Chapter 9: What is a Functional Capacity Exam?
When you are injured at work, workers’ compensation provides medical and disability benefits while you are out of work receiving treatment for your injuries. Unfortunately, some employees do not recover fully from their injuries. If an employee sustains a permanent disability that restricts the employee’s ability to work, the employee may be entitled to Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) or Permanent Total Disability (PTD) benefits. Some employees may also be entitled to vocational training if the disability allows the person to work, but in a different career or job.
If you allege that your workplace injury resulted in permanent impairment or disability, it is up to you to prove that you cannot perform your work duties because of the impairment. When you reach maximum medical improvement (MMI), your physician may refer you for a Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE). The FCE helps your physician assess your impairment rating by measuring your physical capabilities. Your performance on the FCE helps your physician develop a prognosis regarding your workplace injury.
What is the Functional Capacity Exam?
The FCE is a series of tests performed by a physician or a therapist to measure stamina, strength, and flexibility. In some cases, and FCE may also test cognitive abilities depending on the skills required to perform your job and your specific injury. An FCE can take up to eight hours to complete, depending on the tests involved and the complexity of the tests.
Common tests included in an FCE are:
- Range of motion
- Positional tolerance
- Hand dexterity
The tests push the person to determine the maximum ability to perform tasks before pain, or other impairments prevent further performance.
How Do The Results from an Functional Capacity Exam Impact Your Workers’ Comp Claim?
An FCE can help provide the evidence you need to prove that your workplace injury or illness prevents you from returning to work or earning the same income you did before the accidental injury. In addition to assessing your current physical capabilities, the tests also determine whether rehabilitative or vocational therapy will help you meet work-related demands or return to a modified job.
On the other hand, the FCE result could hurt your claim if the examiner determines that you can work. An examiner also searches for inconsistencies in the responses to the tests to determine if the person is exaggerating an injury. If the examiner notes “low reliability” or “inconsistent efforts,” it can weaken the case for permanent disability benefits.
The Pinder Plotkin legal team works closely with medical experts and vocational experts to assess the level of your impairment and disability for a workers’ comp claim. Call 410-661-9440 to schedule a free consultation with a Maryland workers’ compensation attorney.
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