For those so severely injured at work that a return to your previous position seems unlikely, you may be wondering what will happen now. If you are unable to return to the physical condition level you had before your injury, you may be deemed to be permanently disabled. The determination for permanent disability can be separated into four main steps, so read on to find out what is store for you.
1. Initial phase of injury. Your employer's workers' comp insurance company has already been paying your injury-related medical expenses and a portion of your lost wages while you try to recover. Your main focus during this time is make sure that you keep your medical appointments and comply with all treatments and tests. Life may become financially difficult, however, since most workers' comp benefits will only pay a portion of your previous wages.
2. The independent medical exam. If you are still unable to return to work after several months of treatment, you will be asked to undergo an independent medical exam. Some injuries are expected to take longer to heal, but some are not expected to heal at all. For example, if you have suffered from a traumatic limb amputation, an independent medical exam would likely take place immediately. For those with muscle strains, back injuries and broken bones, the independent medical exam would be delayed until you have a chance to heal.
Be sure to treat this important step in the process with due care. Be prepared to discuss your injury and how it has impacted your ability to work at your job. The doctor conducting this exam will be of the insurance company's choosing, and you should be honest but polite in your behavior. You should know that you are entitled to have a doctor of your own choosing to conduct another independent medical exam if you prefer. Be sure to discuss this option with your workers' comp attorney.
3. A determination of maximum medical improvement (MMI). Don't be misled by this determination's wording, this does not mean that your condition will never improve. MMI means that the doctor has examined you and decided that your condition is unlikely to improve enough for you to return to your previous job.
4. The settlement offer. Your month-to-month wage benefits will end upon the MMI determination, and you will be offered instead a settlement, either lump sum or monthly. If you have not retained a workers' comp lawyer by now, you should understand that settlement negotiations can be stressful and difficult. You are bargaining for compensation that is expected to see you through your entire lifetime, so don't go it alone. Contact a workers' comp attorney to support you through this process and increase your chances for a fair settlement offer.
For a workers compensation lawyer, contact a law firm such as Gilbert, Blaszcyk & Milburn LLP.