Maximum medical improvement (MMI) is a term that you may hear if your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company denies your claim for benefits. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney may advise you not to settle your case until you reach your maximum medical recovery. Why is that so important? Here, we explain MMI so that you understand how it can impact your workers’ comp settlement.
What Is Maximum Medical Improvement?
Maximum medical improvement is the point in your medical care where you have recovered as much as you can from your workplace injury or illness. This is not always a full recovery. You could be left with a partial or total disability.
It can take time to reach your maximum medical improvement depending on your injury and your rate of recovery. In addition, your doctor may begin your treatment with less invasive options, such as physical therapy, before recommending surgery. This could mean that you undergo months or more of physical therapy before you undergo surgery and start the recovery process from it.
This can be frustrating when you are anxious to get better and return to work. It can also make it take longer to resolve your claim. You do not want to settle your claim before you reach this stage because you will not know what medical treatments you could need, whether you will make a full recovery, and whether you can return to your former job. Once you settle your claim, it will be a final settlement, and you want it to include all that you deserve.
What Does MMI Mean for Your Ability to Return to Work?
Once you reach your maximum medical improvement, it could mean a number of things as to your ability to return to work. You could be facing one of these options:
- Your injuries have healed fully, and you can return to work.
- Your injuries have not fully healed, but you are able to return to your job either with or without restrictions.
- You have not made a full recovery and can no longer perform your former job. However, you may be able to return to work at a lower-paying job.
- You suffered a partial disability that prohibits you from returning to a job with your former employer, but you may be able to return to work in a different field with vocational training.
- You suffered a total disability that prevents you from working in any profession.
What Types of Workers’ Comp Benefits Could You Be Entitled to Once You Reach MMI?
Until you reach your MMI, you could be entitled to temporary disability payments to replace a portion of your wages and payment of your medical bills. Once you reach your maximum medical improvement, you may no longer be eligible for temporary disability payments. However, you could be entitled to these benefits as part of your settlement:
- Medical expenses. If you will incur future medical expenses, you want to include the cost of your treatments in your settlement. A common dispute in workers’ compensation cases is the need for future medical treatment and what is considered reasonable and necessary care.
- Vocational rehabilitation. You could need vocational rehabilitation to obtain training or education to help you return to work in a different profession that is suitable given your injuries.
- Permanent partial disability payments. If you suffer a permanent partial disability, you could be entitled to permanent partial disability payments. These payments are based on the loss of a body function, and you could be entitled to this payment whether or not you are able to return to your job. You must show both objective evidence of your disability and evidence that the disability reduced your ability to work or substantially limited a non-work related activity. Benefits for certain partial impairments, such as to the fingers, toes, or arm, are based on a percentage of scheduled losses, and there is a set number of weeks and total amount of benefits that can be received.
- Permanent total disability payments. If you are unable to work at any job, you could be entitled to permanent total disability payments. You may receive 450 weeks of payments at 70 percent of your pay. If you can show that you continue to be disabled after that point, you may be entitled to continued benefits.
If your workers’ compensation claim was denied, you need the assistance of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to negotiate a fair settlement for you. Fill out our online form or call our office to schedule your complimentary case evaluation.