Maximum medical improvement, or MMI, is a fundamental concept in workers’ compensation law in Missouri. It is the point where the victim’s workplace injuries have stabilized and will not improve any more. Once MMI has been reached, workers’ compensation benefits shift from medical care and temporary disability benefits to permanent disability benefits.
What is Maximum Medical Improvement in Missouri?
According to Missouri Statute 287.020(12), MMI is defined as “the point at which the injured employee’s medical condition has stabilized and can no longer reasonably improve with additional medical care, as determined within a reasonable degree of medical certainty.”
This definition is new: It only went into effect on August 28, 2017, with the passage of Senate Bill 66, which clarified several parts of workers’ compensation law surrounding MMI.
Basically, victims of workplace accidents reach MMI when their treating physician – typically the one chosen by the employer – points to the injury and says, “We’ve done all that we can do.”
It is still possible that injuries get better after MMI has been reached. However, any progress is due to the passage of time, rather than to medical treatment.
What Changes at MMI?
The point where the victim reaches MMI is an important one for their workers’ compensation benefits and their recovery.
Before reaching MMI, accident victims receive employer-provided medical care to treat their workplace injuries, as well as temporary total or temporary partial disability benefits. Under Missouri Statute 287.149, though, these temporary disability benefits end when the worker reaches MMI.
After reaching MMI, the victim will pivot into receiving permanent disability benefits. According to Missouri Statute 287.170, workers who have reached MMI but cannot return to work can continue to receive temporary total disability benefits for up to 400 weeks, or more than 7 years.
Both temporary and permanent disability benefits are the same for wage loss: Both cover two-thirds of the worker’s average weekly pay from before the accident, capped at 105 percent of Missouri’s average weekly wage. However, workers have to apply for permanent benefits after their temporary ones expire or end thanks to MMI.
Can I Get My Own Doctor’s Opinion?
Because MMI is such a pivotal moment in a workers’ compensation case, it is important that it is generally a decision made by the employer’s doctor of choice. Under Missouri Statute 287.390(7), if the victim is receiving a compromise settlement, he or she can challenge the permanent disability rating set by their employer’s physician by getting one from another doctor within 12 months. If the initial disability rating seemed low, this becomes an extremely important option.
Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at the Smith Law Office
The personal injury and workers’ compensation lawyers at the Smith Law Office strive to legally represent injured workers in St. Joseph, Kansas City, Springfield, and the rest of western Missouri recover the compensation that they need and deserve to make a full recovery. Contact them online or call their law office at (816) 875-9373.