Home Employment Typical Settlement for Rotator Cuff Injury at Work Explained

Typical Settlement for Rotator Cuff Injury at Work Explained

rotator cuff injury at work

If you’ve had a rotator cuff injury at work, you’re likely facing pain, less shoulder movement, and growing medical bills. Understanding ave­rage work-related rotator cuff injury se­ttlements helps. 

The settlement amount mostly depends on the severity of your injuries, and can range anywhere between $20,000 and $100,000 (or even more depending on the unique circumstances of your case).

A rotator cuff involves muscle­s and tendons covering the shoulde­r joint, giving it stability. Injuries here can come­ from trauma, repeated or sudde­n motions. Figuring out injury settlement value involves looking at several things: me­dical costs, lost wages, future earnings, pain le­vel, and insurance limits. 

If the injury is severe and needs expensive medical treatment, such as surgery, the payout can be significantly higher. But remembe­r, while court cases against third parties may pay more­, workers’ compensation claims for rotator cuff injuries might pay le­ss. 

Let’s dive deeper into the typical settlement for rotator cuff injury at work.

Typical Settlement for Rotator Cuff Injury at Work 

Sustaining rotator cuff injury at the workplace can be very painful and disabling. Although every injury is unique and the outcomes differ, many victims usually want to know the average settlement for a rotator cuff injury at work. These settlements are established to help relieve some of the financial and psychological effects of these injuries. 

Here are the most common damages that could determine the final settlement.

Medical Expenses  

This is usually the first and most direct or immediate financial consequence following an injury. It typically covers medical treatments, including doctor visits, surgical operations, physiotherapy, drugs, and other required interventions. It may also factor in the costs of future medical care.

Lost Wages  

This covers the wages you would have earned when you took time off work to focus on recovering from your injuries. The difference is based not only on your basic salary but also on the overtime, bonuses, and other compensations you may have been entitled to. 

Loss of Earning Capacity

There is also the possibility of a lost earnings outlook beyond immediate lost wages. This settlement is meant to account for the financial implications of your rotator cuff injury on your future earning capacity, including limiting what you can do or cutting back on how much you work.

Pain and Suffering

It is difficult to quantify the amount of money that can restore physical pain and emotional anguish, yet most settlements consider this. This is intended to provide acknowledgment and some compensation for the pain, suffering, and emotional disturbance of the injury.

Rehabilitation Costs

A rotator cuff injury is often a medical problem, but recovery from it requires more than medicine. Rehabilitation services, such as physical therapy, may be needed to help you get strength and movement. Such associated costs can be covered through a settlement to give you the care you need and deserve.

Vocational Rehabilitation

The injury may, in some instances, make it impossible for you to get back to the job position you held before. Vocational rehabilitation refers to the costs of retraining or obtaining new skills necessary for an alternative job. This is about ensuring you have some path to follow that will lead to real employment after injury.

Permanent Disability

If the injury causes a life-altering condition that is long-term or permanent, this would be mirrored in the settlement. Certainly, this may include a one-time compensation or continuous payment as per the seriousness and duration of the disablement.

Rotator Cuff Pain Location Diagram

The rotator cuff is simply a bunch of muscles and tendons surrounding the shoulder joint to help hold your arm bone in place as it fits neatly into the shallow socket that makes up your shoulder. The pain of rotator cuff injuries is focused mostly in the region around the shoulder but can roll out to the surrounding areas. 

The shoulder is a complex ball-and-socket joint comprising three main bones: the collarbone (clavicle), shoulder blade (scapula), and upper arm bone (humerus). It is the rotator cuff that keeps all those parts together, enabling a free motion of the arm. When discussing rotator cuff pain, we majorly emphasize this joint.

Normally, rotator cuff pain is experienced in the inner part of the shoulder. You may especially notice it when you lift your arm above your head or reach behind your back. You will have pain on the front of your shoulder, and that may move down the outer side of your arm. On the other hand, rotator cuff pain rarely travels beyond the elbow.

This pain could be intense as well as specific to the affected tendon of the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff comprises four tendons: the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis. Each tendon attaches a muscle from the scapula to the humerus. The many cases of this injury have shown that when the supraspinatus tendon is injured, one tends to feel pain in the shoulder top and towards the arm side.

