What is an FCE and How Will It Affect My Workers’ Comp Claim?
When you’re nearing the end of your recovery from injuries sustained in a workplace injury, you will start to hear some terms you might be unfamiliar with — terms like “Maximum Medical Improvement,” “Permanent Partial Disability Rating,” and “Functional Capacity Evaluation.”
In this blog post we’ll share what Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) is in a workers’ comp claim. First, however, we’ve got to dig into two other concepts — Maximum Medical Improvement and Permanent Partial Disability Rating.
Your doctor will tell you that you are nearing “Maximum Medical Improvement.” Maximum medical improvement, or “MMI” means that you have recovered from your injuries as to the greatest extent you are ever going to recover. It does not necessarily mean you are fully healed, or that you will not require future medical care. It just means you are as good as you are ever going to get. More treatment might be needed to keep you at that level, but you are never going to get any better than you are once you reach MMI.
When you reach MMI, your doctor will usually assign you a “Permanent Partial Disability Rating.” This is often also called a “PPD Rating” or just a “Rating.” Sometimes it is also called a “PPI Rating” or “Permanent Partial Impairment Rating.” Whatever the name referenced, a Rating is where your doctor tried to give a numerical value to what you have lost in functionality because of your injury. For example, your doctor might assign a 5% rating to your hand to connotate that your hand is only 95% of what it was before your accident. This rating is meant to consider things like the strength of your hand, your range of motion, your pain level, etc.
Note that the ratings assigned in North Carolina are different from ratings given elsewhere. Most states assign ratings under the American Medical Association or “ADA” Guidelines. North Carolina uses its own set of guidelines that can be found online at the North Carolina Industrial Commission.
What is Functional Capacity Evaluation in a Workers’ Comp Claim in North Carolina?
When you receive your rating, you still have the most important questions left open:
Can you return to work? Can you do your old job, and if not, what other jobs can you do?
To answer these questions, many doctors will send you out for a “Functional Capacity Evaluation” or “F.C.E.” An FCE is where a physical therapist runs a set of tests and examinations to determine what you can and can’t do. The tests might be an hour long, or several hours long depending on your injury and your job duties.
Unfortunately, FCE’s are the result of a great deal of litigation. Many adjusters will try to use FCE as a litigation tool rather than as a legitimate medical examination. We see many FCE reports that are boilerplate, sometimes accusing a patient of “malingering” and providing “sub-maximal effort.”
FCEs Are Subjective
It is important to remember that FCE’s are subjective. Many people do not realize that FCEs are just recommendations. Your doctor is supposed to review the FCE and actually assign your permanent restrictions. The FCE is just a tool for your doctor to use in determining your restrictions, and your doctor should be reminded that a therapist who conducts an FCE is not a doctor and cannot assign restrictions.
Your doctor should talk to you and find out if the FCE is a fair measure of what you can do. And your doctor needs to know if you woke up the next day sore and in pain, because an FCE might run a few hours, but no FCE measures what you can and cannot do on a daily basis. Most jobs are 40 hours a week, and it’s a totally different story to do something for 3 hours or to do it for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.
Experienced North Carolina Workers’ Comp Lawyers
If you’ve been injured on the job and are seeking workers’ compensation benefits, our North Carolina workers’ comp lawyers are ready to help.
Our team is led by two Board-Certified Specialists in Workers’ Compensation who have decades of experience handling these types of cases. They’ve been recognized by the North Carolina State Bar for their experience and expertise in work injury claims.
We also have experienced disability lawyers on staff who can help with claims and appeals when workplace injuries result in long-term disability.
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