Everybody knows that if they get injured on the job, there is a good chance they could be eligible for workers’ comp. But what a lot of people don’t understand is that it isn’t as simple as just being injured. Getting workers’ comp benefits also heavily depends on being able to prove that you actually were injured and that the injury is serious enough to warrant compensation.

After all, if you stub your toe on the job it might be a workplace accident but it’s a lot different than if you lost a foot. It’s clear and immediate what damage was done to the individual that lost a foot and so too is the impact it will have on them. But what if stubbing your toe actually broke the bone and left you unable to properly balance? This injury could be just as debilitating (though thankfully less permanent). But how does anybody really know that stubbing your toe actually hurt you as badly as you said it did and that you’re not just looking for a “free ride”?

The answer is to take a workers comp functional capacity evaluation (FCE). Just what is an FCE? We’ll answer that first before looking at how they are used, beyond just workers’ comp cases, as well as what actually goes on during a FCE.

What Is a Workers Comp Functional Capacity Evaluation?

A FCE is a type of evaluation that could be ordered by an insurance provider, an attorney, or your employer. It is essentially a collection of tests which you undergo to determine your physical abilities following an injury. While you may have a doctor of your own that you go to, they will not be able to provide an FCE for you. FCEs must be performed by certified evaluators; this is so people can’t conspire with (or trick) their doctors into allowing them to bilk the workers’ compensation system.

These tests are designed to evaluate your physical abilities including but limited to:

  • Your range of motion
  • Your physical strength
  • Your ability to lift objects
  • How flexible you are
  • Your stamina capacity
  • How long you can carry objects

FCEs aren’t a one-size-fits-all type of evaluation, either. Each person’s FCE is matched to the specific injury they’ve suffered and the demands of the specific job they hold. This way it isn’t just testing some baseline level of fitness and physical capability. Instead, it tests the criteria that are important for your unique situation.

What Are Functional Capacity Evaluations Used For?

FCEs are actually used for more than just workers’ compensation. An FCE may be used after getting into a serious car crash, after pretty much any major injury, as part of the planning for your rehabilitation and to test how well that rehabilitation worked. The primary purpose is to test an individual’s physical capability, an evaluation of how well they function, so one may be used for pretty much any time you need to get this data.

But with that said, there are a number of different things that a FCE will provide and that can be of benefit in regards to workers’ comp, such as:

  • They can be an important factor in determining whether or not you are ready to return to work.
  • If you can return to work, they can provide you with the answer to whether you can come back at full capacity or whether you need to return at a reduced capacity.
  • For employers, rather than employees, they are useful for cutting down on insurance fraud by providing real and legitimate data about your employee’s capabilities.
  • They are useful for preventing further injury. One example of this in action is when an FCE helps you determine you need to come back at a reduced capacity. Full capacity would likely agitate or cause re-injury.
  • Because they are a very well regarded and legitimate source of information on your injuries, they can provide you with extremely specific information about your level of injury so you have all the information you need to help recovery and avoid re-injury.

What Goes On During a Functional Capacity Evaluation?

A request for an FCE will first arrive in writing. This letter will actually explain to you the process. It will provide you with important information, too, such as where to go and what to do when you get there, whether there are any restrictions on food or drink, or anything else that you need to know before getting there. Read this closely to ensure you understand what is expected of you.

When you get there you will be introduced to the evaluator. They will discuss the reason you need the FCE with you, as well as ask some general questions about your health, injury, and capabilities. They will also be open to any questions you may have. Chances are good that there is some paperwork to be filled out, as well.

Once the evaluation begins there are a number of different things you may be asked to do. You may be asked to run on a treadmill, to crawl on the ground, to walk for a period of time, to lift weights of various sizes, to work with objects in your hands, to test your grip, or an almost endless number of other exercises that could be used. If you injured your arm, they’re likely going to involve more lifting and pulling than walking or balancing. So what activities you have to do as a part of your FCE will be determined by the injury and may not even be listed as one of our examples.

Just take each task one at a time and do your best. There is no right or wrong answer, there is no score. This is just about seeing where your capabilities are.

Do I Need an Attorney For an FCE?

No, you do not. The FCE is closer to a medical procedure than a legal procedure and so you don’t need any additional help. But an attorney can help you with the larger issue, the reason you’re getting an FCE: your workers’ compensation benefits. The chances are even good that it is your workers’ comp attorney that suggests you get an FCE in the first place. But these are tools that are designed for data on your physical abilities and so you don’t need representation to handle them.