Both motor vehicle accidents and slip and fall incidents can leave a victim with severe injuries that are difficult to recover from fully.  All parts of the body are vulnerable in a car accident due to the speed and impact of the crash.  However, the shoulder, the rotator cuff in particular, is generally at risk.  Shoulder injuries can also occur from slip and fall accidents, ranging from mild inflammation to severe tearing.


The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and tendons that stabilize the shoulder joint and provide the ability to lift and rotate the arms. 

There are two types of rotator cuff tears.  A partial tear occurs when one of the muscles that form the rotator cuff is frayed or damaged.  A complete tear occurs when the tear goes through the tendon or pulls the tendon off of the bone.

There are various symptoms associated with a rotator cuff tear, which can include:

  • Trouble raising the arm;
  • Pain when moving the arm in certain ways or lying on it;
  • Disruption in sleep, particularly if you sleep on the affected shoulder;
  • Weakness in the shoulder and arm;
  • Being unable to lift things; or
  • Hearing clicking or popping with arm movements.

Rotator cuff injuries typically occur in individuals who repeatedly perform overhead motions associated with their jobs or sports, i.e. painters, carpenters, or those who play baseball or tennis. 

There are also times that a rotator cuff tear occurs as a result of a single injury, i.e. a motor vehicle accident or slip and fall accident.

The risk of an injury of this nature also increases with age.  As we grow older, our tendons have a tendency to wear down, allowing them to be vulnerable to tears or other damage that may occur. 


During a medical examination, your doctor will examine your shoulder and check to see the areas where it is tender and whether there is any deformity.  Your doctor will measure the range of motion of your shoulder by asking you to move your arm in different directions.  Your arm strength will also be tested during this initial examination.

Imaging tests such as x-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and/or ultrasounds will provide more information to your doctor and will confirm whether you have a rotator cuff tear. 

There are a number of different treatment options available depending on your age, activity level, general health and the type of rotator cuff injury that has occurred, including:

  • Rest;
  • A Sling;
  • Limiting overhead activities;
  • Activity modification;
  • Strengthening exercises and physical therapy;
  • Heat or cold applied to the sore area;
  • Medication to reduce pain and swelling;
  • Electrical stimulation of muscles and nerves;
  • Ultrasound;
  • Cortisone injections; or
  • Surgery.


Researchers at the University of Calgary have found that patients suffering from a full-thickness tear (torn right through from top to bottom) within their shoulder could be treated without surgery.  Seventy five percent of the one hundred patients who had torn their rotator cuff reported favourable results lasting for up to five years from a non-surgical approach.

Dr. Richard Boorman, an orthopaedic surgeon and the lead researcher, reported:

Their shoulders felt better, move better, functioned better. They did not only not want surgery, they didn’t need surgery. …

The patients in the study worked with a physiotherapist and were taught a set of specialized exercises to perform at home.  They were also required to return for follow-up appointments at regular intervals. Dr. Boorman explained:

Together – the patient and surgeon – decided if the treatment program was “successful” and that surgery was not an appropriate intervention, or if it “failed”, meaning surgery was the best option because significant symptoms still persisted.

Rotator cuff injuries can be very serious, affecting an individual’s ability to work, perform daily tasks, take part in recreational activities or generate an income.  Shoulder injuries of this nature should not be ignored.  Without proper treatment, rotator cuff injuries can lead to permanent stiffness or weakness or even progressive degeneration of the shoulder joint.

Compensation for rotator cuff injuries may include money for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, out-of-pocket expenses (including medical expenses, transportation costs etc.), cost of future medical care, past and future wage loss and loss of earning capacity.

If you or a loved one have suffered a rotator cuff injury due to a slip and fall accident or motor vehicle accident that occurred due to the fault of another individual, you may be able to file a legal claim against the responsible party. 

It is in your best interest to promptly hire a skilled and experienced law firm to guide you through the litigation process and answer any questions that you may have.  Cuming & Gillespie LLP can help evaluate your specific case to determine whether you have a valid personal injury claim.  Contact our office online or at 403-571-0555 for a free consultation today.  We look forward to helping you obtain the compensation that you deserve.