As an injured worker in New York City, understanding the functional capacity evaluation (FCE) is crucial in navigating your workers’ compensation claim. An FCE is a detailed assessment designed to evaluate your physical and sometimes cognitive capabilities after a work-related injury or illness. This evaluation helps determine how your condition impacts your ability to perform specific work-related tasks.

Purpose of the functional capacity evaluation

The primary aim of the functional capacity evaluation is to objectively assess your ability to perform tasks essential to your job. Consider it a reality check for your work capabilities, like a coach assessing an athlete’s fitness level to determine what positions they can play effectively.

Components of the evaluation

During the FCE, you might be asked to perform various physical tasks such as lifting weights, walking, or bending. These activities closely resemble the tasks you normally perform at work, providing a clear picture of your functional limitations and abilities.

Your legal rights and the FCE

As part of the New York City workers’ compensation process, the results of your functional capacity evaluation play a pivotal role in several key areas:

  • Return to work decisions: The FCE provides evidence about whether you can safely return to your original job or if you require modifications to your work duties. Like a roadmap, it helps chart the best course for your employment after an injury.
  • Disability determination: The evaluation helps quantify how much your injury impacts your ability to work, which is essential for determining your eligibility for ongoing workers’ compensation benefits. It’s similar to having a yardstick that measures the extent of your work-related limitations.

Other legal requirements

The FCE must adhere to strict standards to ensure fairness and consistency. These guidelines dictate that FCEs be conducted by qualified professionals such as physical or occupational therapists who have received specific training in administering FCEs.

Moreover, the protocols used during FCEs should be evidence-based and standardized across practices to mitigate variability in how exams are conducted. For instance, using standardized testing tools like the Baltimore Therapeutic Equipment (BTE) or Jamar Dynamometer ensures that the evaluation of physical capacities like grip strength or range of motion is uniform.

How do FCE results impact employment and workers’ comp benefits?

The results of an FCE can have significant implications for an injured worker’s long-term employment prospects. For example, suppose the FCE determines that a worker can no longer perform heavy lifting. In that case, this might necessitate job modifications or a change to a less physically demanding role within the company.

Alternatively, employers might use the results to assist in developing a return-to-work program that includes training for new skills or adapting work environments to accommodate the employee’s functional limitations. Understanding these potential outcomes can help workers and employers plan more effectively for the future.

Impact on workers’ compensation benefits

The outcome of an FCE directly influences the benefits an injured worker may receive. For example, if the FCE concludes that the worker has partial but permanent limitations, this could qualify them for certain disability benefits under workers’ compensation laws.

Conversely, if an FCE finds that a worker can return to work without restrictions, it might reduce or terminate benefits. Understanding how these assessments affect benefits can help workers make informed decisions about their claims and future work capacity.

What to expect and how to prepare

You have the right to understand what the FCE entails and how it will be conducted. It’s important to approach the exam with the intent to do your best, yet also honestly reflect your limitations. The results should provide a fair assessment of your capabilities.

What to do if you disagree with the FCE results

If the FCE concludes that you can return to work but feel unprepared, or if it underestimates your limitations, you have legal rights to challenge these findings through an appeal. The appeals process typically involves requesting a reevaluation or a second opinion FCE, potentially conducted by a different certified practitioner.

Your attorney with The Weinstein Law Group can help argue your case, using the FCE report and additional medical evidence to advocate for your needs.

Hurt at work? We’re here to assist

A functional capacity evaluation is a critical element in your journey through the workers’ compensation system in New York City. Understanding this process and your rights ensures you can actively participate in decisions about your work capacity and benefits. Armed with this knowledge, you’re better equipped to advocate for yourself, ensuring that the path to recovery and return to work is handled fairly and justly. Call The Weinstein Law Group today at (212) 741-3800.

Related articles for further reading