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The Hidden Cost: Maximum Medical Improvement

Getting injured while on the job, especially if the injury is serious, can be nightmarish for many people. One of the single, biggest crises that comes from such an incident is that you are no longer able to work and you require medical treatment. This is a horrible double whammy for most working-class Americans, since it signals the stop of a salary, as well as the need for financing to pay for whatever medical treatments may be required as well as any potential recovery afterwards.

In some cases, especially if you’re not at fault, and you’re working with a good workers comp lawyer, you can seek workers compensation. People fortunate enough to be in this situation have an experienced legal expert working on their behalf, proving that the injury was the result of someone else’s negligence on the job, and so it is up to the place of employment and/or their insurance company to provide financial workers compensation.

But even in cases such as this where the court recognizes a claim, and financing is secured, is that the end of the story? Not always, and the developments that come in the future can be an unpleasant surprise for someone that is not fully prepared to deal with how the law and insurance companies interpret a person’s recovery.

One of these areas that is not well understood until someone experiences it personally is a legal condition known as “maximum medical improvement” and we’re going to take a closer look at it now.

The Nature Of Permanent Injuries

If an incident at the workplace results in a permanent injury, this is going to have a direct impact on the victim and the way they are going to live their life going forward. If that injury is the result of negligence on someone else’s part, such as management, or some other, third party, then it’s natural to seek workers compensation. That compensation will, of course, go towards lost wages and medical treatment.

However, this is where a lot of people can have some misconceptions about just how far workers compensation goes. Medical treatment for a permanent injury will attempt to repair as much of the damage sustained as possible, but depending on the type of injury, there’s only so much that can be done. An amputation, or a serious spinal injury, for example, will mean a loss of a limb and possibly a permanent decline in mobility.

While you are out of work and recovering, if you’ve successfully gained workers compensation, you’ll be getting checks. Then, one day, even though you’re not 100%, the checks stop. And they’re not coming again. What happened? You’ve hit what is called maximum medical improvement.

As Good As It Gets

Maximum medical improvement is the “point of no return” for workers compensation. This doesn’t mean that you are back to the way that you were before, and are ready to resume your life exactly as it was. It means that medically, workers compensation has deemed that you have recovered as much as you are likely to. In other words, you’re not going to get any worse, and it’s not realistic to think your condition will improve.

Once maximum medical improvement has been attained, whatever checks you are receiving from workers compensation will stop. Even if your injury no longer allows you to resume the job you once had, if you are still able to work, workers compensation no longer has an obligation to support you.

This is an unexpected outcome for many, who mistakenly believe that workers compensation means 100% compensation for any income you’ve lost now and in the future. Workers compensation is often tied to your treatment and recovery period and after that, you’re on your own. Workers compensation is not concerned with your ability to resume your past work, so much as your ability to work at all.

This means that even if you had a job that had you driving out to an industrial site for a highly skilled, fulltime job that paid you $40 an hour, and are now, due to injuries, restricted to a part-time, minimum wage job near where you live, workers comp doesn’t care about that. Maximum medical improvement has already determined you’ve reached the optimal stage of your recovery, and releases itself of any financial obligations to you.

It’s for reasons like this, and many others, that if you should sustain injuries at your workplace through no fault of your own, get help. Seek out the advice of an experienced workers compensation lawyer, and find out exactly what your situation is, what your options are and, perhaps most important of all, find out what your future holds in terms of recovery, finances, and compensation owed. Don’t get caught by surprise with the way workers compensation operates. Inform and prepare yourself for what is to come with good legal guidance.