There are some magic words that you need to hear before you can even think about settling your workers’ compensation claim. These words are “maximum medical improvement.” When you here this from your doctor, it means that you’re as good as you’re going to get. In other words, there is no further treatment that will improve your condition and your medical treatment, for the most part, has come to an end.

Until you reach maximum medical improvement, or MMI, it’s not possible to assess the permanent nature of your injury, how it will affect ability to work, and how much it will affect your future in general. These are all necessary considerations when reaching a settlement amount. Will you be able to stay in your line of work? Will there be permanent restrictions, such as a limit on how much weight you can lift? The answers impact the value of your case.

As we mentioned, your doctor needs to declare that you have reached MMI. It can be a point of contention between the injured worker and the insurance company. You may be asked to get an independent medical exam, which is performed by a doctor who is not your usual doctor. If the opinions of that doctor conflict with your own doctor, you can ask a judge (called an arbitrator in workers’ compensation) to make a determination.

Almost every step of your case, including that point at which you are determined to be at maximum medical improvement, has the potential to be manipulated by the insurance company in their favor. The best thing you can do to prevent getting taken advantage of (and receiving a low settlement amount) is to have an experienced and well-respected attorney negotiating with the insurance company on your behalf.

If you feel that your doctor is not moving your treatment along and that you have stopped making progress, it might be time for a second opinion. It impacts your potential settlement, and more importantly, it impacts your future. Nothing is more important than your health.

By Michael Helfand