If you have ever been part of a lawsuit or involved in the legal system, you know that the law has a language and vocabulary of its own. You might hear lawyers speaking of “equal protection,” “proximate cause,” or “due process,” just to name a few. This usage of terms of art is really no different than most other industries.
But while some legal concepts can be very complex, others are not that difficult to understand – they just require a little explanation. In this article, we will discuss a concept that is frequently discussed in the context of personal injury litigation – “maximum medical improvement” – and how it can affect a personal injury claim.
What Does “Maximum Medical Improvement” Mean?
Some people think that “maximum medical improvement” (often referred to as “MMI”) means that a patient or injured person has been completely healed.
That is not necessarily true. MMI is the term used to identify the point at which a person will not recover any further, even with additional medical treatment.
Those who are lucky they will completely heal after sustaining injuries. For others, they might improve to a certain point, but never return to the level of health they enjoyed before the injury occurred.
Example of Maximum Medical Improvement
To better understand the concept, let’s take a look at an example. Assume that Sara is a 55 year-old woman who is injured in a car accident when another driver negligently runs a red light and smashes into Sara’s car. Sara suffers extensive injuries, including a shattered femur in her leg, a broken arm, and many cuts and bruises. She receives excellent care in the emergency room, but her femur requires extensive surgery. She follows up with her doctors for continuing treatment, as recommended.
Sara’s arm and her cuts and bruises heal well. However, her leg is problematic. She attends rehabilitation therapy, but still limps, feels intermittent pain, and must sit down and rest more frequently than before. Her doctors tell her that she has reached maximum medical improvement – in other words, there is nothing further they can do for her. Essentially, Sara has learned that her leg will never be the same as it was before the accident.
How Does MMI Affect a Personal Injury Case?
MMI is a concept frequently heard in worker’s compensation cases, but it also can play an important role in personal injury litigation. A person injured due to the negligence of another is entitled to be made whole under our legal system. That includes recovery for the loss of use of body parts, for future medical costs, and pain and suffering. It is only fair that Sara, from our example above, recover fully within the context of the fact that her leg will no longer function as well as it once did.
The concept of MMI can also affect the timing of a personal injury case. Although people typically want to put litigation behind them, sometimes it makes sense to be patient. By waiting until one reaches MMI before settling or going to trial, it is possible to have a fuller understanding of one’s condition so that the case can be properly valued.
For example, what if Sara’s leg injury ultimately prevents her from returning to a job that requires her to stand for long periods of time? She would then have additional lost wages for which she is entitled to recover. It is sometimes necessary to give doctors the time they need to make a final determination of a patient’s condition.
Call with Questions
If you have been injured in a car wreck or other accident, we are here to answer any questions that you have. The experienced personal injury attorneys at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield handle these types of cases all over Oregon. And if you fear that you have not fully recovered, we can work with your doctors to understand whether you have reached maximum medical improvement and/or will have permanent disability or impairment. We believe it is important to hold negligent parties accountable for their actions so that society will be safer for everyone. Give us a call for a free consultation.