Q: How long will my Workers' Compensation case last?
Well, that depends on how long it takes you to heal up. Are you sitting down? -- Once someone has reached Maximal Medical Improvement (MMI), we usually can get their cases resolved in six or seven months—it can go longer. It takes that amount of time to marshall all the medical evidence. Getting to MMI is another story. We usually can’t start the evaluation process until our clients are “as good and they are going to get.” That can take a couple of months or years. Only your doctor can tell.
Our job as the Applicant’s Attorney is to get you through the Workers’ Compensation System as quickly and efficiently as we can. Being on temporary or permanent disability is slow financial starvation. The key is knowing where you need to be in your case and getting there as quickly as possible.
Once an injured worker is MMI, it is time for the medical evaluations. There are two types of evaluations. One is an “Agreed Medical Evaluation” or (AME). This is when both the applicant’s attorney and the defense attorney agree on one doctor to resolve all medical issues. A proven, experienced AME is the way to go. If you are representing yourself, you can’t get one unfortunately. The other medical evaluation is a “Panel Qualified Medical Evaluation” or (“PQME”). If we are unable to reach an agreement with the insurance carrier regarding an evaluator, we will request a “Panel.” Our office maintains a data base of these doctors and we attempt to obtain only reputable doctors, who we feel will be fair to do the evaluations for our clients.
If you are representing yourself, and you disagree with what your treating doctor indicates is your level of permanent disability, need for a voucher, or future medical treatment, you can request your own PQME. Please be careful here! Think very carefully about getting representation because you normally only get one PQME (unless you have other medical issues). If you pick the wrong doctor, you lose. The carrier will usually request that the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (“WCAB”) issue you a “panel QME.” This panel is a list of three doctors selected at random to resolve issues in your case. If you choose a conservative evaluator, you could seriously damage the value of your case. It is very important to know which doctor is doing your evaluation and his or her reputation. If you choose wrong, most times you are stuck with that evaluation.
If it is an AME it normally takes about two months to set the evaluation. I am truly sorry that my clients have to wait this long. As a practical matter, there are only a few doctors we care to send our clients to. They are reputable doctors and are popular because of it. It just takes time to get into them. Thereafter, it can run an additional two months to get this report.