What Is Maximum Medical Improvement?
When discussing a workers’ compensation claim, maximum medical improvement (MMI) is the point at which a covered injury or illness is unlikely to improve with or without further medical treatment. Generally, when you reach maximum medical improvement, you have healed as much as your doctor expects you to heal from a workplace injury. What happens to your workers’ compensation benefits after MMI depends on your impairment rating and your doctor’s prognosis.
Returning to Work After Maximum Medical Improvement
You may make a full recovery from a work-related injury. If so, your doctor should release you to return to work. However, some workers sustain permanent impairment because of their injuries. When you have not entirely healed from a work injury, your doctor must evaluate your level of performance.
For example, you might be able to return to work, but your impairment prevents you from working full time, or you may be unable to perform all of your work duties. In that case, your employer might transfer you to a lower-paying job or cut your hours to accommodate the restrictions imposed by your doctor.
Your doctor should complete a complete evaluation of your mental and physical condition to assign an MMI disability rating. The impairment rating is between 0 and 100, with zero being no impairments and 100 being total disability.
Doctors must use the Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent to determine impairment ratings. The American Medical Association publishes and updates the guide.
How Does Maximum Medical Improvement Impact Workers’ Compensation?
You are expected to return to your normal work duties if your MMI rating is zero. Therefore, any temporary disability payments would cease. However, if you have an MMI rating above zero, the effect on your workers’ compensation claim depends on the MMI rating and your job duties.
If your impairment prevents you from performing any activities at work, you continue to receive Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits. TTD benefits may be paid up to 400 weeks under Georgia workers’ compensation law. The amount of your TTD payments equals two-thirds of your average weekly wages before the injury.
On the other hand, if your doctor states that you can return to work with reduced hours or modified job duties, you can receive Temporary Partial Disability (TPD) benefits. You can receive TPD benefits up to 350 weeks after injury. The amount of TPD is two-thirds of the difference between your average weekly wages before the injury and what you can earn now.
After your temporary disability benefits expire, you can apply for permanent disability benefits. The type and extent of your permanent disability determine the weekly benefits you are entitled to receive.
Total and Partial Permanent Disability Payments Under Workers’ Compensation in Georgia
Your impairment rating and the type of injury determine the duration of permanent disability payments. Georgia’s workers’ compensation laws set the provisions for benefits. The amount of your weekly benefits is the same as they are for temporary benefits (2/3 of your average weekly wages).
For example, a 100 percent impairment rating for your hand entitles you to 160 weeks of permanent partial disability benefits. As of July 1, 2022, the maximum weekly benefit is $725 (the amount is adjusted periodically for inflation).
However, if your doctor assigns a 20% impairment rating for your hand, you are entitled to 32 weeks of benefits. That figure is based on 20% of 160 weeks.
What happens if you are totally disabled and cannot work? If you sustain a catastrophic injury, temporary total disability benefits are not limited to 400 weeks. The benefits would be unlimited.
A catastrophic injury includes losing vision in both eyes. It also includes losing both arms, hands, legs, or feet (or any combination of two of these body parts). The workers’ comp insurance company will try to avoid paying permanent today disability payments. It might send you to another physician for a medical examination.
If you are totally disabled because of a work-related accident, it is important to consult with a workers’ compensation lawyer as soon as possible.
Should I Consult an Atlanta Workers’ Compensation Attorney Before Settling a Workers’ Comp Claim?
The insurance company might offer a lump sum settlement. Before accepting the settlement offer, talk to an Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer. An attorney can evaluate whether it is better for you to receive weekly benefits or accept the lump sum settlement.
A lawyer explains your legal rights and reviews the settlement offer to ensure you receive the amount you are entitled to receive by law. Depending on the circumstances, you might want to seek a second opinion if the impairment rating appears too low for your current physical condition.
Schedule a Free Consultation With an Atlanta Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
The insurance company and your employer may try to force you back to work early or refuse to compensate you for permanent impairment. Contact our Atlanta workers’ compensation attorneys Hasner Law, PC for a free consultation to discuss your legal options at (678) 888-4878.