Common Shoulder Injuries in Workers' Compensation Cases

One of the most common injuries I see as a Georgia workers' compensation attorney are shoulder injuries. Given that most employees are constantly using their arms for heavy or repetitive lifting, I am never surprised to get a new shoulder case. Sudden movement of the arm can cause a dislocated shoulder, torn rotator cuff, partial rotator cuff tear, and so on. Shoulder pain is a serious symptom that should be taken seriously because early intervention can reduce the risk of further tearing of the cuff and permanent partial loss of the upper extremity.

The reason why the shoulder is so vulnerable to injury is because the ball of the upper arm is larger than the socket, and often the ligaments, tendons, and muscles which hold your shoulder in place are damaged from repetitive activities or over extension of the arm. This can cause the ball to literally come out of the socket and damage the shoulder. The most common shoulder injuries include strains, sprains, dislocations, separations, tendinitis, bursitis, torn rotator cuffs, frozen shoulder, fractures, and aggravation of preexisting arthritis (which is also compensable under the Georgia Workers' Compensation Act). While the tendons can be a source of the pain, the muscles around the socket are usually the root cause of a serious shoulder injury and the most commonly injured rotator cuff muscles are the supraspinatus and infraspinatus muscles.

Doctors will usually treat shoulder injuries with conservative treatment first. Conservative treatment consists of rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) until an exact diagnosis can be given. In some cases, physical therapy and injections into the shoulder may relieve the pain; however, if conservative treatment fails, an MRI of the shoulder should be ordered by the treating physician to examine the joint for significant damage. More aggressive treatment usually includes surgery to repair the shoulder if a rotator cuff tear or a partial rotator cuff tear can be identified on MRI. In rare cases, a surgeon may perform exploratory surgery if an MRI is negative, yet pain persists and the injured worker has a loss of their range of motion. 

The road to recovery for serious shoulder injuries can be long and difficult. Injured employees must be patient and follow their doctor's orders to obtain the best results. However, in many cases the shoulder never returns to pre-injury status and use of the upper extremity is occasionally permanently restricted.

 

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How Much Do They Owe Me? Calculating Your Workers' Comp. Check in Georgia

In Georgia, determining how much you should receive each week when you have sustained a workers' compensation injury and are unable to work begins with determining your average weekly wage. This is a tricky issue that often requires the assistance of an experienced workers' compensation attorney because a number of factors from uniform allowance to how many hours you worked per week can come into play.

To begin, review your wage records from the thirteen weeks prior to the week of your injury. You should utilize your gross pay (before taxes, insurance, etc. are taken out), not your net pay (what your actual paycheck is.)  Not counting the week of your injury, look to see if you worked the majority of the 13 weeks preceding the date of the injury. If you worked substantially the whole of the 13 weeks, add up your pre-tax weekly wages for those 13 weeks, and divide that number by 13. That is your average weekly wage. To determine how much your weekly benefit should be, divide that number by 1.5. That amount should be how much you are paid each week if you have been taken completely out of work by your doctor. For example, if your average weekly wage is $600, your weekly check should be $400. Note, the current cap on temporary total disability weekly benefits is $500.

If you are working reduced hours or at a lower rate of pay because you were placed on light-duty restrictions by your doctor, you will be receiving temporary partial disability benefits and your check should be equal to two-thirds of the difference between your pre-injury wage during the 13 weeks prior to your injury, and your actual weekly pay while working on light-duty.

 

 

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