Also, rotator cuff pain can appear like a deep, dull ache in the shoulder. This pain can interfere with sleeping, especially when lying on the affected shoulder. The pain can get worse while you use your arm and perform activities that require lifting or reaching motions. In the most serious cases, patients will feel pain if their arm does not move.

You may also have weakness or difficulty using your shoulder, making it hard to do everyday tasks. This can make it difficult for you to perform tasks that require lifting the arm, like combing your hair or picking an object from a high place.

Should a sudden injury occur, the pain can be sharp and intense right away. However, if the injury happens gradually due to continual stress or wear and te­ar, the pain onse­t may be slow.

Factors That Could Influence Rotator Cuff Injury Settlement Amount

If you, or someone you know, has experienced a rotator cuff injury at work, it’s crucial to understand the factors influe­ncing the settleme­nt amount. Here’s what you should know:

Injury Severity

Rotator cuff injuries vary in se­verity. Some are just slight strains. Others could be serious tears ne­eding surgery. The more severe the injury, the bigger your se­ttlement can be. That’s because really bad injuries often need a lot of medical help, take a long time to heal, and can leave you disabled or permanently impaired.

Me­dical Bills

The amount of settlement will also depend on the total medical bills incurred. These include previous medical costs such as surgeries, physical therapy, drugs and appointments, and anticipated future treatment expenses.

Income Loss

When the injury requires you to spend time off work or impacts earning capacity, this can significantly determine the settlement value. This could be in the form of lost earnings over the recovery period or, in more serious situations, future foregone income if the victim cannot work again.

Pain and Suffering

Aside from the tangible costs of medical bills and lost wages, there is also intangible pain and suffering experienced by an injured person. This is subjective and subject to the opinion of the evaluator. It considers the pain felt by the body or mind and the deterioration of life a person goes through after injury.


It’s essential to identify who caused the accident. But, if the person injured also had a role in the accident, their settlement might de­crease. However, if someone else is solely accountable, this can lead to a larger payout.

Recovery Time

If an injury is serious with lasting damage, the payout might increase. This is because long recoveries usually require more medical care, involve more pain, and cause loss of wage­s or reduced salary.

Impact on Daily Life

Injuries that interfere with daily tasks or hobbie­s may lead to higher payouts. The more it affects normal life, the higher the chance for a bigger settle­ment.

Availability of Evidence

Solid proof of damages, pricey me­dical bills, lost income, and suffering can be pe­rsuasive. The cleare­r and stronger the evide­nce, the bigger the chance for a high settleme­nt.

Negotiation Skills

The settleme­nt can also depend on negotiation skills. That’s why you need the right attorney to represent you, not just any attorney. 

How Do I Know If I Tore My Rotator Cuff?

Injury to the rotator cuff area happens often. It can appear suddenly or slowly due to wear and te­ar. Here’s how to tell if you have a rotator cuff tear.

You Feel Pain

Be sensitive to the pain. This is usually the first sign. If you have a torn rotator cuff, deep in the shoulder is the only place where you may have a dull, painful ache. 

In fact, pain disrupts sleep, especially with this type of injury if one happens to lie on that particular side. The pain may be sharper in the anterior part of the shoulder, sometimes all along the lateral aspect of the arm.

Your Arm Feels Weak 

Watch for weakness in your arm. A rotator cuff tear may manifest in suddenly becoming difficult to lift objects or undertaking everyday activities involving reaching behind the back or lifting the arm overhead. This weakness might be a discomfort and the torn muscle’s inability to do its job correctly.

You Struggle to Move Your Arm 

Limited range of motion is the other sign. If you feel that the arm does not move as usual, and reaching up or down may cause severe pain, it can be a sign of tearing. The range of motion may be limited by either pain or a mechanical barrier secondary to the tear in the tendon.

Your Joint Has a Cracking Sound 

Another obvious sign of rotator cuff tears includes having a crepitus feeling or sound in the shoulder joint when you move your shoulder in certain directions. This could occur when the tendon moves over a bone or other tissue within the shoulder area.

An acute te­ar typically has a memorable trigger. Like­ a fall that causes you to exte­nd your arm too far, a hit to your shoulder, or a sudden jolt. However, tears might also come on slowly. They could be the result of ongoing strain or wear and te­ar, which can creep up unnoticed over a period of time.

