The rules for work injuries in Illinois can be a bit confusing. There is terminology that you would not use in everyday life that is common to every case. The most important thing you can do for yourself is speak with a lawyer who can represent you and explain your rights and the way to get the most benefit you can. This is part of a series of explainers for you. Below, we explain some of the common terms, like medical max improvement (MMI).
When you sustain an injury in your place of work, workers’ compensation laws allow you to recover appropriate compensation for your injuries. However, in determining what is “appropriate,” and when deciding for how long you should receive benefits, medical providers and workers’ compensation managers will rely on whether you have reached a critical level: maximum medical improvement (MMI). If you are like most parties, you may not be familiar with the term and may have several questions regarding your case. Learn more about MMI and how it can impact your claim below.
Legally speaking, Maximum Medical Improvement, or MMI, is a “treatment plateau at which no fundamental, functional, or physiological change can be expected within reasonable medical probability in spite of continuing medical or rehabilitative procedures.” To be sure, MMI simply means that a person has reached a point at which his or her doctor does not believe that any change—either for the better or for the worse—will occur. When a medical provider declares MMI, they are essentially stating that the injured party will no longer require any treatment.
It is important to note that just because treatment is complete does not mean that benefits stop. A person can still receive support for medications, physical therapy, assistive devices and the like, but they will no longer require treatment for the injury directly.
Reaching the point of maximum medical improvement in your workers’ compensation claim can mean one of two things. MMI means that you are fully recovered or your injuries are such that the disability—or hindered function—will continue at approximately the same level of intensity for the foreseeable future.
If your doctor considers you fully recovered, your benefits will cease and you will return to work. However, if you are not fully recovered, and if your medical provider determines that no further improvement or healing can be attained, you will go onto the next step of your claim: the assessment.
The point of the assessment is to determine to what extent you are impaired. Impairment can be either permanent or temporary and partial or total. If you receive a permanent impairment rating, you may have the right to pursue more benefits for a longer period of time—possibly forever. Likewise, total disability ratings also result in more compensation for a longer period of time.
It is important to bear in mind that “impairment” and “disability,” while often used interchangeably by the general public, mean different things to workers’ compensation managers. “Impairment” refers to an issue that affects a person’s physical or neurological condition, whereas “disability” refers to limitations or restrictions a person’s injury places on their ability to complete tasks. This distinction makes a huge difference regarding if and for how long a person receives benefits.
For instance, a construction worker may sustain a permanent back injury. The workers’ compensation manager may consider his inability to haul lumber, climb a ladder, and use power tools a disability. Because he cannot perform the day-to-day functions of his job, he may receive more benefits for long-term. However, if the same person worked a desk job and injured his back, the workers’ compensation manager may classify the injury as an impairment. While he would still receive some benefits, they would be limited in both amount and duration, as he would still be able to perform the functions of his job.
If you or a loved one sustained an injury at work, there is no guarantee that you will receive workers’ compensation benefits. If you do, you may end up settling for less than what you deserve. To prevent this from happening, retain the help of a knowledgeable workers’ compensation lawyer and skilled negotiator. Contact Coogan Gallagher Law Firm in Chicago for a free consultation.