Shoulder Pain After a Car Accident: Injuries, Signs, and What to Do

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Shoulder pain after a car accident can be caused by a variety of injuries, including whiplash, soft tissue damage, and broken bones. Symptoms of a shoulder injury include pain, limited range of motion, and instability in the shoulder joint. You should never ignore shoulder pain after a crash.

When left untreated, accident-induced shoulder pain may escalate into a more severe injury. At first, the swelling and irritation might seem nothing but annoying, but these symptoms can quickly reduce motion in the shoulder joint and drastically limit your general mobility.

Rather than try to sleep it off, always seek immediate medical care if you’re experiencing shoulder pain after a car accident. Only a medical professional can determine the full extent of your injuries. Once you’re prescribed a treatment plan, learn how a lawyer can help you with a personal injury claim.

Most Common Shoulder Injuries From Car Accidents

The shoulder is one of the most complex joints in the human body; unfortunately, it’s also one of the most frequently injured joints during a car crash. The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint, which means that several bones and types of soft tissues connect at the joint. When struck with the blunt force of a vehicle collision, numerous structures can stretch, tear, fracture, or dislocate.

Below are some of the most common types of shoulder injuries caused by car crashes.

  • Soft Tissue Damage: Soft tissues in the shoulder like muscles, ligaments, and tendons often stretch or tear during an accident. Car wrecks may cause a muscle strain or ligament sprain in the shoulder.
  • Whiplash Injury: Whiplash is commonly associated with neck pain after a car accident; however, the rapid back and forth motion can also tear tendons that extend from the neck to the shoulder.
  • ​Rotator Cuff Tear: A torn rotator cuff occurs when the force of impact partially or completely rips tendons in the shoulder joint, tearing sensitive soft tissues.
  • SLAP Tear: An acronym for a superior labrum from anterior to posterior tear, a SLAP tear involves the tearing of cartilage that protects the shoulder joint.
  • Shoulder Impingement: Impingement occurs when the top portion of the scapula (shoulder blade) rubs against the tissues of the rotator cuff and causes painful inflammation.
  • Shoulder Fracture: A fracture is a medical term for a broken bone. A car accident can cause multiple shoulder fractures, including the humerus (upper arm bone), scapula (shoulder blade), and clavicle (collarbone).
  • ​Shoulder Dislocation: Dislocations happen when one of the three bones in the shoulder socket shifts from its normal position. A shoulder separation is a total ejection from the socket.

Traumatic car accidents have the potential to cause numerous shoulder injuries at once. If you feel neck or shoulder pain after a car accident, always visit a medical professional for a formal diagnosis. Shoulder injuries like soft tissue damage can be permanent without proper care.

Black man suffering from shoulder pain.

Most Common Signs of a Shoulder Injury

The most evident sign of a shoulder injury is localized pain in the shoulder. This pain may begin immediately after a car accident or in the days or weeks following the crash. Pain that develops days or weeks after impact is referred to as a delayed pain symptom.

Other common symptoms of a shoulder injury include:

  • Stiffness
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Weakness or tenderness
  • Swelling and inflammation
  • Bruising or discoloration
  • Limited range of motion
  • Instability in the joint
  • Upper back and neck pain
  • Muscle spasms in the shoulders or arms
  • Popping or cracking sound when moving
  • Bump or bulge on the shoulder or collarbone

Depending on the original injury, shoulder pain after a car accident may also create unusual cognitive changes. For instance, shoulder pain from a whiplash injury may also cause concussion-like symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, and memory loss.

When to Seek Medical Attention for Shoulder Pain

Always seek medical attention for shoulder pain, no matter what. Symptoms for a severe shoulder injury may be delayed, so it’s always best to receive medical treatment as soon after the accident as possible. Immediate medical care can help quickly identify and diagnose present injuries and help you begin a treatment plan to avoid additional damage.

Medical diagnostic imaging, like MRIs or X-rays, can get a better picture of what’s happening deep inside of the shoulder joint. That way, you won’t need to wait for bruising or discoloration to develop to learn where your injury might be located. These medical images can also be used as evidence throughout your personal injury claim.

You should always seek immediate medical attention for shoulder pain, but be on high alert if you see a bump or bulge on the shoulder or near the collarbone. These symptoms may indicate a bone fracture. Pay close attention to any popping, cracking, or clicking sounds you hear when moving your shoulder, as they may be a sign of a shoulder dislocation.

Young woman looking at bills.

Can You Sue for Shoulder Pain After a Car Accident?

Yes, you can sue for shoulder pain after a car accident. Kentucky is a no-fault state, which means that your initial medical bills were likely covered by your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) auto coverage. If you’ve incurred more than $1,000 in medical bills or have suffered a broken bone or permanent injury/disfigurement, you can bring a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.

With the help of a car accident lawyer, you can present the at-fault driver’s insurance company with an injury claim that details all of the damages involved in your case. Damages refer to monetary losses as well as emotional and physical suffering. Damages in a shoulder injury claim often include the costs of anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, surgery, and other types of medical treatment.

Bryant Law Firm is Here to Help with Shoulder Pain After a Car Accident

Dozens of car accident victims suffer shoulder injuries in car wrecks each year. Each victim deserves the proper compensation to properly care for their accident injuries. At the Bryant Law Center, our team of personal injury attorneys will deal with the insurance company and fight for your right to a fair settlement. If you’ve suffered shoulder pain after a car accident that was no or limited fault of your own, we’re here to help.

From rear-end collisions to head-on crashes, the attorneys at the Bryant Law Center have the experience it takes to help you receive the compensation you’re owed. With offices in Paducah and Louisville, one of our trusted attorneys is ready to take your call. Contact Bryant Law Center today for help with shoulder pain after a car accident.

Mark Bryant
About the Author
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