For a workers’ compensation patient in North Carolina, the term “MMI” seems significant. MMI stands for Maximum Medical Improvement. So why is it such a big deal?
- Mission Accomplished
The North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act was created to achieve one major goal: to heal sick or injured workers so they can return to work. The insurer must provide medical treatment relating to the compensable condition while that treatment either cures, reduces pain, or helps the worker return to work. When a doctor declares an employee to have reached MMI, it means the worker has reached the end of the healing period, the medical condition has become stable, and it is unlikely that the worker will continue to improve physically. Of course, this does not mean the patient is 100% better; many injured workers will always have some degree of disability or pain due to their accident, even after reaching MMI.
- Time to Choose
When a doctor declares that the injured worker has healed as much as he or she ever will (i.e., that the patient’s condition is unlikely to improve in the future), then the MMI note is written. Usually the doctor also assigns the worker with a disability rating, known as a PPD (Permament Partial Disability) rating. For example, a doctor may assign a worker with a 5 percent PPD rating to the leg, or a 20 percent PPD rating to the shoulder. At this point, the injured worker will get to choose how to proceed:
- Option 1: Receive a payment associated with the PPD rating
- Option 2: Request a second opinion from a different doctor in hopes of increasing the PPD rating, tweaking the job restrictions, or receiving recommendations for more treatment
- Option 3: Consider final settlement of the whole claim
- Option 4: Begin looking for work
Each option carries serious legal repercussions and should not be made without the input of a workers’ compensation attorney.
- Chance to Move Forward
For many workers, an emotional turning point takes place at MMI. Often, the injured worker is pleased to finally receive permanent restrictions so that he or she can begin searching for suitable employment. In other cases, the worker knows that returning to work is not an option and may consider closing the case by settlement.
Regardless of the option chosen, most injured workers feel relief to reach this point in the claim. A workers’ compensation injury or illness can cause financial devastation to struggling families, so many injured workers, especially primary breadwinners, suffer emotionally when they can no longer provide for their families. Many workers see the MMI declaration as a signal to put their workers’ compensation claim behind them and move on.
- Opportunity for Continued Care
The good news about MMI is that it does not necessarily end the workers’ compensation case. Depending on the option the worker selects, many workers continue to receive related medical care and even disability benefits for years after reaching MMI. Treatment may include pain management, regular check-ups, and even surgery or more invasive care.
Sick or injured workers face important decisions when they reach MMI. The board-certified workers’ compensation specialists at Ricci Law Firm can guide patients through this important phase of their case.
Workers’ Compensation Lawyer serving Greenville and Raleigh
I am a longtime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum.
Founder of the leading personal injury website: http://www.riccilawnc.com/personal-injury/