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What is Maximum Medical Improvement?

DBA lawyer Brian Wiklendt explains MMII’m Brian Wiklendt lead counsel with Garfinkel Schwartz. I just wanted to talk to you a little bit about the term MMI and what is Maximum Medical Improvement?

What doesMaximum Medical improvement mean in a Defense Base Act or a longshore case? I’ll walk you through it so you can understand it better.

I’ll address it because I’ve had a lot of clients and potential clients calling me wondering what MMI means.

Maximum Medical Improvement

What exactly is MMI or Maximum Medical improvement?

There is a differing opinion as to what MMI really really means. And the insurance company and I obviously differ greatly in opinion as to what MMI is. I’ll just give you an example as to what kinds of things that I get on the phone.

Example No. 1 of MMI

“Hello. I was placed at MMI and the insurance company cut me off because they say I’m at MMI and that I can go back to work, but I don’t think I can go back to work because I’m still in terrible pain.”

Why the Insurance Company Places You on MMI

Why that happens is the insurance company places you on MMI because the insurance company has kind of interpreted MMI–meaning Maximum Medical Improvement–to mean that you’re OK. You’re done. You’re at maximum medical improvement. You don’t need any more treatment and a lot of adjusters who are not doctors and are not lawyers either tend to use that term to try to get people to go back to work.

MMI = Treatment With THAT Doctor is Complete

Well that’s not what that means. MMI doesn’t mean your treatment is finished and you can go back to work. What MMI means is there’s nothing else that a particular physician can think of to do that’s going to make you any better.

MMI Example No. 2

Let me give another example. I had a client that suffers from PTSD. He also broke his tailbone and has a lower back injury. He also had a leg injury but I’ll just focus on two.

Well the insurance company cut him off because his orthopedic surgeon said he’s at MMI. Well all that means is the surgeon is basically saying that I can’t think of anything more to help this person. He’s at maximum medical improvement but they don’t say on an orthopedic standpoint.

The only thing that that doctor can testify to in court is anything orthopedically wrong with my client. Nothing else. They use that and say, “hey he can go back to work. He’s fine now.”

Well no. That’s not true. The only reason he’s at MMI maximum medical improvement is because there’s no surgery that can be recommended to help his cracked tailbone from this doctor.

Surgeries Are Done, Not Ongoing Health Care

This client he’s going to have to live with that. There’s no direct surgery that can be done. He’s already gone through all the conservative therapies in terms of physical therapy, epidural injections, all that kind of stuff and the doctor just put up his hands and said there’s nothing more I can do for this gentleman.

That doesn’t mean he’s still not in terrible pain and he’s going to need pain management for the rest of his life and he’s going to need injections basically on and off. He’s going to need a TENS unit.

Don’t Panic, Health Care Doesn’t Have to Stop

These things are not necessarily medical in nature in terms of having to do surgery and other manipulations of your body but it certainly isn’t a fact that, “oh I’m at MMI, that means I’m OK.” And that’s the difference that we have in terms of that definition.

Now in terms of that client you’d wonder, “OK, well he’s at MMI orthopedically. He’s OK.”

Well what about his PTSD? He was off work because of his PTSD as well and there’s no MMI for that. He’s still being treated for that by a psychiatrist.

MMI is a Very Tricky Term

So it’s a very tricky term and a lot of people don’t understand and they just accept the insurance company’s definition of what MMI is and you should not do that and you should definitely hire or talk to an attorney that can understand what the claimant’s definition of MMI should be and it’s not OK you can go back to work. That’s just not what that means.

I hope this helps and again I hope I clarified that issue for you.