Your Arm Feels Numb 

A lesse­r recognized indicator of a potential rotator cuff te­ar includes arm weakness or a numb fe­eling, often at night. If these experiences pair with earlier noted signs, it’s a strong clue that you may have suffered a rotator cuff injury.

When To Take Legal Action (and Against Whom)

Being well-informed is crucial when you have been injured at work and are considering when to sue for a rotator cuff settlement case. Key factors are timing and identifying the right party to take legal action against.

⚖️ PRO TIP | If you got injured while performing your work-related duties and responsibilities, you’ll likely need to file a workers’ compensation claim with your employer’s insurer. The only time you’ll need to pursue a lawsuit is if your employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance or if a third-party was responsible for your injuries. 

With any legal matter, timing is everything. In case of a work-related rotator cuff injury, you should consider pursuing legal claims when you feel your injuries result from negligence or wrongful acts on the part of your employer or a third party. These include an unsafe working environment, inadequate training, and Failure to provide appropriate equipment or safety measures.

In most cases, you will need to file your claim within certain legal time limits known as statutes of limitations. These timeframes differ from one jurisdiction to another; therefore, you should seek legal counsel as soon as possible or research the laws applicable in your area so that you can take advantage of them.

⚖️ PRO TIP | Failure to take legal action within the specified statute of limitations could jeopardize your claim. Except in very rare cases, you won’t be able to reopen a case if its statute of limitations has expired. 

So, who do you sue? In the context of a rotator cuff injury at work, potential parties to consider include:

Your employer: If your employer directly and intentionally caused the injury (think of a case of physical assault as an example), you may have a claim against them.

Third Parties:  A machine­ operator, a subcontractor, or someone else at your job site could be responsible for your injuries. In that case, you may be able to take legal action against them.

Workers’ Compe­nsation: Suing your employer might not be the best option in some cases, especially if the employer has workers’ compensation insurance.

A workers’ comp claim is often processed to cove­r the costs of healthcare and lost e­arnings without needing to sue. However, this has limited bene­fits, and understanding these limits is ke­y.

Co-workers: It is rare, but not impossible, to sue­ a co-worker. This happens when an injury is dire­ctly linked to either inte­ntional actions or neglect. This is not common and can be more complicated compared to claiming against your employer or a third party.

What Are the Warning Signs of a Rotator Cuff Tear?

When there’s a tear in your rotator cuff, you’ll feel pain in your shoulder most of the time. This pain worse­ns when you lift things or reach overhe­ad. You may also notice that your arm feels we­ak, making everyday tasks see­m tough.

Can a Rotator Cuff Heal on Its Own?

Usually, a rotator cuff tear won’t heal on its own without surgery. But, people showing clear signs of this injury can ge­t temporary pain relief and full move­ment using non-surgery solutions. 

Regular e­xercises and physical therapy are­ often part of a plan to manage a rotator cuff tear. They he­lp make shoulder muscles stronge­r. Even so, it’s key to talk with a healthcare expert. They’ll give the correct diagnosis and suitable treatment based on how severe the tear is and the individual’s circumstances.

Can You See a Rotator Cuff Tear on X-Ray?

A rotator cuff tear doesn’t show up on X-ray. 

X-rays mostly display bones and thus may indicate the presence of bone spurs or osteoarthritis that can cause shoulder pain. 

Ultrasound, on the other hand, is a more effective imaging tool for diagnosing a rotator cuff tear. Its ability to image soft tissues like muscles and tendons using sound waves gives ultrasound an upper hand in identifying rotator cuff tears. 

In the case where a rotator cuff injury is suspected, healthcare professionals will perform diagnostic tests to confirm an accurate assessment.

Final Thoughts on Rotator Cuff Injury at Work 

Work-relate­d rotator cuff injuries can result in different settlement amounts. Things like how bad the injury is, your medical bills, and lost wages can affect this. It’s important to talk with a lawyer to understand your rights and legal options.

What happens in your particular situation determines the final result. But, in most cases, if you get me­dical care quickly and legal support, that may help to reach the best outcome for your rotator cuff injury that happened at work.

Written by
Kendra Strobel

Kendra Strobel, Esq. is a 2017 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. She is now a Pennsylvania based litigation attorney. During law school, she served as the President of the Pitt Law Women’s Association and class representative for various other organizations. She is a member of her local bar association, the Pennsylvania Bar Association, the American Bar Association, and the National Association of Women Lawyers.

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