Maximum Medical Improvement and Your New Mexico Personal Injury Settlement
Maximum Medical Improvement, commonly referred to as MMI, is a term frequently used in personal injury cases. Maximum Medical Improvement refers to the point in your medical treatment when your doctor determines that further medical treatment will not improve your condition.
MMI is therefore, an indicator of the permanency of your injuries. While there may be slight improvements in your condition, it is not expected that further treatment will result in any significant improvements.
Reaching MMI, however, does not necessarily mean that your medical care is complete. Many people require ongoing treatment and medical expenses related thereto, including physical therapy, pain management, or the need for assistive devices in order to maintain their current health and ability to function.
Reaching MMI also does not mean that your condition will not get worse. Many injuries can lead to secondary injuries or conditions. For instance, in many cases the development of arthritis in an injured body part is common. When this happens you may experience a worsening in pain or a loss in ability to perform certain physical activities. Once you have reached MMI your doctor will be best able to determine whether your condition may worsen and the need for future medical care.
Let‘s look at an example. Say you are injured in a car accident and suffer an injury to a disc in your back. This type of injury is painful and in many cases can cause numbness in your legs. After having surgery to repair the disc, the numbness in your legs improves but you continue to suffer from pain. After undergoing physical therapy and follow up care with your doctor your pain persists. At this point, perhaps six months or a year after your injury, your doctor may conclude that additional surgery would not provide any further benefit and your condition is not likely to improve.
In this situation, your doctor may conclude that you have reached maximum medical improvement. While your condition is not expected to improve your medical care is not complete. You will require continued pain management, which may include pain medication and a regime of exercise. But at this point your doctor is in a position to better evaluate your condition, how it will impact your life, and the need for future medical care.
Keep in mind that in most cases the insurance company will also have you examined by a doctor they hire to evaluate your injuries and testify as an expert witness. These doctors will generally testify that you reached MMI shortly after your accident and that medical bills related to the accident should be cut off at that point.
For this reason when you reach MMI there are several things that your doctor should evaluate and include in his/her medical report. A complete medical report including all of the following will ensure that you receive the full compensation for your injuries.
- Impairment rating, this is a rating reflecting the percentage of disability for injury. There may be full or partial as well as temporary or permanent impairment ratings. In addition, there may be a rating for individual body parts or organs.
- Work restrictions, specifically setting forth what you can and cannot do and whether you can continue in your present occupation or must seek new a new occupation. (Note that if your injuries require you to change occupations you may also need to have a separate evaluation to determine whether additional education or training is necessary for you to return to the work force.)
- Future medical care, including the types of treatment you are expected to need and the cost of such care.
Keep in mind that reaching maximum medical improvement can take time depending on the severity of your injuries. Injuries to several parts of your body will heal at different rates and you will reach MMI for your various injuries at different times. It is important to be sure that you have recovered from all your injuries before being declared to have reached maximum medical improvement.
In short, reaching MMI allows your doctor to predict your future damages, including future medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Until you have reached MMI and your damages have been properly evaluated it is nearly impossible to reach a fair settlement or jury verdict for your claim. An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to discuss these issues with you as your case progresses.
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