You could file a workers’ compensation claim and third-party claim after suffering a work-related injury in Bloomington, but what is...
What Happens After MMI in Workers’ Comp?
You’ve reached the end of your treatment. It was a long road to get there, but you have fought through the surgery, physical therapy, and all the doctor visits. Now, you find out though that despite all your efforts and those of the doctors you aren’t the same as you were before.
The doctor has now released you from care and placed you at what they call MMI, which is short for Maximum Medical Improvement. But you can’t go back to your old job. They either can’t or won’t accommodate the limitations you have.
What Is MMI in Workers' Comp?
MMI, or maximum medical improvement, is the point at which your doctor states nothing more can be done for your recovery from a medical standpoint. At MMI, you are unlikely to get much better with further medical treatment, due to your condition stabilizing. A doctor is the only person who can determine you’ve reached MMI. If a doctor decides no further improvement can be made medically, then MMI is achieved. MMI in workers' comp means you may lose TTD benefits due to your condition's improvement, however, there are other benefits you can still obtain that may help you with your recovery.
What Happens After MMI in Workers' Comp?
If an injured person has reached maximum medical improvement, or MMI, the doctor will provide a disability rating, and give the injured person a list of work-related restrictions and capabilities. This will tell the injured individual what he or she can and cannot do because of the workplace injury. If the condition is serious enough, the victim may not be able to return to work at all. It is important to make sure the doctor has formalized these restrictions in writing. After that, you have to decide what to do next. Under Illinois law, your entitlement to TTD, or Temporary Total Disability benefits, ends when you reach MMI.
Often, if a person has reached MMI, but still maintains a disability in spite of recovery, the employer can try and find a new position for him or her within the same company that the individual can do regardless of his or her injuries. Sometimes, however, this isn’t possible, and the injured employee must seek employment elsewhere.
You are now left, injured, without pay, and in need of a job. You can demand vocational rehabilitation from your employer and their work comp insurance, but they may not agree to that. Just like your recovery, much of this will depend upon you fighting through.
Under Illinois workers' compensation law, “The employer shall also pay for treatment, instruction and training necessary for the physical, mental and vocational rehabilitation of the employee, including all maintenance costs and expenses incidental thereto.” This means if a worker cannot return to his or her previous job, but is still able to work, he or she may be eligible for payments towards vocational rehabilitation, or training at an institution that offers such services, to get the employee back to his or her previous earning capacity. Injured individuals may be eligible for vocational retraining if it is determined that such training will assist them in regaining his or her previous earning capacity.
There is good news though. You may be eligible for what is known as Maintenance benefits. These are a continuation of your TTD benefits. However, more and more often, employers require that you perform a job search in order to be eligible for maintenance benefits.
This isn’t as simple as just filling out some applications online. Illinois courts have found that you must prove your job search was both diligent, i.e.… you are looking hard enough, and appropriate, i.e.… you are looking for the correct types of jobs. This can definitely be harder than it sounds.
Working out a plan for what jobs you can apply for, making sure that you have an updated resume, and ensuring proper follow-up with potential employers, are all minimum standards. If this sounds like work, that’s because it is. In this scenario, finding a job can become more work than just having a job, and certainly more stressful. But you will need to think of searching for a job as though it were now your job.
You will, of course, also have to provide solid documentation. Keep logs of all the W’s. When, where, who, and what you applied for. Document the methods you used to apply, and keep records of e-mails or any written correspondence. If you fill out a physical application, make sure to get a copy of it for yourself.
Once again, at this stage, your fate is in your own hands. If you have questions, an experienced work comp attorney can assist you, but you will have to put in the work. Failure to do this could end up costing you the chance to win a wage differential claim, and could lead to the loss of years of benefits. A workers’ compensation attorney will work with you and your employer to ensure you get the payment you need while you recover from your work related injury.
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