How maximum medical improvement affects your Florida injury case
After suffering an injury and filing a claim for workers’ compensation or personal injury, you may learn more about the legal field than you ever wanted to know. With so many legal terms and jargon after you get hurt, things can quickly become confusing.
First, the extent of your injuries and how they will impact your job isn’t always immediately apparent. Therefore, you must report your injuries and seek medical treatment even for a seemingly insignificant injury. If the injury was personal (i.e. slip and fall on icy sidewalk), you should still receive medical attention and keep documentation of everything.
Second, you’ll want to be compensated for any lost income and/or medical bills. You’ll quickly learn how the controversial maximum medical improvement (MMI) will affect your injury claim.
What is maximum medical improvement (MMI)?
At a certain point during the course of your treatment, your doctor will determine that you have reached as full of a recovery as possible. Generally, this means that your condition is stable and further medical treatment isn’t required for more improvement. This stage is referred to as maximum medical improvement (MMI).
However, this doesn’t mean that your injury will not require more treatment in the future. Additionally, MMI isn’t a statement that your body has returned to its former state of health.
What maximum medical improvement does is provide a term commonly applied in workers’ compensation or personal injury claims. The length of time it takes for you to reach MMI, the extent and the severity of your claim are primary factors that determine the value of your injury case and how much you may receive in damages.
Who decides when MMI is reached?
Your primary treating physician determines when you have reached MMI status. You have reached the point of maximum recovery based on information from a medical examination and diagnostics.
Your doctor may find that your condition puts you at risk for more medical issues. No one can predict the future, but the state of your condition may indicate the injuries you sustained can lead to future ailments.
For example, you may need to have surgery in the future. After a serious injury, a future medical prognosis may also involve ongoing diagnostics. This is done to monitor the progress of your condition.
What happens after reaching maximum medical improvement?
To understand what happens after maximum medical improvement, you must first understand the reasoning behind your doctor’s disability rating.
At the point of MMI, your doctor has tried every available treatment related to your condition. You will receive a disability rating that includes a list of work restrictions and capabilities. With this information, you and your employer know which tasks you can perform as well as the ones you can no longer do.
If your condition is still serious after reaching MMI, you may never be able to return to work. Therefore, you may need help from a legal expert on maximum medical improvement in Florida.
What happens if your injury or illness worsens later?
Reaching MMI only applies to your condition not getting better with additional treatment. However, the type of injury you sustained could worsen after treatment stops.
As a result, you may suffer more injury after returning to work or other normal activities. MMI provides a record of your permanent condition but that doesn’t mean it will not become progressively worse over time.
Unfortunately, your maximum medical improvement designation prevents you from receiving further treatment.
Impact of MMI on your workers’ compensation claim
Insurance benefits under a workers’ compensation claim will no longer cover the treatments you need once your doctor declares MMI is reached.
However, you could miss opportunities to improve if other avenues of treatment may apply to your condition. Typically, you are expected to choose either ongoing benefits or a final lump sum payment.
With a settlement, you will probably be expected to sign a release that forfeits your rights to future claims. Legal guidance is crucial because your employer could be found liable to provide medical treatments for the rest of your life.
This means your employer could be held responsible even after you reach MMI status. Another way legal counsel can help is if you want to challenge your doctor’s MMI designation. It’s in your best interest to hire a legal representative right away.
Why should you wait until MMI is reached to accept a settlement?
At any point during your treatment, the insurance company could make a settlement offer. Any offer, no matter how good it may sound, is most likely far below the true value of your workers’ comp or personal injury claim.
While nothing can stop you from accepting it, you may want to wait until you reach a maximum level of recovery. It’s possible that the amount will not cover future medical expenses. In that case, you will be required to pay out-of-pocket for medical treatments.