A key moment in your workers’ compensation case is when the doctor declares that you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI). MMI opens the door to the cash part of your settlement, called “permanent disability compensation”. And despite its name, maximum medical improvement doesn’t always close the door to more treatment. A skilled workers’ compensation lawyer helps you gather the evidence and present it convincingly to protect your rights to both. Let’s talk a bit more about what MMI is and why it’s so important.
What Is MMI? "Maximum Medical Improvement" Defined
MMI is the doctor’s opinion that no further medical care or treatment will lessen your impairment from your work injury. In other words, you’re “as good as you’ll get”.
When you’re seriously injured—especially when you require the care of more than one doctor—this can be very complicated because you may reach MMI at different times for different injuries. And different doctors might disagree about when you reach MMI.
As you might expect, sometimes the insurance company thinks you reached MMI before some of its own doctors do, or you might feel you could benefit from more treatment. This can lead to a hearing where the Workers’ Compensation Commission must decide when you reached MMI. At this point, an experienced workers’ compensation attorney is crucial to protect your rights to the care you need to fully recover from the injury. Don’t let the insurance company shortchange you on your health.
Why Is MMI So Important?
There are some very fundamental reasons why MMI is vital in workers’ comp:
- It can give the insurance company the right to stop your weekly checks, called temporary total disability (TTD). This makes sense: if you are as good as you’ll get, then any injury you still have is permanent.
- It’s the point where you begin considering the cash part of your settlement: permanent disability compensation. Once you reach MMI, the doctor usually assigns a permanent impairment rating. If you're seriously hurt, he may order a functional capacity evaluation to help him arrive at the rating. In turn, this rating leads to the permanent disability estimate to give you the cash settlement at the end of your case.
- When you reach MMI, it’s the point where you (hopefully) get to go back to work! For most folks, MMI results in the doctor giving you permission to return to work without restrictions. And even if you have permanent restrictions, you may be able to return to work in some capacity. However, some folks are declared permanently and totally disabled under comp, which may not mean what you think—and doesn’t keep you from working a different job.
- Maximum medical improvement can stop your right to medical care paid by workers’ comp…but not all the time. In the best case, reaching MMI means you need no more care. But if you’re seriously injured, you just may not be able to walk away. Fortunately, workers’ compensation law offers the possibility of post-MMI care, if it reduces your disability. These are called “Dodge medicals” for the case that gives you the right to them. A typical case justifying them occurs when you need follow-up therapy or medication to relieve pain, which will help you keep working. As you might expect, the insurance company is extremely resistant to paying these. To get them, a skilled lawyer can really help.
An Attorney Can Help With Your MMI Workers' Comp
MMI often moves your case towards a conclusion, as you can begin the settlement negotiations process, a critical phase of our process to handle your South Carolina workers' comp case.
If you’re seriously hurt or just wondering how to handle the insurance company in your Spartanburg, Greenville, Gaffney, or Union workers’ compensation case, you can always contact us. We will meet with you for a free, confidential consultation about how we can help you make sure you get fully compensated at the end of your case and protect your rights to future medical care if it’s necessary. For more information, check out the links below. Always feel free to call us at 864.582.0416 or toll-free at 888.230.1841, or you can start a live chat or email right from this site.