance claim or lawsuit after a shoulder injury, your best first step might be discussing your situation (and your options) with a personal injury lawyer.
A Note on Job-Related Shoulder Injuries and Workers' Compensation. A workplace shoulder injury will typically only be paid out through your state's worker’s compensation insurance system. The standards of compensation vary from state to state, but if a plaintiff is not completely disabled by the injury and does not have high medical bills—no surgery was required, for example—the worker’s compensation payment may not be very high, especially compared to a personal injury settlement. If your injury occurred while on the job, make sure you check out our workers compensation claims coverage.