What Is Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI)?

The injuries resulting from an accident may take a long time to heal. The legal definition of “maximum medical improvement” (MMI) refers to the point a patient can reach after an injury at which no further recovery is possible, even with additional treatment. MMI can refer to a victim fully recovering from an injury or illness or reaching the point of stabilization where no further treatment is necessary and the attending medical team can develop an accurate prognosis of possible future medical concerns arising from the patient’s injury or illness.

Understanding MMI and how it pertains to accident-related lawsuits is crucial for any plaintiff. MMI can not only impact an insurance claim but also influence the damages available in a personal injury lawsuit for an injury or illness caused by the negligence of another party. If a plaintiff secures an insurance settlement or settles a lawsuit with an at-fault party, it’s likely that the plaintiff’s award will be contingent upon the plaintiff agreeing not to pursue further legal action against the defendant. Accepting a settlement too early may result in the plaintiff receiving less compensation than he or she actually deserves.

How to Work Around MMI in an Insurance Claim or Lawsuit

A good rule to follow for any insurance claimant or plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit is to never agree to any settlement offer or insurance payout before reaching MMI. Some injuries may cause permanent issues that do not manifest noticeable symptoms immediately. Other injuries may cause secondary injuries that lead to long-term or chronic health problems. It’s important that a patient waits for a full diagnosis of his or her future medical concerns resulting from an accident, so the patient knows the full scope of his or her damages.

Imagine a plaintiff suffers a broken arm and various internal injuries after a car accident caused by a negligent driver. The injured driver files a lawsuit against the at-fault driver for his or her medical expenses and other damages a few months after the accident. However, the plaintiff has not yet received a full diagnosis or reached MMI by the time settlement negotiations start.

The plaintiff accepts the settlement from the defendant, taking the available compensation and releasing the defendant from any future liability for damages resulting from the incident in question. Several months later, the plaintiff discovers the accident caused a secondary condition resulting in chronic pain. In this situation, the plaintiff would be responsible for all medical expenses following the settlement, and this could potentially be very costly.

MMI and the Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Lawsuits

Every state has a statute of limitations – or time limit – for filing a personal injury claim for an injury caused by the negligence of another party. In most states, the statute of limitations is two years starting on the date an injury occurs. While there are some factors that may delay the statute of limitations, a plaintiff must still file legal action within the available time.

The statute of limitations is one of the most important reasons to seek medical treatment immediately after any accident caused by negligence. The plaintiff may not reach MMI before the statute of limitations expires, but he or she could still reasonably expect to receive an accurate prognosis for future medical issues within the time allowed by the statute.

A plaintiff in a personal injury case has the right to claim compensation for any and all medical expenses resulting from a defendant’s negligence. MMI is a very important factor because it helps plaintiffs with these cases determine the appropriate amount of compensation to claim. Settling too soon may leave the plaintiff on the hook for future medical costs, even if they are the results of another party’s negligence.