Maximum medical improvement (MMI) refers to the point in medical treatment beyond which an injured person is not expected to get any better with further medical care.
Maximum medical improvement is an important concept in every personal injury claim. However, this does not mean that medical treatment stops after you have attained MMI. You may still require medical treatment to maintain your current health status. Here are a few examples:
Imagine a man suffers a back injury in a car accident, which causes him intense pain. He cannot sit, stand, or walk even for a short period. The doctors decide to perform back fusion surgery. A few months after the surgery, he can move around but still experiences pain. The doctors determine that he would still likely feel this pain even if they perform another surgery on him. So, they decide to put him on pain medications and physical therapy for the long term. Even though he has reached Maximum Medical Improvement, he is still not completely healthy and will need ongoing medical treatment. In other words, MMI is a point after which there is no further recovery.
Why is MMI an important concept?
MMI is an important concept in any personal injury case as it allows the injured person’s lawyer to predict future damages, including medical expenses, wage loss, and pain and suffering. It is difficult to calculate the amount of compensation to pursue unless the injured person has reached MMI. For example, in the case above, no one could have predicted that the pain would remain even after surgery and that he would need to take medications and physical therapy for the rest of his life.
When a patient reaches MMI, the doctor may assign a permanent disability rating, which is a percentage that represents the reduced functioning of the body. The doctor would give two impairment ratings, one for the injured body part and the other for the whole body. For example, suppose you have suffered a permanent disability due to a leg injury. The doctor may give a 20 percent rating to the affected leg and an 8 percent rating to the whole body. If multiple body parts were injured, each would generally be assigned a different impairment rating.
It is important to note that the doctor and not your attorney assigns an impairment rating.
Even after you have reached MMI, it does not mean that your condition cannot worsen. If you have developed a progressive condition such as arthritis, it can worsen over time. When making a claim you should take all these factors into account to arrive at a fair value.
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