If you are suffering from a serious work-related illness or injury and are well into the workers' compensation claim process, you are likely beginning to wonder if you will ever be able to go back to your previous position at work. For some injuries, even months of treatment can do little to ease the pain experienced with everyday life, much less returning to your job. You should know that if you cannot return to your previous job due to your injuries, you may be deemed permanently disabled and be eligible for a settlement or lifetime benefits from workers' compensation. Read below for the steps needed to trigger a settlement offer.
1. Medical Expenses and Lost Wages
Your are likely already receiving a portion of your lost wages and full payment of all medical expenses. It's important to continue any medical treatments and comply with any prescriptions written, lab work and physical or mental therapy appointments. Unfortunately, your financial situation may be suffering as much as your physical condition, since you are only receiving a portion of your previous salary at this time.
2. IME (Independent Medical Exam)
The workers' compensation insurance company will likely order an IME once your injury treatment has begun, with the timing for this exam varying depending on the type of injury. For example, severe injuries where the outcome for recovery can be more readily predicted, such as an amputation injury, will normally trigger an immediate IME request. On the other hand, injuries that can take longer to heal, such as muscle strains, may not trigger an IME request for several months, since these types of injuries can often result in a return to full or part functionality for work in time.
The workers' comp insurance company will choose a doctor to conduct the exam (at no cost to you). The importance of this exam to your workers' comp claim cannot be overstated; the results of the exam can determine when, if ever, you may be able to return to work as well as the possibility of a permanent injury. Approach this exam with care, ensuring that you are polite and forthright about your injury and the ways it has impacted your life and your ability to work.
3. MMI (Maximum Medical Improvement)
One result of the IME might be a determination of MMI. This means that the IME doctor has ruled that your condition is not likely to show further improvement. Don't misunderstand this to mean that you don't need more medical treatment, but that your condition will not improve and may even worsen. The MMI ruling can be interpreted to mean that you, for workers' comp purposes, are suffering from a permanent disability.
Once you have been deemed at MMI, your monthly lost wages payments will end and be replaced by a settlement, which may be a monthly payment or a lump sum payment. The process of settlement negotiations can be stressful and tiresome, especially for those suffering from work-related injuries. Contact a workers' compensation attorney, like Locklin & Mordhorst, for help in getting you the settlement you need.