If you are unable to work at your job due to a work-related accident and are currently getting benefits from workers' compensation, you may be concerned about returning to work. After several weeks or months of treatment, you still don't feel healthy enough to work at your job and you are beginning to wonder if you will ever work again. Your concerns could be well-founded, and the workers' compensation insurance company may ultimately deem you permanently disabled. There are four main steps toward being judged permanently disabled, so read below for more information.
Step 1: Medical Expenses and Lost Wages
This initial step commences almost immediately following the accident and could continue indefinitely. You must keep your medical appointments, take all prescribed medications and take part in any other treatments, such as physical therapy, in order to continue receiving this benefit. Your wages will be paid at a reduced rate, however, and will be only a percentage of your pre-injury pay. The resulting financial difficulties can wreak havoc on you and your family.
Step 2: The Independent Medical Examination
At some point in your recovery and treatment period, the workers' compensation insurance company may contact you about undergoing an independent medical exam (IME). The severity of your injuries will likely dictate the timing of this exam. For example, some injuries, like muscle strains and broken bones, can take a great deal of time to heal, but a full recovery is likely expected. The IME for this type of injury may not be scheduled until all surgeries and therapies have been completed. The IME for an amputation, however, may be scheduled quite early in the process since improvement is unlikely.
The doctor who conducts the IME is chosen by the workers' comp insurance agency. Be prepared to discuss your injury and be armed with written notes about how the injury has affected your life and how it continues to affect your day-to-day activities.
Step 3: Maximum Medical Improvement
This level of determination means that your condition is not expected to improve, and could actually worsen. MMI is determined by either the IME doctor, or, depending on your location, your regular workers' comp doctor. MMI is another way of saying permanently disabled.
Step 4: Settlement Offer
Once you have been deemed at maximum medical improvement, you will no longer be eligible to receive your lost wage benefits, but you will be offered a settlement. The settlement can be lump sum or a monthly amount. At this point, if you have put off hiring a workers' comp lawyer, consider doing so now. Settlement negotiations can be stressful, and if you have been judged to be permanently disabled, you will need to get the absolute top amount possible. Seek the expertise of a qualified attorney at a law firm such as Ransom, Gilbertson, Martin & Ratliff, L.L.P to help you get a fair settlement offer for your permanent disability.