It is common for workers and their families to come across many terms and concepts that they are not familiar with in the process of seeking or reviewing their workers’ compensation benefits. One of the terms that is frequently heard in these cases is “maximum medical improvement” (MMI).
Understanding the basics of these terms can help injured workers better comprehend how their benefits work as well as their rights under Maryland law.
So, what does MMI mean?
When an injured worker reaches the maximum medical improvement, they have essentially recovered to the fullest extent. This can generally mean one of two things:
- The worker healed fully and reached their pre-injury status; or,
- The worker is not fully healed, but further medical treatment will not improve their condition
When an injured worker reaches MMI, the following should ultimately be determined:
- The worker’s capabilities
- Any work restrictions
- Any permanent impairment (to be conducted based on Maryland law.)
For example, suffering a fall on a construction site could result in a broken arm. After the injured worker receives medical care, there may come a point where additional surgery or physical therapy may not improve the worker’s condition. At that juncture, the worker has reached MMI.
How does reaching MMI affect workers’ compensation benefits?
When workers reach MMI, they will generally stop receiving the temporary total disability benefits they earned while seeking treatment as it will end the treatment or “healing” period.
However, that does not mean they cannot receive other benefits. If an injured worker can still not return to their old employment, they may be entitled to Vocational Rehabilitation. Once the injured worker has reached MMI, returned to either their old employment or found new employment, they may be entitled to compensation for any permanent injury that resulted from the work-place accident.
The circumstance the finding of MMI is most contested is when a treating physician indicates that an injured worker requires more treatment – and not at MMI – and when an independent medical examiner on behalf of the Employer/Insurer feels otherwise and opines that the injured worker requires no additional treatment – MMI. When this circumstance arises, it is critical for an injured worker to have counsel to help explain the circumstances and options the injured worker has. Most importantly, should additional treatment be necessary, despite the Employer/Insurer’s view, an attorney can request a hearing and seek a finding by the Worker’s Compensation Commission that additional medical remains necessary.