As the Rotator Cuff Turns
Recently, I was able to resolve one of the older cases in my office. My client, M, a labor and delivery nurse at a south suburban hospital in her 50s, injured her dominant, right shoulder, when a patient’s leg inadvertently pushed her arm during delivery. This injury, way back in March of 2016, tore her rotator cuff completely, and required surgery.
If you have ever hurt your shoulder, or read any of my blogs about rotator cuff or labrum injuries, you know this is one of the worst joints to injure. The shoulder joint is hyper-mobile, which makes it inherently unstable. The great thing is your shoulder can rotator all the way around and perform all types of neat activities. The bad thing is the only things holding it in place are a series of muscles and tendons. Once those muscles and tendons tear, the shoulder joint loses stability and must be repaired.
For a brief overview of the basics of rotator cuff anatomy, check out my blog.
Surgery and then Recovery…And Then Another Injury
Two months following her injury, M had surgery. The surgeon went in with an arthroscope and shaved down the clavicle where it was impinging, and repaired the torn portions of the rotator cuff and biceps tendon. The rotator cuff is made up of four major muscles and tendons, commonly remembered as SITS: supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis. The biceps tendon is kind of the “Fifth Beatle” of the rotator cuff, often injured when the rest of the joint is injured.
The recovery from shoulder surgery is long and painful, with many months of rehabilitative exercises to restore range of motion, strength, and function. It is described by nearly everyone who has been through it as brutal, not fun, long, and uncomfortable. And that is for those who recover well. Often, the joint connections are so frayed, the surgery is not a complete success.
In M’s case, she was fully recovered and back at work. Unfortunately, and I know you probably can see this coming a mile away, she got hurt in the same place again. M was lifting a bag of dirty patient linens when she felt the unmistakable pain in her right arm. She knew it was reinjured immediately and confirmed it with doctor. That happened in November of 2017, a year and a half after the initial injury. She attempted to avoid surgery and underwent extensive rehab again, but required the same surgery again in July of 2018.
My office filed an Application for Adjustment of Claim with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission for the initial injury and for the subsequent injury and those cases were consolidated.
Recovery Part Deux
M did everything to rehab her shoulder. Sadly, it never quite came back to the pre-injury function, strength, or lack of pain. She even contemplated a third surgery, but decided against it because there was no guarantee it would reduce her pain or increase her function.
M cannot work anymore. She applied for and is receiving Social Security Disability.
Nearly six years after she initially hurt her shoulder, she is finally on the verge of receiving compensation.
What took so long? Where to start. Two separate injuries, two separate major surgeries and recoveries, the contemplation of a third surgery, and the application for Social Security Disability, all were factors for sure. Besides, I had an excellent relationship with the other attorney.
But then his client, the hospital for which M worked, was sold. The contacts he had worked years to develop disappeared. No one had authority to do anything, let alone providing him with settlement authority.
In workers’ compensation, after a case is three years old, it is “above the red line,” which means you must either be ready to go to trial or ask for a three (3) month continuance. I asked the arbitrator for a double-digit number of continuances!
Workers’ comp cases are mostly resolved by payment of a lump sum of money, which takes into account such factors as: the age and job description of the injured party, the part of the body, the type of injury and treatment, the wage rate of the petitioner, whether the petitioner returns to work for the respondent, and whether there are any permanent restrictions on their ability to perform work tasks. There are a half dozen other factors that may also be considered. It is a messy, confusing, and strange system. I always describe it as similar to watching and listening to cricket highlights, as it has acronyms, lingo, and systems that simply don’t exist in “regular” court.
I was able to negotiate a specific amount of money for M’s settlement, as well as a Medicare Set Aside (MSA), which provides money for future medical treatment on the shoulder. While a six-figure settlement sounds impressive, no one wants to undergo multiple surgeries or loss her ability to perform her job. The amount of the settlement is above and beyond the norm for this type of injury. It will help M restart her life and supplement her disability income. It is, as is always the case with workers’ compensation and personal injury settlements that compensate for injuries, free of any income taxes.
Yes, it is a great settlement. But nothing can reset her shoulder to the way it was before.
Contact Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Stephen Hoffman
As in all cases involving injury and potential liability, if you have been hit by a vehicle immediately get medical treatment, report the crash to police and your own insurance company, and contact a lawyer with expertise in your type of case, such as bicycle accidents or pedestrians hit by cars.
If you've been in an accident and have questions, contact Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen L. Hoffman for a free consultation at (773) 944-9737. Stephen has nearly 30 years of legal experience and has collected millions of dollars for his clients. He is listed as a SuperLawyer, has a 10.0 rating on Avvo, and is BBB A+ accredited. He is also an Executive Level Member of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.
Stephen handles personal injury claims on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay anything upfront and he only gets paid if you do. Don’t wait another day, contact Stephen now.