What is Maximum Medical Improvement and What Does it Mean for My Case?
What exactly is maximum medical improvement? If you get injured on the job, there’s a good chance that you’ll be entitled to workers compensation benefits. In North Carolina, as long as you meet the basic requirements for workers comp, you’ll receive two main types of benefits. The first type of benefit is insurance coverage for any medical treatment you need in relation to your workplace accident. The second type of benefit you’ll receive are weekly replacement wages for the time you’re out of work recuperating. You don’t receive your full pay, but your weekly benefits checks will not be taxed either. As long as you’re honest with your Charlotte workers comp lawyer, they should be able to ensure that you don’t return to work until you’re fully healed. The problem arises when your workers compensation doctor argues that you’ve reached maximum medical improvement, but you don’t agree.
Here, we will discuss what your options are in this situation. We will explain what maximum medical improvement is and how it applies to your case. We will also discuss the fact that you’re entitled to get a second opinion as well. Finally, we will briefly touch on the other ways in which your workers compensation benefits can come to an end in Charlotte, North Carolina.
You Can’t Collect Workers Compensation Benefits Forever
For some reason, some of our newer clients look at workers compensation almost as if it’s a paid vacation. True, you do not have to work while you’re receiving medical care for your workplace injuries. Secondly, you are technically being paid for this time, although it’s at a much lower rate than normal. But at some point, you will have to go back to work. This will happen when one of three things occurs:
- the most common way that workers compensation benefits end is when your doctor declares that you have reached maximum medical improvement
- the second way that your benefits may end is if your injuries are permanent and your Charlotte workers comp lawyer negotiates a settlement on your behalf
- finally, in very rare instances, your benefits will terminate when you have exhausted the maximum number of weeks of benefits allowed in the State of North Carolina
If anyone has ever told you that you can collect workers compensation benefits for life, they were wrong. While there is always a chance that you can apply for and get approved for disability, this is a lot harder to do than you may think. In fact, on average, more than 70% of first-time disability applicants in the United States are denied. Chances are, if your workers compensation doctor has already determined that you have reached maximum medical improvement, most Charlotte injury lawyers would not feel that you had a valid claim for damages.
At Some Point, Your Doctor is Going to Say You Don’t Need Further Treatment
For most of our clients, the day that the workers compensation doctor clears them to return to work is a happy occasion. They’re tired of sitting home bored while most other people they know are at work. Many other people feel guilty sitting at home collecting workers compensation benefits and are eager to go back to work.
Of course, if you ask anybody if they would enjoy two weeks off of work and still get paid 2/3 of your average wages, they would probably be thrilled. However, beyond that, it can become very boring sitting at home watching reruns of terrible television while all of your friends and families or at their own jobs. Once they reach their maximum medical improvement, they want to be active breadwinners again.
Your Charlotte Workers Comp Lawyer Can Demand a Second Opinion
When your doctor determines that you’ve reached maximum medical improvement, you will be expected to return to work. This term – maximum medical improvement – simply means that there is no further medical treatment your doctor can offer you that will assist in your recovery. Another way of saying this is that there’s nothing left that your doctor could do that will make you feel any better.
If you disagree with the doctor, make sure that your Charlotte workers comp lawyer knows. They can arrange for a second opinion from an independent doctor who does not work for the state. If the second doctor agrees with your original workers comp doctor on the maximum medical improvement, you won’t have any choice but to return to the job. If, however, the second opinion reveals that you need additional time to heal, your Charlotte injury lawyer will try to convince the insurance company and your employer to extend your benefits for that given period.
Your Lawyer Will Do Their Best to Ensure You Aren’t Forced to Go Back to Work Too Soon
Depending on the type of injury you suffered at work, you could be on workers compensation for a couple of weeks or a couple of months. Our Charlotte workers comp lawyers have even represented people who collected workers compensation benefits for over a year. But these cases are few and far between.
Most of our clients are back to work in a matter of a month or two. Once their doctor has declared that they’ve reached maximum medical improvement, there isn’t much more your Charlotte injury lawyer can do. Of course, your attorney can always demand that you be seen by an independent doctor for a second opinion. But if that doctor agrees with your workers compensation doctor, you’ll have two choices.
First, you can return to work as instructed and resume a normal life. If you take this route, you’ll finally start receiving your full paycheck again. Your other option is to refuse to return to work because you don’t feel that you reached maximum medical improvement, knowing that you may very well be fired. Since there is no such thing as wrongful termination in North Carolina, your Charlotte workers comp lawyer won’t be able to help you there.
If you’re lucky, you may qualify for unemployment benefits. But these are short-term solutions. What you need to do is listen to the advice of your Charlotte injury lawyer since they have years of experience handling cases concerning maximum medical improvement just like yours.
For now, we recommend that you contact our office and schedule your free, initial consultation. Once we’ve had a chance to thoroughly review your case, we can give you a better idea of how best to proceed.