MMI And Impairment Ratings: What Are They?
When you are injured, and you go to the doctor, you expect that over time, you will get better and improve. But the reality is that how much we improve, how fast we improve, or whether we improve and recover at all, can vary drastically from person to person. All of us get injured more or less severely, and heal differently, even if the injury is exactly the same from person to person.
Improving to a Point
For most people, continued treatment with a doctor, or following doctor’s order, will lead to some level of improvement to injuries and disabilities. Over time, accident victims will find they have better function, better mobility, and less pain.
Some accident victims will heal completely; after enough treatment, they will be back to their “pre accident” self. They will resume their normal activities like nothing happened.
But other people will find that at some point, their continued improvement stops. The doctor visits, therapy, medicine, or procedures, no longer yield the improvements that they once did. At some point it becomes apparent: however much you have healed, you aren’t likely to heal any more. You have reached a plateau, and you can reasonably be expected to live with whatever level of disability or limitation or pain that you are currently at.
You’ve Reached MMI
This is where your doctors will declare you to be at what is known as maximum medical improvement, or MMI. So long as you are experiencing continued improvement in your condition, your doctor won’t declare you to be at MMI. But when the improvement stops over an extended period of time, your doctors will declare you to be at MMI.
Your Impairment Rating
In some cases, now that you have improved as much as you can be expected to improve, your doctor will then put or assign an impairment rating on or to you.
An impairment rating is a rating of how your limitations or disabilities affect your body as a whole. Someone with a bad finger may have only a 1-5% impairment rating, whereas someone who can no longer use their legs, may have a more significant impairment rating—say, 30-50%.
Of course, impairment ratings are subject to dispute—and in many cases, when a high rating is assigned to an accident victim, the Defendant will get its own medical expert, to try to say that the victim doesn’t have as high of an impairment rating as the victim’s doctor says.
Part of the Story
Note also that impairment rating doesn’t always relate to severity, or damages, or tell the entire story of how injured someone is.
For example, in our example above, the broken finger may only carry a 1-5% impairment rating. But if the victim was a professional guitar player, the damages in his or her case would still potentially be very significant.