Workers’ compensation shoulder injuries often cause significant difficulties. We use our arms a lot. I did not realize how much I used my arms until I had a shoulder injury a number of years ago.
Shoulder injuries make it difficult to work overhead. Many people find it difficult to sleep or wash their hair. Some people find it difficult to perform repetitive arm movements with a shoulder injury.
Work-related shoulder injuries cause their own set of issues. Georgia workers’ compensation law seeks to provide medical, wage loss, and permanent partial disability benefits to people injured at work.
This article discusses some of the specific injuries that can arise when you have a workers’ compensation claim for a shoulder injury. It is important to understand that I am a workers’ compensation attorney, not a doctor.
I do not intend to provide medical advice in this article. You should seek advice from your doctor to make decisions about the best medical treatment for your injury.
What doctors can I see for a workers’ compensation shoulder injury?
Getting treatment with a good doctor helps you have a good recovery from your injury. Georgia workers’ compensation law gives you some ability to pick your doctor, but your employer’s panel of physicians usually limits your choices. Find out more about your rights to select a doctor in this article that discusses selecting a doctor in detail.
What type of doctor should I see for a shoulder injury?
Doctors specialize. Your employer may send you to an occupational health or immediate care facility when you first get hurt. If you continue to have problems for more than a few days, you may want to see a specialist.
For many shoulder injuries, an orthopedic surgeon will be the type of specialist you want to see. Fortunately, Georgia law requires your employer to included at least one orthopedic doctor on the panel of physicians.
Do not just assume the orthopedic doctor on the panel as your authorized treating physician. The orthopedic specialist that treats your injury does not necessarily have to be on your employer’s panel of physicians.
You could have your authorized treating physician refer you to a specific orthopedic specialist. Georgia law gives your authorized treating physician the power to direct referrals for specialized care.
You want to see the best doctor you can. This gives you the best chance of recovering from your injury.
You also want to see a doctor who specializes in your particular type of injury. Some orthopedic surgeons specialize in shoulder injuries. Some specialize in other types of injuries. If you have a shoulder injury, you probably want to treat with a doctor who specializes in shoulders.
What medical treatment should I receive?
Before the doctor can treat you, he or she first needs to diagnose your injury. You might have a strain or sprain. You may have a fracture or a rotator cuff tear.
To diagnose your injury, the doctor will do some testing. In the office, the doctor will probably perform a clinical examination. This testing helps the doctor determine the likely diagnoses. Your doctor may also order diagnostic testing like x-rays or an MRI to confirm the diagnosis.
The treatment you receive will depend on your diagnosis. Some common treatments for shoulder injuries include:
- Physicial therapy
Do I have to have surgery?
You never have to have medical treatment in a workers’ compensation case. Your doctor recommends treatment. You get to decide whether you proceed with that treatment.
Depending on your injury, your doctor may proceed with nonsurgical treatment first. If your doctor ends up recommending surgery, you will probably want to know how doctor will perform the surgery, what the risks are, and what the chance of success is.
Doctors can performs many shoulder surgeries arthroscopically. This may reduce your recovery time and decrease the risks associated with surgery. Just make sure to talk to your doctor with any questions you have about surgery.
What happens after surgery?
If you have shoulder surgery, you will receive more treatment as you recover. This treatment likely will include medication and physical therapy.
Some risks associated with shoulder surgery include the necessity of repat surgery. I have had more than one client have to undergo a repeat rotator cuff repair surgery because the rotator cuff retore.
What if I need a more extensive surgery like a shoulder replacement?
Workers’ compensation requires your employer to pay for the reasonable and necessary medical treatment you need as a result of your work injury. If you need more extensive treatment as a result of your injury, the workers’ compensation insurance company will probably have to pay for it.
Before your have more extensive surgery, do consider whether it will benefit you or not. Ask your doctor. If you want, you can always consider a second opinion as well.
One final concern about medical treatment is time limits. For injuries after 7/1/13, Georgia law places limits on how long you have to get medical treatment in most cases. Read this article to find out more about the 400 weeks limit on medical treatment in noncatastrophic cases.
What if I have difficulty going back to work after my shoulder injury?
Even with good medical treatment, shoulder injuries often make it difficult to return to work. Jobs that require working overhead or repetitive use of your arms are especially difficult.
Your authorized treating physician provides the primary opinion about your ability to work. That doctor should give you reasonable restrictions to address the problems caused by your injury. If your doctor will not give reasonable restrictions, you may need to get another opinion.
Many doctors rely on functional capacity evaluations (FCEs) to determine work restrictions. In addition to “determining” work restrictions, many of these tests use “validity testing”. You need to understand more about how these tests works before you undergo them because they can hurt your workers’ compensation case.
What if I my shoulder is not as good as it was before?
Georgia workers’ compensation law requires your employer to pay permanent partial disability benefits for injuries which cause permanent impairment. When you reach maximum medical improvement (MMI), your doctor will assign a permanent partial disability (PPD) rating.
What if my shoulder injury prevents me from ever going back to work?
Georgia law places time limits on how long you can receive workers’ compensation temporary total disability (wage loss) benefits.
If your injury is serious enough, you may qualify for a catastrophic designation. This designation prevents many of the time limits from applying to your case.