At the Blackwell Law Firm we frequently get calls from injured workers with questions about maximum medical improvement (or MMI). We routinely handle workers’ compensation claims for Alabama workers.
What is MMI? How does MMI impact your case? These are important questions. Maximum medical improvement is an important issue in workers’ compensation cases.
1. What is the significance of Maximum Medical Improvement?
MMI is a critical event in an Alabama workers’ compensation case. MMI does NOT necessarily mean you are completely healed or cured from your injury. MMI is the time when your doctor believes you are as healed as you will get. While some workers will no longer need continued medical care after reaching MMI, others may need follow-up treatment to maintain their level of recovery or maintain their ability to function.
Why is MMI significant? MMI is typically when the treating doctor issues an impairment rating or final physical restrictions for any permanent disability. Impairment ratings and final restrictions are important in calculating any benefits you may be owed for a permanent disability under Alabama’s workers’ compensation laws.
Until you reach MMI, the court cannot make a decision on your claim. Because of this, MMI is a key date when you can finally calculate the benefits owed and prepare for a trial if needed. Many insurance companies often try to settle the claim at this point.
2. How can you tell Maximum Medical Improvement is approaching?
Listen to your doctor. At the time of a surgery or other treatment, many doctors will discuss usual healing times. Of course, some injuries are far worse than expected. However, a good conversation with your doctor should help you learn when to expect MMI.
Many doctors will also begin mentioning MMI as the date approaches. In addition to mentioning MMI, the doctor may begin talking to you about other subjects often associated with MMI. These include:
- Releasing you
- Your need to find easier or less strenuous work due to your injury
- Your ability (or lack of ability) to return to certain work
- Permanent physical restrictions
- A Functional Capacity Examination (or FCE) which is a test used to determine physical restrictions or capabilities
When you hear your doctor mention any of these issues, it is a signal your MMI date may be approaching.
3. Can Maximum Medical Improvement cause a hardship?
While MMI is a key date necessary for resolving workers’ compensation claims involving a permanent injury, it can also bring a period of hardship while the case concludes. If you suffered a significant injury, the doctor may have taken you off work while providing medical treatment. If so, you may be receiving temporary total disability benefits (often referred to as TTD) while off work.
When the doctor places you at MMI, the insurance company is likely to cease paying TTD benefits to you. You may be entitled to some additional benefits if you have a permanent disability or impairment. However, it may take time for you or your attorney to obtain the medical records, prepare your claim or even get a trial date from the court. During this time, you may not be receiving any benefits. That’s the hardship MMI often brings to injured workers. Insurance companies know this. And, insurance companies often use this situation to their benefit when offering a settlement.
We regularly represent injured workers with workers’ compensation claims. We understand the process – including the hurdles that must be overcome to prepare your case fully.