The amount of workers’ compensation benefits an employee receives depends on a number of factors. A functional capacity evaluation (FCE) is a series of tests used to determine an injured worker’s ability to perform the duties of their job. It ‘evaluates’ how well their health status, bodily functions, and structures of the body compared to the demands of their work. Sometimes other activities of daily living are also evaluated if they help make a determination in the person’s abilities.
The Role of FCE in Workers’ Comp
Workers’ compensation insurance is designed to benefit employees who are injured on-the-job. Even so, getting the insurance company to pay your claim isn’t always easy. Often, it is necessary to hire a workers comp attorney to prove the injury was caused by work and that it is as severe as you claim.
The impact your injury has on your ability to perform your job duties is an important part of determining how much compensation you should receive. The ability of an employee to return to work after an injury varies greatly. You may require a few days, weeks, or months of treatment and/or rest to recover. Sometimes, extensive therapy is required for a year or longer. You may also have a temporary disability that prevents you from doing the same work you did pre-injury. In this case, your benefits may only cover part of the difference between your new income and what you made before.
The functional capacity evaluation is used to determine whether an employee is ready to return to work and to what capacity. Allowing an employee to return to work too soon or to take on too much can put them and the people around them at risk.
An employer might order an FCE to protect themselves and also ensure they aren’t held liable for additional injuries. An attorney can also order the FCE to show that their client is or isn’t ready to return to work. Sometimes, the insurance provider with whom the employer has workers’ compensation coverage will order the test. In any case, the FCE is always performed by a certified evaluator.
The Role of Occupational Therapy
The FCE analyzes a person’s ability to perform various activities. An occupational therapist implements these analysis skills in their job tasks every day. They are uniquely skilled to measure the worker’s capabilities and match them with the job in question. Although other professionals from a variety of disciplines may also be used, the occupational therapist plays a key role in the process. Some of the tests are used to measure:
- Range of Motion
- Physical Strength
- Lifting Ability
- Skills Required for Their Specific Job
How the Information from an FCE Is Used
A functional capacity evaluation allows professionals to define an injury instead of merely clumping all injured workers together into broad categories. Sometimes an injury or disability is obvious. In other cases, the symptoms aren’t as apparent. The FCE not only breaks down which category their injury fits into, but also how the injury compares with the description of the job.
For example, a nurse who spends long hours on her feet might be unable to work temporarily after receiving a leg injury. The FCE might be used to test her walking ability. For a warehouse worker who must lift heavy objects, the evaluator would test their ability to lift weights. If these workers are unable to fulfill the physical demands of their job, they may be offered an office job instead.
In some instances, the results of the FCE might indicate limitations that apply to the worker’s abilities. They may be limited to lifting only a certain amount of weight or standing on their feet for a limited amount of time.
Preventing Future Workplace Injuries
Not only can the results of an FCE determine when you should return to work and in what capacity, they also help prevent additional injuries. Sometimes, repeating the same actions too often can cause additional injury. If the original level of injury was misjudged, the FCE can resolve any dispute.
The FCE provides you, your doctors, and your employer with more information about your injury. The tests are not biased to favor the outcome for you or the employer. The goal is to gain a better understanding and make the best call about when to return to work. The tests are more accurate at comparing the person’s abilities to their job task than the testimony of the injured person.
A functional capacity evaluation serves a number of important tasks. For many employees, the most important job it does is to determine how much workers’ comp they deserve. Some injuries turn out to be total or partial disabilities. Taking an FCE can help you get other types of benefits too. It also paves the way for getting compensation for some forms of treatment, such as occupational therapy or physical therapy. These tests can help you get the best outcome for your injury including the financial support and treatment you need to heal.
Your Battle with the Insurance Company
Some experts advise that having an FCE can help prevent insurance fraud. More likely, it will help you prove the extent of your injury to the workers’ compensation insurance company paying your claim.
Insurance companies resort to many tactics to prevent paying valid claims. These include claiming your injury was pre-existing, not as severe as you claimed, or that it didn’t happen on-the-job. The FCE can validate your injury and align it with the tasks of your job. This makes it easier to prove that it was your work that led to your injury in the first place. It also proves the severity of your injury and the impact it has on you.
If you need help with your workers’ compensation claim or think you might need to request a functional capacity evaluation, contact The House of Workers’ Compensation. We’re here to help you with every detail of your workers’ compensation claim.