What Is Maximum Medical Improvement?

After you suffer an injury, your medical condition and health may change daily. On good days, you might experience difficulties only when engaging in certain activities or moving in a particular way. You may also have bad days where you struggle to do anything due to pain, limited range of movement, weakness, or other symptoms.

At some point, your condition will stabilize. Many injured people are fully healed with no remaining symptoms when this happens. However, some victims never regain their full physical, cognitive, and emotional health after an injury, suffering disabilities that affect them for the rest of their lives.

Definition of Maximum Medical Improvement

Definition of Maximum Medical Improvement

Maximum medical improvement is a legal term often applied to workers’ compensation cases. Under workers’ comp law, this term refers to the point where the injured worker’s medical condition is stable and unlikely to change within one year with or without medical treatment.

In other words, maximum medical improvement happens when doctors do not reasonably expect medical care, therapy, or additional recovery time to heal or improve the injuries.

For example, suppose that a worker loses part of their hand in a construction accident. Once the swelling goes down and the open wound heals, the worker’s condition will probably not improve much. The missing fingers will not regrow with any amount of surgery or therapy.

Maximum medical improvement can also apply to injuries that do not involve tissue loss. Thus, one of the ways doctors rate joint injuries is by the range of motion (ROM). If a worker tore an ACL in a slip and fall accident, their doctor will operate to rebuild it. Their physical therapist will then work with the patient to restore the knee’s ROM.

With normal progression, the worker should regain full ROM in six to 14 weeks after surgery. In some cases, function in the injured knee will plateau before reaching full ROM. At this point, a doctor may issue an expert opinion that the worker has reached maximum medical improvement.

Effect of Reaching Maximum Medical Improvement

When an injured worker reaches maximum medical improvement, the worker’s compensation insurer can calculate a permanent disability rating. Logically, a permanent disability happens when the condition will not heal or improve. This is the same definition as maximum medical improvement.

A permanent disability rating from a worker’s comp insurer determines the permanent disability benefits they will pay. This rating is based on the loss of function. Thus, the rating for a total loss of vision will result in higher payments than the rating for the loss of one eye.

If a worker has several permanent disabilities, their disability rating includes all of them. However, the formula used to calculate the overall rating uses complex calculations rather than simply adding the rating for each injury. When a worker’s disability rating reaches 100%, they are totally and permanently disabled.

Insurers pay permanent disability benefits weekly. They can also settle the claim by paying a lump sum rather than weekly payments. This settlement helps the worker by ensuring they have money to pay living expenses since they lost at least some of their ability to work. It also helps the insurer by ending the claim and releasing the insurer from any further payments.

Personal Injury Claims and Maximum Medical Improvement

The value of personal injury claims also depends on whether your injury is permanent or temporary. While liability insurers and personal injury lawyers do not necessarily use the term “maximum medical improvement,” the idea is the same.

Suppose that you suffer a brain injury in a car accident. The collision causes a cerebral contusion that kills some brain tissue. After the bleeding and swelling have subsided, you begin therapy. At some point, your doctor and therapist might agree that you have regained as much function as possible, according to their analysis.

This testimony could be critically important to your personal injury claim. It tells the at-fault party’s insurer that any residual disabilities are permanent. If the insurer obtains a conflicting opinion from an expert to dispute the prognosis, a jury may need to weigh the opinions against each other to deliver a verdict.

Again, a permanent injury will justify greater compensation than a temporary one. In a personal injury claim, you can pursue compensation for both economic and non-economic losses. Y

our economic losses include the following:

All of these economic losses will be higher if you cannot recover from your injuries. For example, a jury calculates income losses over the months or years you need to recover from a temporary injury. But for a permanent injury, a jury will add up all your lost wages over the remaining decades of your life.

Learn More About Compensation For Permanent Injuries

Maximum medical improvement is an important milestone in your recovery. When you reach this stage, you and the other party have enough information to put a value on your injury-related losses. Contact a lawyer to learn how maximum medical improvement applies to your permanent injuries.

Schedule a Free Consultation With Our San Diego Personal Injury Lawyers

Were you injured in an accident? We want to help. Call Mission Personal Injury Lawyers at (619) 777-5555 to schedule a free case evaluation with one of our experienced San Diego worker’s compensation attorneys.