What Does Maximum Medical Improvement Mean? 

 October 12, 2016

By  LMW Attorneys

In cases involving personal injury, there comes a time when the injured party’s condition will no longer improve. While this could mean that the injured party has healed completely, more commonly, it means that the person has reached a plateau of healing and will no longer gain any health improvement. When a person reaches this point, he or she is said to have reached “maximum medical improvement,” or MMI.

Examples of Medical Maximum Improvement

Let’s say an individual suffers a herniated disc during a car accident. Through physical therapy and surgery, the person alleviates the resulting partial paralysis but is unsuccessful at mitigating all of the pain. The person’s doctor decides that further surgery poses too large of a risk and prescribes pain medication. MMI applies to the scenario because the individual will never be free of pain.

Another person falls and tears a rotator cuff breaking that fall. The person performs all of the necessary exercises and takes all prescribed medications yet still does not improve. The doctor takes another X-ray and determines that excessive scar tissue is interfering with the person’s healing after surgery. The doctor further determines that a second operation will clear up the problem. Because there is another treatment that will be effective, MMI does not apply.

Why Is MMI Crucial Regarding Personal Injury Law?

When a lawyer works with a client to determine possible financial losses related to the client’s injury, he or she must factor in any relevant elements that will affect the client’s ability to earn money and support him or herself in the future. If there is permanent impairment, the date of MMI pinpoints the exact time after which the client is no longer able to work or function. More important, the concept of MMI acts as proof of the injury and supports the client’s case.

Are There Different Levels of Impairment?

Yes, there are different levels of impairment. Generally, the doctor who determines when a person has reached MMI assigns a level of impairment as a percentage. For example, the person who suffered a herniated disc in the example above might be 75 percent impaired because of the pain. This, in turn, affects any settlement or jury award that someone will receive in compensation. If the parties involved estimate the person’s loss at $100,000 were the person’s impairment 100 percent, then the award or settlement in the aforementioned, hypothetical case would be $75,000.

In addition, just because someone will no longer improve does not mean that that person’s condition will not progress in the future. For this reason, many personal injury case settlements and judgments include clauses that apply should the injured party’s condition worsen as a direct result circumstances relating to the original injury. According to the Workers’ Compensation Institute, “The employer may be liable to pay for the medical expense related to the compensable injury throughout the injured worker’s lifetime.” It would be very wise for an injured party to discuss this situation and all other pertinent information with a personal injury lawyer.

The Professionals at Laporte, Mulligan & Werner-Watkins Can Help

There are many specific factors that contribute to these sorts of maximum medical improvement situations. Contact the team at Laporte, Mulligan & Werner-Watkins phone or online to get the advice and representation you need to make informed decisions about your case.