Understanding Maximum Medical Improvement as applied to Injured Workers

Why does work comp have to be so confusing? Injured workers hear terms like maximum medical improvement or “MMI” and have no idea what this really means in terms of their work comp benefits, ability to return to work, or access to ongoing medical treatment. In a Florida work comp case, an injured worker receives medical treatment from the doctor chosen by the insurance company until that doctor decides the worker has received all the medical care needed to improve from the work injury. If the injured worker is completely healed at that point, there is no real issue with the worker going back to work full duty. But, many times the injured worker is continuing to experience ongoing medical problems and limitations when this insurance company chosen doctor says “MMI” has been reached. So, what does “MMI” mean in these situations?

First, being placed at “MMI” by your doctor does not necessarily mean your medical treatment has come to an end. (Insurance company chosen doctors, nurse case managers, or adjusters have tried to convince some of our clients of this!) Florida law provides injured workers with a right to medical care as long as the work injury remains the major cause of the need for treatment. However, if you have truly reach “MMI”, this would mean the medical treatment you receive is no longer expected to make your conditions significantly better or improve your ability to function. Treatment following “MMI” will be considered palliative in nature. In other words, rather than trying to bring about some additional permanent improvement in the condition, it is recognized that the injured worker has plateaued with getting better, and unfortunately, the work injury has caused a permanent problem of some sort. The doctor is essentially saying, “You have recovered as well as can be expected.”

Medical care for the work injury is then directed at helping the injured worker control pain or other permanent symptoms associated with the work injury and maintain the current level of functioning and overall quality of life. Doctors will also need to address what physical limitations are reasonable at this point so the injured worker can make decisions about safely returning to work and, if needed, assign a permanent impairment rating to the work injury. (For more detailed information about permanent impairment ratings, see the discussion located at www.lexisnexis.com).

Usually, palliative type medical treatment is provided by pain management doctors, but may be received from a neurologist, family doctor, or any other doctor comfortable with managing symptoms over the long term. If you are an injured worker that has been told you are at “MMI”, but are still experiencing problems with injuries you feel have not been properly addressed by your insurance company chosen doctor, there may be an opportunity to get another medical opinion. Injured workers deserve a fair assessment of their injury and an opportunity to received treatment that will help them heal as much as possible. The work comp attorneys of Syfrett, Dykes & Furr will do our best to help our clients find a doctor that is not biased in favor of the insurance company. This is crucial to helping our clients get back to work so they can keep their jobs and continue to support themselves and their families. If you need more information about whether you are really at “MMI” and what this means to you, call Syfrett, Dykes & Furr at {F:P:Site:Phone}. We want you to have the right information about your work comp rights.

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