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What Are FCE Permanent Restrictions & Their Impact on Workers’ Comp?

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Workplace injuries are a life-changing event. It can affect how much and what kind of work you’ll be able to do in the future.

But, before you know how a work injury will affect your working abilities, you’ll have to go through a series of evaluations, including Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE).

Schmidt & Clark lawyers have done countless worker compensation cases. We have helped injured workers get due damages, so they can have a better quality of life even if their working abilities are diminished. Today, we’ll explain everything there’s to know about FCE restrictions.

Quick Facts

  • FCE test is done to determine permanent restrictions. This evaluation will say if you’re able to go back to work normally or only do light-duty work.
  • Permanent work restrictions will be determined based on your physical abilities after you reach MMI.
  • Contact a law firm to help you deal with workers’ compensation cases.

FCE in Workers Compensation Case

Before you go through the FCE evaluation, several steps need to take place.

Maximum Medical Improvement

A doctor checking a patient's spine MMI or maximum medical improvement means that you have recovered from your work injuries as much as possible. 

This doesn’t mean you’re back to 100% as before the injury, but it means that your physical abilities have improved as much as possible.

There aren’t any other physical therapies, treatments, or surgeries that can help you improve. 

How long it’ll take you to reach MMI depends on the extent of your work injury. More serious injuries, such as a head injury, spinal cord, neck, burn, and more, will take longer to reach MMI and undergo FCE.

On the other hand, a knee injury or a torn ligament will take much less.

Note: you’ll stop receiving temporary total disability benefits paychecks once you reach MMI.

Permanent Partial Disability Rating

Once your treating doctor says you’ve reached MMI, they will assign your Permanent Partial Disability Rating. The doctor will give a numeric value that explains to what extent you’ve lost working abilities due to the injury.

For example, if you injured your leg and the doctor assigns you a rating of 20%, it means your leg has 80% function compared to before the work accident. This includes strength, range of motion (if you’re still experiencing pain), and more.

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What Is an FCE?

A person doing physical therapy An FCE is a set of different evaluations that aim to assess your physical capacities and ability to return to a full or light-duty position.

FCE will measure if you’re able to go back to work and meet the demands of a physical job.

It usually starts with an interview with a physical therapist. Then the FCE examiner creates a baseline for your job demands. 

This baseline is based on the U.S. Department of Labor’s “Selected Characteristics of Occupations as Defined in the Revised Dictionary of Occupational Titles”. It can go from being able to lift 10 pounds occasionally to lifting more than 100 pounds occasionally and 50 pounds frequently [1].

“You may be able to receive permanent disability benefits through workers' comp when a work-related injury or illness has left you with a lasting medical problem. But first, you'll have to go through a medical and legal process to demonstrate that your medical condition isn't likely to change and that it either prevents you from working at all or limits your ability to work and earn money.” NOLO Legal Encyclopedia

After that, the physical therapist will ask you to do a series of tests that include:

  • Flexibility
  • Range of motion
  • Posture
  • Strength 
  • Ability to sit, stand, and walk
  • Ability to use your hands

The purpose of these tests is to determine the tolerance level during an eight-hour workday for activities such as:

  • A patient in the middle of physical tests Lifting
  • Pulling
  • Crouching
  • Pushing
  • Carrying
  • Arm dexterity
  • Sitting
  • Walking
  • Talking 
  • Hearing
  • Feeling 
  • Vision

A couple of days after the exam, the therapist has to send your doctor an FCE report where they list information about your medical condition, such as:

  • What job duties you can perform
  • Whether you’re able to go back to work
  • Can you do the same job duties as before your injuries
  • Do you need rehabilitation 
  • Do you need more medical treatment

Your workers’ comp doctor checks the report and makes changes to your diagnosis if needed.

How to Prepare for an FCE

Woman doing physical tests

To prepare for your FCE, you should:

  • Wear comfortable clothes — You’ll be asked to do physical activities, so you should dress comfortably in running shoes and athletic clothes.
  • Bring water and food — FCE can last for hours, so bring sustenance.
  • Try your best — The purpose of the appointment is to check if you can work 40 hours a week, so you should try your best and tell the examiner if you’re in pain.
  • Don’t take pain medications before the FCE — Pain medication can mask your true condition, so you’ll get an inaccurate assessment of your true abilities.
  • Behave as if you’re being watched — This means from the moment you get out of your car at the place where you’ll do an FCE. The examiner may be watching in order to check if the injured worker is telling the truth about his physical limitations.

What to Do If Your Employer Denies Light Work

A discussion between two individuals

Injured workers who lose their job due to permanent restrictions can apply for:

  • Wage loss benefits — These benefits entitle you to 80% of the post-tax weekly salary. The amount you’ll get is fixed at your pay rate. However, it can decrease if the insurance companies notice that there are jobs with your permanent work restrictions available.
  • Medical benefits — Some injured workers with permanent work restrictions need lifelong medical care; for pain management and physical therapy, to name a few. The insurance company pays for the medical care even if you’re able to go back to work.
  • Vocational rehabilitation benefits — If you have to go to vocational rehabilitation, you can qualify for two years of reimbursement. During this time, your wage loss benefits are also in effect. However, it’s in the insurance company’s interest for injured workers to go back to work as soon as possible. That’s why you should look out for a vocational rehabilitation counselor who’s hired to cut off your benefits by pushing you into work before you’re ready.

To make sure you win your workers’ compensation claim and get all the benefits due to you after a work injury, you should hire an attorney from a reputable law firm that will give you a free case review. 

FAQ

Can I refuse an FCE?

Yes, you can refuse an FCE. But, keep in mind that injured workers' refusal to do the FCE will be noted in your permanent restrictions report in your exact words.

How accurate is an FCE?

FCE is thought to most accurately evaluate your physical ability after a work injury. The test should be interpreted within the injured worker’s personal context [2].

Get Help With Your Workers Compensation Case

A work injury can result in a serious disability and permanent work restrictions that won’t allow you to work in the future. That’s why you need help with your workers’ compensation claim from an experienced attorney. 

Schmidt & Clark law firm has been dealing with workers’ compensation cases for over two decades. Our lawyers value every attorney-client relationship. We can help you through every step of the workers’ compensation claim, including dealing with permanent work restrictions.

Contact us today for a free consultation, and get adequate workers’ compensation for your work injuries.


References:

1.http://onlineresources.wnylc.net/docs/SelectedCharacteristicsSearch121110.pdf 

2.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2150654/ 

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