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Shoulder Pain After Car Accident: Should You Be Concerned?

You should be concerned if you are experiencing shoulder pain after a car accident because that could be a symptom of a more serious injury such as a rotator cuff tear, impingement or a fracture. Seek prompt medical attention for a diagnosis and to begin treatment.

Our shoulders are vital to our ability to live our normal lives. We rely on them in everything we do from putting on clothes, grocery shopping, cooking, picking up our children and every recreational activity imaginable.

Yet, precisely of our shoulders’ unique range of motion and mobility, they are delicate and particularly susceptible to injury in motor vehicle collisions.

That’s why if you’re experiencing shoulder pain after a car accident, then you should not delay in getting it examined by your doctor. 

What to do for shoulder pain after a car accident

If you suffered shoulder pain after a car accident, follow these steps:   

  1. Get examined immediately: Time may be of the essence. When it comes to properly diagnosing the cause of the pain after a motor vehicle collision, the sooner a person gets the proper diagnostic tests and medical treatment for these symptoms, the sooner they can rule out a potentially life-threatening injury. As an injury lawyer, I always advise people that the sooner they can get the necessary and appropriate medical care, the sooner they can get back on the road to good health and a full recovery, but with this injury the key is to rule out a much more serious injury as soon as possible. 
  2. Get medical treatment and get a referral for the appropriate diagnostic imaging to detect and diagnose if you have suffered from this injury.  A doctor can’t treat you until he or she knows what is causing these symptoms, and the appropriate diagnostic testing – often a CT scan – will enable your doctor to prescribe the best course of treatment for you and make the appropriate referrals for you. 
  3. Early documentation always makes it easier to avoid future problems with your own insurance company. Early medical documentation, such as in an emergency room or as soon as possible with your family doctor, will prove to a health insurance company or a No-Fault insurance company that the crash was the cause of your pain. If it does turn out to be a more serious injury, you’ve documented the early symptoms and again will be able to avoid many of the problems that arise when an insurance company is denying a causal relationship and refusing to pay for medical treatment. Early treatment and medical documentation create the temporal relationship that insurance companies will be looking for when they are being asked to pay for necessary medical care. 
  4. Showing a clear temporal relationship between a crash and the documentation of treatment for a condition or injury also makes it easier to get a full and fair legal settlement for your injury when it is caused by another driver’s carelessness or negligence behind the wheel. Delays in seeking treatment hurt your ability to get better faster and make a good recovery, but it also often makes it harder for your attorney to get a reluctant insurance company to pay for your treatment and makes it harder to get a fair legal settlement after your collision.
  5. Don’t try to “tough it out”: this pain may be a symptom of a far more serious injury that may even become fatal if you don’t seek treatment right away. As a lawyer, I’ve seen so many instances where people felt like they didn’t want to “complain,” but within days or weeks what they thought would be a minor injury or something that would go away becomes far more serious.  
  6. Talk to an attorney who is experienced at helping people injured in car accidents. Most experienced lawyers have helped people suffering from shoulder pain after a car accident. The initial call is always free so at the very least you will be informed as to what your insurance company is responsible to pay and what medical help and wage loss you are entitled to. An attorney can also help you review your medical records as well as the treatment and care you’re receiving to make sure bills are getting paid and to help you assess what your case might be worth if your pain and disability was caused by another driver’s negligence or carelessness. 
  7. Tell your auto insurance company about your shoulder pain after a car accident. If you live in Michigan, make sure to include this in your application for No-Fault benefits, which is also referred to as your “written notice of injury” – which must be given to your No-Fault auto insurance company “within 1 year after the accident.” (MCL 500.3145(1) and (4))
  8. Do not sign any settlements, releases, or waivers related to your motor vehicle crash: Until you have talked with an experienced attorney who is looking out for your interests, do not sign any settlements, releases, or waivers that are presented to you by your auto insurance company, the at-fault driver’s auto insurer or any other insurance companies or persons.

How to claim for shoulder pain after a car accident

In Michigan, you start your claim for shoulder pain after a car accident by filing an application for No-Fault benefits with the responsible auto insurance company, according to the No-Fault law’s “priority” rules. The No-Fault insurer will pay for your medical bills and your lost wages if you cannot return to work.

Can I sue for this pain?

Yes. If your auto insurance company refuses to pay for – or cuts-off – No-Fault benefits related to the shoulder pain after a car accident you have suffered and may be continuing to suffer, then you can sue for unpaid, overdue medical bills, attendant care, medical mileage, replacement services and lost wages because your injuries have prevented you from returning to work.

You can also sue the at-fault driver for pain and suffering compensation as a result of your motor vehicle crash-related injuries, but you will first have to show that the other driver was at-fault for causing the collision and that your mental trauma constitutes a “serious impairment of body function” under our auto law.

Additionally, you may be able to sue the at-fault driver for other economic damages, such as excess and future medical bills and lost wages.

Symptoms

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms for shoulder pain after a car accident, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible: 

  • Pain when lifting or lowering arm, especially when reaching overhead or behind the back
  • Pain when lifting and/or pulling objects
  • Weakness
  • Loss of range of motion
  • Limited range of motion
  • Catching, locking, popping and grinding sensations
  • Instability
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness
  • Inability to perform your normal daily activities

Injuries that cause this type of pain

The injuries that most commonly cause shoulder pain after a car accident include:

  • Rotator cuff tear
  • SLAP tear – SLAP Tears– This is an injury to the labrum and “SLAP” stands for superior labrum anterior and posterior
  • Joint tear
  • Impingement
  • Clavicle fracture
  • Proximal humerus fracture
  • Scapula fracture
  • Dislocations
  • Sprains and strains
  • Bruises

Testing and diagnosis

To reach a diagnosis about your shoulder pain after a car accident, your doctor will likely start with a physical examination. He or she will ask about your pain, its location and the pain level. Additionally, your doctor will look to see if any problems are visible to the eye. Finally, the doctor will gently move your shoulder to test your range of motion.

Frequently, doctors will also rely on diagnostic imaging testing that includes X-rays, MRIs, CT-scans and ultrasounds. 

Treatment

Treatment will vary from patient-to-patient, depending on the nature and cause of his or her pain.

Treatment options frequently include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Use of an immobilization sling
  • Steroid injections to reduce inflammation 
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication
  • Surgery (such as subacromial decompression or anterior acromioplasty)
  • Elevation, compression and icing

Need help for shoulder pain after a car accident? Call the attorneys at Michigan Auto Law

If you have suffered shoulder pain after a car accident and would like to speak to an experienced injury attorney, call toll free anytime 24/7 at (800) 777-0028 for a free consultation with one of our attorneys. You can also get help from an experienced accident attorney by emailing [email protected] or you can use the chat feature on our website.

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