If you have been injured in a work-related accident and have filed a workers compensation claim, you may be wondering if you will ever be able to return to work. Even after months of treatment, you could still be suffering from too much pain to do everyday tasks, let alone work at your former job. If you are not able to return to your pre-accident functioning, you may be deemed permanently disabled. There are several steps toward this determination, so read on for more information about how a permanent disability leads to a settlement offer.

Step One: Lost Wages and Medical Care

Thus far, you are likely receiving medical benefits and some of your lost wages for your injury. As long as you continue with treatment and comply with all medical prescriptions, such as physical therapy, your medical and lost wages benefits should continue indefinitely. Unfortunately, your lost wages reimbursement is only a fraction of your previous salary, so not only are you suffering from your injuries, but you are also experiencing a reduction in your income.

Step Two: Independent Medical Exam

Your employer's workers compensation insurance company will likely order an independent medical examination once your injury has gone on for a few months. The timing for this evaluation varies depending upon the severity of your injuries. For example, if you have suffered from a work-related amputation, the IME would likely take place quicker than with another type of injury, such as a muscle strain. Injuries like muscle strains, broken bones, and back injuries can have a longer recovery time-line, but these types of injuries present a greater possibility of an eventual return to full or at least partial functioning for work.

The IME is conducted by a doctor of the workers compensation insurance company's choosing. This is an important exam and the doctor's evaluation of your current medical state will be key in the determination of how soon, if ever, you can return to work. Treat this exam with care, making sure that you are polite, honest about your condition and forthcoming about previous injuries to the same body parts. Don't be hesitant to speak up about how the injury has affected your life and the degree of pain and discomfort you are continuing to experience. Also know that your workers compensation attorney can request an IME with a doctor of your own choosing as well.

Step Three: Maximum Medical Improvement

The determination of Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) means that a doctor, either through the IME or your doctor, has evaluated your medical condition to be at a plateau, and further improvement is very unlikely. This doesn't mean that you don't need any further medical care, it just means that your functioning in regard to work is not going to get any better, and may even worsen.

Step Four: The Settlement

If you have been deemed at a level of MMI, the month-to-month lost wages benefits will come to an end and be replaced with a settlement, which can be either a lump sum or a monthly benefit. Settlement negotiations are too important and difficult to be left to a novice, so if you have not already hired a workers' comp attorney, do it now without delay. Once you agree to a settlement, it can not be altered, so make sure that you settle your case with the expert advice you need to get fairly compensated for your injury.