When people are injured in an accident, they often want to reach a settlement of their claim as soon as possible. From a human standpoint, this makes a lot of sense. However, from a legal standpoint, an injured person should normally not settle until they reach “MMI” or “maximum medical improvement.”
MMI is a term that both medical professionals and lawyers use to describe the status of an injured patient once their condition cannot be improved any further or when a treatment plateau in a person’s healing process is reached. It’s when no further recovery or improvement is expected even with additional medical intervention. In simple terms, it’s when the person has gotten as well as they are going to get in their recovery.
Many physicians treating injured patients will use MMI as the point where they will issue a final report summarizing the patient’s condition. In some instances, it is also where the physician will assign an impairment rating–usually expressed in terms of a percentage. Most injury attorneys want to get the physician’s final report, based on the patient reaching MMI, in making a settlement demand.
So why is it important to wait until MMI before you settle your injury claim? There are many reasons but perhaps one of the biggest reasons is that the extent of your injuries, and therefore your damages, is not known until you reach MMI. For example, if a patient injures their knee in a slip and fall, the physician may prescribe conservative treatment such as physical therapy. If the patient does not improve, surgery may be the only option. The patient would be foolish to settle while still undergoing PT when ultimately surgery–which involves significantly more expense, pain, and risk–may be the only solution. If you settle too soon, you’ll have to live with it even if your damages are more than expected once you reach MMI.