If you’ve sustained serious injuries in a car accident, you may have heard the term “maximum medical improvement” from your doctor or lawyer. Maximum medical improvement is an important term when it comes to your injury recovery and your personal injury settlement, so it’s important to discuss it with your attorney before accepting an offer.
Defining Maximum Medical Improvement
Maximum medical improvement occurs when you have recovered from your car accident as much as you can. Many people think that this means the point at which you have fully recovered. In some cases, this is true—if you heal completely and regain full mobility, you have both fully recovered and reached maximum medical improvement. However, there are many scenarios in which maximum medical improvement does not mean a full recovery.
In some cases, you will never fully recover from your injuries. This may be minor; for example, if a broken bone doesn’t set completely correctly, you may have a slight loss of mobility for the rest of your life. As long as this does not keep you from working or engaging in daily activities, it’s likely just a minor annoyance.
On the other end of the scale, consider a serious traumatic brain injury. After months of treatment and various types of therapy, you may still be unable to manage your emotions or easily remember dates, places, or names. A TBI can also leave a victim unable to walk independently or engage in basic daily tasks. In this scenario, your maximum medical improvement would still leave you with serious deficiencies for the rest of your life.
When Will I Know I’ve Reached MMI?
Knowing when you’ve reached the point of maximum medical improvement is important, since it determines what type of care you’ll need for the rest of your life, how much medical debt you’ll need to pay off, and what deficiencies you’ll need to deal with moving forward.
This determination will come from at least one of your doctors. If your condition is serious and you see multiple specialists to manage the various aspects of your injuries, you may get input from several of them regarding when you’ve reached maximum medical improvement. The doctor will use a wide range of evidence and data to figure out when you have recovered as much as you can.
They may look at what your injury initially looked like and how far it has come during that time. They will likely also consider the various treatments that you have tried and whether or not they have had any impact on your recovery.
Additionally, they may consider whether or not there are any other treatments that are likely to have an effect on your recovery. If you have exhausted all treatment options, your healing has leveled off for a substantial amount of time, and you don’t seem to be making any progress naturally, they may decide that you have reached maximum medical improvement.
How MMI Affects Your Settlement
One of the main reasons MMI is so important is that it plays a big part in your settlement. Medical expenses are a big component of most personal injury settlements. If you have not yet fully recovered when you accept a settlement, you have no idea how much more medical expenses you will accrue while you heal.
If you have reached maximum medical improvement, you know how much money you need to cover your medical expenses. You’ll also know whether or not you will need any ongoing care moving forward and how to account for that in a settlement. Using the TBI example above, you’d likely need nursing care, adaptive equipment, and ongoing checkups to avoid further loss of mobility or emotional regulation.
This is one reason insurance companies push so hard for an early settlement. If they can get you to waive your right to sue early, they’ll be off the hook before you realize just how expensive your injury may be.
Of course, this is exactly why it’s important not to be swayed into accepting the first number that you’re offered. By waiting to accept a settlement until you have reached maximum medical improvement, you give yourself the best possible shot at getting the settlement you truly deserve.