Maximum medical improvement (MMI) is the term used when an injury is not expected to get better even if treatment continues. In Illinois, employees are entitled to medical treatment and wage loss benefits after a workplace injury during the period of medical recovery. If an employee reaches MMI but is still suffering from the effects of the injury, he or she may be entitled to continue receiving workers' compensation benefits.
How Maximum Medical Improvement Affects a Work Injury Claim
When determining MMI, the treating physician should exhaust all potential treatment options and consider the effects of any additional treatment (including surgery). The treating physician’s medical opinion during the period of MMI should consider your:
- Work restrictions. The treating physician may perform functional capacity testing to determine whether the employee has any restrictions that can make it difficult to perform certain types of work. Typical restrictions may include an inability to lift heavy objects, sit for long periods, or perform physical actions without pain or fatigue (such as bending or kneeling). Once the doctor has assigned these work restrictions, your employer must decide whether to accommodate the restrictions by implementing assistive devices or transitioning you into a different position within the company.
- Permanent disability benefits. Employees who are unable to perform any type of work may be entitled to permanent total disability benefits, while those who can perform limited work may be entitled to permanent partial disability benefits. Partial disability benefits can be used to make up the difference between the employee’s pre- and post-injury wages, as well as pay for vocational retraining so the employee can enter another career path.
- Future impairment. While MMI means the injury is not expected to improve, it does not mean the condition could not get worse. The physician should carefully consider whether the injury could cause future disability or hardship for the patient, as well as treatment recommendations for known complications. For example, doctors may recommend joint replacement surgery for a knee injury if the patient is unable to bear weight on the knee in the future.
If you suffered a work injury in Illinois, our workers’ compensation attorneys can help you maximize the amount of available benefits. Contact Tapella & Eberspacher today at (217) 394-5885 or fill out our online contact form to schedule your free consultation.