Should I Wait Until I Reach MMI Before Accepting a Car Accident Settlement Offer?

It's never a good idea to settle your car accident claim until you've finished treating, or you at least have a well-defined understanding of the extent of your injuries and the future care you'll require.

If you're making an injury claim after a car accident, you might have heard the insurance company (or your personal injury attorney) mention the phrase "maximum medical improvement" (or "MMI") as it pertains to your injuries and medical treatment. In this article, we'll explain what MMI is, and why whether or not you've reached it (or at least come close) is a key factor when it's time to consider a car accident settlement.

What is Maximum Medical Improvement?

In the context of an injury-related insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit after a car accident, maximum medical improvement (or "MMI") means:

  • the claimant or plaintiff (that's you) has recovered completely from their car accident injuries, or
  • the claimant or plaintiff's condition has become stable and there is a clear picture of their medical future: What kinds of ongoing medical care will be necessary? What will that care cost? What kinds of physical limitations or disabilities will be permanent? You get the idea.

Have You Reached MMI? If Not, Don't Sign on the Dotted Line

You should never negotiate a settlement in a car accident case until you have reached MMI, and at least have a well-defined understanding understanding of the extent of your injuries and the future care you'll require. Under no circumstances should you sign any settlement agreement or sign a release of liability until you've reached this point.

The reason for this is simple. Once you settle, you're agreeing to release the other driver from any further liability in connection with the underlying car accident. If your injuries turn out to be worse than you first thought, or complications arise, you can't go back and demand more in the way of compensation. The case is over once you sign a settlement agreement and release, and the other driver is off the legal hook for any additional or unforeseen damages.

Let the Claim/Lawsuit Process Play Out

Our discussion up to this point isn't meant to suggest that you can't get the insurance claim or lawsuit process started before you reach MMI. On the contrary, if you don't hear from them first (and you probably will), you should notify the car insurance company for the other driver (in addition to contacting your own car insurance company), and let them know that you intend to pursue a claim for your injuries.

It's also important to attend every medical appointment you make, to co-operate with all your health care providers, and to do everything your doctors tell you to do in terms of follow-up care. That's because as an insurance claimant or a personal injury plaintiff, you have a legal obligation to "mitigate your damages" -- which simply means you must take all reasonable steps to facilitate your recovery, and to avoid anything that might make your condition worse or prolong the need for ongoing treatment.

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