By Francis M. Smith
Dislocated shoulder injuries sometimes appear in fictional media like television and movies, and the injured action-hero usually resolves the injury by popping the bones back into place themselves. This serves to underscore how tough the character is – but in a real-life situation in which you have sustained a dislocated shoulder injury as a result of a car crash or other accident, you should seek immediate medical treatment, as dislocations can result in damage to the nerves and blood vessels surrounding the joint. Some types of soft tissue injuries associated with shoulder dislocation may require surgery to resolve, and improper or incomplete treatment of the injury may result in a condition known as adhesive capsulitis, or "frozen shoulder."
The shoulder works by means of a ball-and-socket joint, which allows the arm to move forward and backward, up and down, and around in the full range of motion that most people usually experience. When a dislocation injury occurs, the rounded end of the humerus, or upper arm bone, is forced out of the socket, resulting in pain, swelling, and impaired mobility of the arm. Other dislocation injuries that affect the shoulder may involve the clavicle, or collar bone, becoming dislocated at either end. Damage to the bones or soft tissues surrounding the joint may also be involved, especially if the injury is the result of the sort of physical trauma that occurs in a serious car accident.
The very severity of car accident injuries can sometimes make a dislocated shoulder difficult to diagnose. A shoulder dislocation injury might occur during a car crash in a number of ways:
- Reflexively bracing against the steering wheel or dashboard
- The jolt when your seat belt locks in place upon impact
These often result in other injuries as well. Particularly when the neck and spine are hurt, it can be easy for doctors to miss the dislocated shoulder initially, attributing the pain of the dislocation to the other injury.
This is one reason why it's so important not to accept the first settlement offer that an insurance company tosses your way. Once you accept a settlement, that ends the negotiation, and you probably can't get any additional money from the insurance company if your doctors discover further injuries that they missed in the initial diagnosis. In addition, your injuries may require more treatment than expected in order to achieve maximum medical improvement.
The insurance company will push you to settle early, to accept the low settlement amount they offer, because their only interest is in saving themselves money, not in making sure that your injuries heal completely and your medical bills are covered. Nor do they care about your future lost wages if you have to take time off to recover from shoulder surgery, or the pain and inconvenience associated with surgery and recovery from that surgery. With the help of an experienced personal injury attorney and documentation from your health care providers, you can fight the insurance company to ensure that the entirety of your injury is covered.
As such, it is critical to seek immediate medical treatment following a car crash in which you experience pain or suspect an injury. Often a dislocated shoulder will visibly appear misaligned, but the swelling of the affected area may obscure the injury and render an initial diagnosis difficult. Additionally, sometimes the humerus (upper arm bone) pops right back into place, leaving a torn ligament or tendon (and pain!) as the only evidence of dislocation. If not promptly treated, complications may arise, especially if damage was done to the blood vessels, nerves, or other soft tissues around the joint. Dislocated shoulder injuries can lead to instability in the shoulder joint, making it easier for the joint to slip out of alignment again in the future.
The repercussions of a dislocated shoulder go beyond even the (often serious) medical consequences. Because of the pain and limited mobility resulting from a dislocation injury, and the need to avoid applying strain to the joint while it heals, you may find yourself unable to work until you have fully recovered from the injury. The loss of wages, on top of the rapidly accumulating medical bills and the possibility of surgery if the basic treatments are insufficient, can take a serious financial toll on a person already struggling to deal with the consequences of being the victim of a car accident caused by someone's lack of regard for the rules of the road. You need a settlement or damages award that will cover all of your medical bills and expenses resulting from the crash – but battling the insurance company is doubly difficult when you're already fighting through the pain of your injuries to recover your range of motion and get back to work and your normal life.
That's why it's so important to have an experienced car accident attorney working on your case from the beginning, gathering the evidence you need to present a strong case and fending off the insurance representative's insultingly low settlement offers. Your injury lawyer knows all the tricks that insurance companies use to avoid paying what you deserve, and will fight for you to make sure that you get the fairest settlement or award under the circumstances of your case, considering all the fact, including the long and sometimes complicated medical recovery from a serious shoulder injury.
If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident due to someone's negligence and would like a free consultation to discuss serious injuries, please contact me. You can reach me by phone at 908 233-5800, by email, or online.
If it is difficult for you or your loved one to visit one of my three offices identified in the map below, I will come to you. I always make myself available to meet prospective clients where it is convenient - whether it be at your home, hospital, or a local coffee shop.