With every Illinois workers’ compensation case, it is expected that some day your doctor will say you have made as good of a recovery as you can. The legal/medical term for that is being at maximum medical improvement or MMI. That doesn’t always mean that you are fully recovered. You might need ongoing medication for pain or lifting restrictions on the job. It’s just that your doctor thinks that there’s not much they can do to make you better. And of course it also could mean you’ve made a full recovery.

The question is what happens next? This is a post I thought of because an injured worker at MMI had a lawyer really screw up their case.

If you are MMI and essentially good as new, the only thing to do is return to work and settle your work comp case once you’ve proven you can safely do the job. It’s the people who aren’t able to return to work that need information.

A lot of these workers have been receiving TTD benefits for a while, often for years. When you are at MMI, TTD is supposed to stop, even if you have no job to return to. So does that mean you will no longer have money coming in? No!

What happens next is you are supposed to start looking for jobs within your restrictions and keeping a log of the jobs you are looking for. When you do that, you will receive maintenance benefits which for all intents and purposes is the same thing as TTD including the same dollar amount. It’s just called maintenance because it “maintains” you while you look for work.

You can and should continue to receive this money until you find a suitable job within your restrictions. The attorney for the caller to my office didn’t advise him to look for work so he went two months without any pay. That really made things hard on him. Fortunately he was able to get his maintenance benefits started once he showed proof that he was looking for work.

For some workers, you can’t find a job on your own or it’s really obvious you need help. When that happens, you are eligible for a medical benefit called vocational rehabilitation. At the expense of your employer, a job counselor can help you prepare a resume, look for jobs, practice interviews, suggest work that makes sense for you, recommend you go back to school or a host of other things. It’s especially helpful when you’ve been in the same field for 20 plus years and don’t know how to do anything else.

While it’s not expected that your job search will last forever, it’s not uncommon for it to take 6-12 months and for you to receive benefits during that time. When you do finally get work, you can then consider settling your case. If you had to take a big pay cut, you could be entitled to 2/3 of the difference, tax free. And if there’s no work for you, you might be found to be permanently disabled from working and receive those benefits, which are higher than your TTD pay, for life.

So while being at MMI may feel like your case is coming to a close, it’s certainly possible that a big part of it is just beginning. If you have permanent restrictions, it’s incredibly important that you get a lawyer whether it’s us or someone else. Having the wrong lawyer or none at all could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you’d like to speak with an attorney about your case for free, call us any time at 312-346-5578. We cover all of Illinois and have been helping injured workers for over 25 years.