Doctors generally use the term “maximum medical improvement” or “MMI” to signify that a patient is as well as he/she will get with the aid of conventional medicine and treatment. Under General Maritime Law, a Jones Act seaman is guaranteed certain benefits until a physician determines that he/she has reached maximum medical improvement. However, maximum medical improvement has no true meaning in the arena of Louisiana Workers’ Compensation. Workers’ Compensation Judges would regularly swat down an argument that relied on a physician who placed a claimant, in any capacity, at MMI status.
This generalized rejection of maximum medical improvement may soon come to an end. The First Circuit Court of Appeal for Louisiana may have brought life to maximum medical improvement in the realm of workers’ compensation in Louisiana. In Hamilton v. GCA Services Group, Inc., 2017-1072 (La. App. 1 Cir. 2/21/2018); 243 So. 3d 51, 55, the First Circuit held that maximum medical improvement does indeed fall within the scope of La. Rev. Stat. 23:1123. La. Rev. Stat., which gives guidance when an Independent Medical Examination may or may not be appropriate. The Hamilton Court went a step further in relating maximum medical improvement to requests for Independent Medical Examinations by directly stating that maximum medical improvement is more related to an employee’s condition and work capacity than to causation.
As a result, at least within the purview of the First Circuit Court of Appeal for Louisiana, maximum medical improvement has now become a reliable tool in requesting an Independent Medical Examination. Will other Louisiana Appellate Courts fall in line with the First Circuit? Only time will tell, but rest assured that Allen & Gooch will update you as soon as it does.
Allen & Gooch is providing this legal update for informational purposes only. This article should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion as to any specific facts or circumstances. You should consult your own attorney concerning your particular situation and any specific legal questions you may have.