In some Virginia Workers’ Compensation claim, when appropriate, you may be sent for a Functional Capacity Exam. Not every injured worker will need an FCE but if your doctor or if the insurance company has mentioned this term on, you need to read the rest of this post – and make sure you consult a workers’ compensation lawyer if you have not done so already!
The Functional Capacity Exam or FCE is an evaluation consisting of movements, measurements, observations, tests and verbal discussion with the examiner to determine your work abilities after a work injury. The tests and measurements during the FCE are used to determine your strength, range of motion and permanent physical restrictions in your post-injury capacity.
Who Does the FCE?
The FCE will typically be done by a physical therapist or an occupational therapist near you.
Why Do I Need a Functional Capacity Exam?
The FCE is used to evaluate your physical abilities and if any of your limitations due to the work injury would prevent you from returning to your pre-injury job or other jobs available in your market. It’s always a good idea to have a detailed job description with you at your exam as well so that the examiner can have a good understanding of the physical demands of the work you were doing. If you are not able to get a detailed job description from your employer, make sure you talk to your lawyer before going to your exam.
Based on the Functional Capacity Exam results, the doctor will review the exam results and then determine your new physical abilities for rejoining the workforce. Basically, if you need to be on some sort of permanent light duty, this is the test that determines what those limitations will be in the foreseeable future.
You are Being Watched!
You will be observed (see paragraph 1!) the entire time you are at the examiner’s office, even in the waiting room. Why is this important? If your doctor says you can’t sit for more than 15 minutes and you sit in the waiting room for an hour waiting to get your FCE, your claim is already in big trouble. I tell my clients to be cautious and to ALWAYS CONDUCT YOURSELF AS IF YOU ARE BEING WATCHED!
When Do I Need an FCE?
An FCE is typically ordered by the doctor or the insurance company once you reach MMI (Maximum Medical Improvement).
Key Things to Know When Attending Your FCE
- Don’t take pain medication – I know this may be very unpleasant but this is necessary to get an accurate measurement of your true abilities; if pain medications are masking your pain during the examination, you may be completing tasks that you would not normally be able to do without a great deal of pain and discomfort.
- Make an honest effort – There are baseline tests and comparable tests that the examiners will give in order to flush out any over-exaggeration of pain or symptoms. However, if you are unable to complete a task or if anything is causing you pain, you need to verbalize this to your examiner.
- Observation is a huge factor – Remember that your activities can be observed from the minute you arrive for your exam until the minute you exit the parking lot. Always conduct yourself appropriately.
- Transportation – if your doctor says you are unable to drive, you can request that the insurance carrier arrange transportation to and from the exam for you
- Comfort – The Functional Capacity exam and physical and can last for several hours. To be as comfortable as possible, I recommend wearing loose-fitting clothing and athletic footwear. You may also want to bring some bottled water, and if you are on a medication regimen (like for blood pressure or diabetes) you may need to bring snacks or medications with you as not to interrupt your scheduled regimen.
After the Functional Capacity Exam
Once your FCE is complete, the report has to be dictated and/or typed up by the examiner’s office and then your workers’ comp doctor has to approve the exam and the permanent restrictions set forth. Once this is done a copy of the report can be obtained. If you get an FCE report with restrictions, you need to make sure you have a very clear understanding of what these restrictions mean. If you are unclear about the restrictions or what they mean, ask for clarification from your doctor.
After the FCE results are known, this may also determine whether you can return to work for your former employer in your former capacity. Depending on the situation, you may be returning to your employer in a different position than before, you might be looking for work with a new employer that meets your physical abilities, or you may not be able to return to work at all. Another piece of this puzzle is, depending on the situation, you might be working with a vocational rehabilitation counselor assigned by the workers’ compensation insurance carrier to try to find you employment within the permanent work restrictions. This might be a good time to start settlement negotiations with the insurance company since you will know your physical capabilities and your medical condition should be stable at that point.
I Just Had My Functional Capacity Exam, Is My Claim Over?
Not at all!
This DOES NOT mean that your medical care is over. You may still be seeing a doctor for pain control, therapies or other maintenance care and when appropriate, wage loss benefits may also be ongoing.
Talk to Your Lawyer
Each situation is unique. This is why I always recommend speaking with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who knows the ins and outs of this tricky process. An FCE is a very large piece of your Virginia Workers’ Compensation Claim and if you have been scheduled for an FCE and have not yet consulted with a lawyer, I recommend you do so immediately. Call (804) 755-7755 or contact us online today. I have a full-time intake staff waiting to speak with you!
About the Author: Michele Lewane
The Injured Workers Law Firm is a Richmond, Virginia based firm solely focused on serving clients with workers' compensation claims in Virginia. If you have questions about your benefits or if you would like more information on the Virginia workers’ compensation system, order our book, “The Ultimate Guide to Workers’ Compensation in Virginia” , or call our office today (804) 755-7755.