Maryland workers’ compensation provides for a permanency award at the end of your Maryland workers’ compensation case, should you have ongoing disability or impairment as a result of the work injury. Eligibility for a permanency award happens at the end of your workers compensation case, when you have reached maximum medical improvement.
What is maximum medical improvement (MMI)?
Maryland case law has defined maximum medical improvement as stage at which workers’ compensation claimants have ‘reached a point of stability in their disease and they have benefitted maximally from their interventional medical care.” Sears, Roebuck v. Ralph, 340 Md. 304 (1995), also quoting Alexander v. Montgomery County, 87 Md.App. 275 (1991). Maryland’s Court of Appeals. In general terms, I refer to it as your medical condition ‘is what it is” meaning that any additional medical treatment will not provide any significant additional benefits. In other words, your medical condition from the work injury is at the best it is going to get.
What is the significance of reaching MMI?
First, and importantly, your entitlement to temporary total disability benefits, your weekly or biweekly wage loss checks, ends. That is quite significant. You may still be treating. You may still be unable to work. However, if you have reached MMI, your wage loss benefits will end. Additionally, since you have reached MMI, your entitlement to medical benefits also ends, unless it can be proven that medical treatment is required to maintain MMI.
MMI can be determined by the insurance company’s independent medical examination. You have the right to fight not being at MMI if you and your doctor do not believe you have reached MMI. The Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission can deem you to be at MMI. Your doctor can reach the opinion that you are at MMI.
What happens after reaching MMI?
Once you have reached MMI, again, your entitlement towage loss benefits ends. At this point, you and your doctor can determine if you can return to work in full capacity or limited capacity. Your employer can, if they wish, return you to work where you can perform work duties within your limitations. You can also attend vocational rehabilitation to potentially change careers to something you can physically perform.
What are permanency awards?
In Maryland, injured workers may be entitled to monetary benefits for permanently disabled injured workers. These awards must be approved by the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC). Generally, there are two types of permanency awards.
Permanent partial disability benefits are awarded when a injured worker has a permanent disability that does not completely disable the worker from participating in the workforce. These wards are meant to compensate an injured worker for those residual impairments. These benefits are payable over a period of time as specified by the statute. It gets complex with ‘tiers’ that impact the weeks and amounts paid to the injured worker. It depends on the extent of the permanency rating.
Permanent total disability benefits are equal to the weekly benefit payment afforded for permanent partial disability benefits. However, permanent total disability benefits are permanent in nature because the injured worker is deemed to be permanently, completely disabled from rejoining the workforce. These are certainly more rare.
What is the process for receiving a permanency award?
To determine the extent of a claimant’s permanent disability, “the rating”, the Workers’ Compensation Commission usually requires expert medical opinions that determine the extent of impairment. How is that done? Both you and the insurance carrier will get medical examinations set up with separate doctors. Each doctor will examine you and then provide a narrative report that will end with their opinion on your extent of impairment, otherwise known as your impairment rating. In other words, you will get your rating, they will get their rating. Usually, your attorney will have doctors to send you to that are not biased towards employers and insurance carriers.
Amounts of the permanency award are based on these medical opinions and then based on calculations by statute, by tier level and by scheduled of body parts. Depending on the two rating, the injured worker’s attorney and the insurance carrier attorney may negogiate an amount between the two ratings. If a resolution cannot be reached, then a hearing will be required with the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission. The injured worker will testify to extent of impairment, difficulties, symptoms, and more. Both reports will be submitted as evidence. Then the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission will make a determination of the amount of the permanency award.
As you can see, this process is quite complex. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can make a big difference in your case and your ultimate award. Mooney Law has obtained tens of millions of dollars in benefits for injured workers throughout Pennsylvania and Maryland. We are experienced, proven, and trusted. Call us today for an absolutely FREE CONSULTATION at 443-712-7767 or 301-329-3630. You can also email us direct at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit us on the web at Mooney4Law.com.