One of the key terms in a disability case, under the updated guidelines proposal made in 2017, is "maximum medical improvement." What does this mean and how does it impact the case?
Essentially, medical professionals will be consulted early in the case to determine how far they think a person's recovery can possibly go. Will a back injury linger for life and make it impossible for a construction worker to return to the job site, for instance, or is it just a slow-healing injury that may take months or years to return to normal?
Once a level of recovery has been established, the person's condition can be tracked. If he or she hits this level and is not reasonably expected to surpass it, then he or she has reached maximum medical improvement.
This is important because, in many cases, the guidelines suggest that a disability award won't be given out until this point.
After all, they're careful to note that the specific award isn't aimed at pain and suffering or medical bills. It focuses on lost wages. The person has a diminished earning potential due to the disability, perhaps for life. The award is then geared around making up for these lost future wages. Only when the recovery has reached its full potential can this properly be calculated.
These cases can be long and complex, but it's very important for workers to know all of their rights and the legal options they have. While medical bills are daunting, losing the ability to earn a living can be even more detrimental from a financial perspective, and compensation may be possible.
Source: New York Workers' Compensation Board, "Workers’ Compensation Guidelines for Determining Impairment," accessed Nov. 03, 2017