In personal injury litigation, a plaintiff is typically sent for a Functional Capacity Evaluation, often referred to as an “FCE,” if their accident injuries prevent them from working. An FCE is a series of standardized tests used to objectively measure an individual’s health status and functional abilities over a day pertaining to their ability to perform essential work functions. A doctor or occupational therapist typically conducts these assessments. 

The plaintiff may either be sent to an FCE by defence counsel to confirm their injuries and related physical limitations or determine the impact the injuries may have on the plaintiff’s future employment and daily activity engagement. The plaintiff may also be referred to an FCE by their own lawyer to provide additional medical evidence of their injuries and the extent of their impairments and support their claim for income-replacement benefits. 

Why Have I Been Referred to a Functional Capacity Evaluation?

A Functional Capacity Evaluation (“FCE”) is a type of independent medical examination. The primary purpose of an FCE is to evaluate an individual’s ability to sustain physical movement through standardized physical testing over several hours. 

The information obtained from the FCE will generally provide evidence of someone’s functional movements, balance, fatigue, pain, muscle strength, balance, and dexterity. While the information obtained by an FCE can be provided to an insurer and used in litigation, they do not necessarily have the final say on entitlement to benefits or compensation. 

Depending on the circumstances, refusing to participate in an FCE may result in benefit termination or reduced compensation.

The Purpose of an FCE in Motor Vehicle Accident Cases

Providing supporting medical evidence in the case of a car accident claim can greatly help establish a permanent functional limitation or disability. The tests are created to obtain data about an individual’s physical restrictions and limitations which may prevent them from working a regular schedule at their pre-accident job. 

An FCE may be used to determine damages related to ongoing pain and suffering, loss of quality of life, limitations impacting daily activities, the inability to return to work which has resulted in lost wages, and the need for ongoing rehabilitation or treatment. 

A defence lawyer may request that a plaintiff attend an FCE to ensure that the individual is not exaggerating their symptoms and to assess whether or not they have a permanent injury.

What to Expect at an Assessment

An FCE is often completed over several hours in one day. However, the FCE may be completed over two days in the event that the full evaluation cannot be completed in one day. 

Prior to the FCE, a plaintiff may be provided with a questionnaire to complete ahead of time, which will ask questions regarding their injuries, physical symptoms and limitations. During the FCE, the individual performing the evaluation may ask questions about these items. Plaintiffs must be completely honest in answering any question regarding their injuries, abilities and limitations. 

The FCE consists of a series of physical tests to determine one’s ability to perform essential movements, including the plaintiff’s ability to:

  • sit, stand, walk, crouch or kneel;
  • lift and carry objects; 
  • maintain balance;
  • reach, push and pull objects;
  • use specific machines and tools;
  • exhibit flexibility and range of motion; and 
  • perform other functional movements which may relate to their job. 

When performing these tests, the person conducting the FCE will observe the plaintiff’s behaviour and ask questions regarding their pain and discomfort level when performing certain movements. The individual needs to provide the conductor with specific information as issues and difficulties arise.  

A Snapshot of Functional Limitations

A Functional Capacity Evaluation takes place in a clinical setting, which cannot fully replicate a worksite. Therefore, the results can be misleading, and the tests may not exactly match the physical demands of an individual’s job. Just because someone can complete specific tasks one day does not necessarily mean they can repeatedly perform those tasks in the course of their employment. 

Therefore, a plaintiff needs to communicate specific details about their job demands with the assessor. It is also critical for anyone participating in an FCE to articulate how symptoms impact their ability to engage in their day-to-day activities, such as taking care of children, and household chores, such as cleaning a bathroom, as the FCE results alone will not be an automatic indicator of your personal injury claim.

In the event that the findings of an FCE result in an individual’s income-replacement benefits being terminated, a personal injury lawyer can assist in disputing the termination. 

Contact the Personal Injury Lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie LLP for Trusted Advice on Functional Capacity Evaluations After a Car Accident

The trusted personal injury lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie LLP have dedicated their practice to helping personal injury clients for more than 20 years. Our lawyers have extensive experience assisting individuals injured in car accidents to navigate independent medical examinations, including functional capacity evaluations. Our wealth of experience allows us to manage our client’s claims and advocate on their behalf so that they can focus on their recovery and rebuilding their life. Located in the heart of downtown Calgary, our firm proudly represents personal injury clients throughout Alberta. To schedule a free, confidential consultation with a member of our team, contact us online or at 403-571-0555.