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Whether to settle a workplace shoulder injury is a decision made after the completion of medical treatment. A medical evaluation is needed to assess the nature and extent of any permanent injury suffered as a result of the work accident. A New Jersey work accident attorney can give vital assistance.

Common Types of Shoulder Injuries

A rotator cuff is a group of four muscles in the shoulder. They are the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis. The rotator cuff muscles come together in the form of tendons around the head of the upper arm bone (humerus). The job of the rotator cuff is to keep the arm securely in the shoulder socket. And attach the arm to the shoulder blade for lifting and rotating of the arm. A rotator cuff tear is either classified as a partial tear or a full-thickness tear. Shoulder impingement syndrome can be a sign of a rotator cuff problem.

The area of the shoulder known as the labrum is cartilage in the form of a ring. This keeps the ball of the joint stable and in place.  There are two forms of tears in the labrum. They are: 1) SLAP tear (superior labrum anterior-posterior) and 2) Bankart tear.

A torn biceps is not a shoulder injury by itself. But, it may go with a shoulder injury including a torn rotator cuff. The biceps tendon attaches your biceps muscle from the bones in the shoulder to the elbow. Tears of the biceps can be partial (damage to the tendon) or complete (tendon detaches from the bone).   

Rotator Cuff Tear is a Common Shoulder Settlement in Workers Comp

A well-known example of a serious shoulder injury case is that of NFL Quarterback Drew Brees. He suffered a torn labrum and rotator cuff damage to his right shoulder on January 5, 2006. The injury could have been a career-ending event. The right shoulder is his throwing shoulder. He underwent surgery followed by extensive rehabilitation over the course of many months.
Brees returned the following season as Quarterback for the New Orleans Saints. He led the Saints to a Super Bowl XLIV Championship in the 2009 season followed by a record-breaking season in 2011. He retired at the end of 2020 season after an amazing 20 year career in the NFL. According to his wife Brittany, Drew played with a rotator cuff tear among other injuries in his final year. He is a first class athlete. And also a model for those striving to return to a full life of activities after suffering a serious work accident involving a massive commitment to tackling the problem head-on for the benefit of self, family, sport and country.

Shoulder injuries as a whole, including rotator cuff tears, are typically the most common workplace injuries behind back injuries. Truck drivers, for example, as an occupation have a 19.2% work injury accident rate for injuries involving the shoulder. This is a significant percentage of overall work injuries in the transportation industry.

Drew Brees in action after a shoulder injury
Quarterback Drew Brees

What are the Shoulder Injury Settlement Options?

The decision to accept a settlement of your case should only be made after a thorough evaluation of the entire case. A New Jersey Workers Compensation attorney who has experience with shoulder injuries including rotator cuff tears can guide you through the process for the best possible result. Your workers comp payout for the shoulder will depend on the value of the case assessed by many factors. These factors can vary in application from one shoulder case to another. The best possible outcome is of critical importance for injured workers in New Jersey. The decision to settle needs serious consideration.  
If you decide to settle your shoulder injury case (including rotator cuff tears), there are two main options for settlement under New Jersey workers compensation law. Regardless of the settlement option, every case must proceed before a Judge of Compensation. That is, judicial approval is necessary for the terms and conditions of the settlement. The NJ Judge will examine evidence from a variety of sources. The most important evidence can come from evaluating physicians. Also, testimony from the injured worker to determine the reasonableness of the settlement proposal. In addition, whether the settlement is voluntary with full knowledge of rights retained by the parties if any. The bottom line is that the Judge may accept a settlement proposed by the parties only if it is fair to both sides, entered into voluntarily and with full knowledge of the settlement terms.

New Jersey Workers Compensation Law provides for two primary methods to settle cases.

Section 22 Order Approving Settlement - Right to Reopen Exists.

Under New Jersey Law, this order requires the filing of a formal claim petition and a formal hearing in front of the Judge of Compensation. The parties settle the case with the right of the injured worker to seek more benefits in the future. A material worsening of his or her condition is necessary. The right to “reopen” does not last forever but in the event of a material worsening of your condition, it is an important protection for the injured worker to return to Court to seek more benefits
Your medical condition may in fact get worse after you settle the case. The settlement hearing before the Judge of Compensation provides a snapshot of your current complaints on the day of the hearing. Your medical condition, however, may not remain status quo after the hearing. For example, a rotator cuff tear may get worse as time goes on after the settlement.
How long does the protection of “re-opener” rights last for the worker? The time limitation to seek more benefits is two years from the date of the last payment of benefits under the Order Approving Settlement.

Important aspects of Section 22 Settlements:

  • Employer acknowledges jurisdiction in the Court is proper.
  • Employer acknowledges the injured worker met with a compensable accident.
  • Court establishes permanency with a disability percentage.
  • Worker sets forth current complaints on the record.
  • Payment of settlement occurs over a series of weeks.
  • Right to Reopen exists for the injured worker.

Section 20 Resolution - No Right to Reopen.

Under New Jersey Law, the injured worker and the employer in this settlement proposal request approval from the Judge of Compensation to approve an order for a lump sum payment to the worker in exchange for dismissal of the case. There is no opportunity for the injured worker to seek more benefits at a later time if the dismissal is “with prejudice.” For example, an injured worker suffering a rotator cuff tear would receive no further benefits. There is no admission by the employer of responsibility for the work accident. This type of settlement is a favorable disposition for the employer.  
The parties at times request permission from the Judge of Compensation to settle the work injury matter pursuant to a Section 20 resolution “with prejudice” for one of the specific reasons outlined in the statute. The statute sets forth the four permissible reasons to grant a Section 20 resolution of the matter. The Judge of Compensation will not permit the parties to settle on a Section 20 resolution without a clear indication one of the four permissible reasons exist in the case.

Important aspects of a Section 20 Settlement:

  • The judge only permits settlement if there is an actual and authentic issue of liability for the injury, the cause of the injury, jurisdiction or dependency.
  • Payment is a one-time lump sum payment.
  • Settlement is not a payment of compensation.
  • Employer does admit liability or causation for the injury.
  • No Right to Reopen exists for the injured worker.

Experienced Work Injury Lawyer To Settle Your Case
With Best Possible Results

Choose an attorney who will take the time to guide you through the workers compensation process. You need to know the “ins and outs” of the system to make good decisions about your case. Choose an attorney who will also aggressively advocate for you against the insurance company and in front of the Judge of Compensation. The workers compensation laws differ from one State to the next. New Jersey has a system amended over the course of several decades. The current system attempts to meet the needs of injured workers which is the policy goal of the law. Last but not least, our contact number is (856) 596-8000.

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