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Is Settlement in Work Comp Determined by FCE?

A Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) can play a significant role in determining a workers' comp settlement. Find out how.

evident Editorial Team
December 1, 2023
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In today's complex legal landscape, understanding the nuances of workers' compensation is crucial. Central to to any workers' comp claim is the Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE), an assessment that can significantly influence the outcome of your claim.

Whether you're an injured worker, an employer, or someone keen on understanding the system, this article will shed light on the role of the FCE in determining your workers' compensation settlement.

Key Takeaways

What is Workers' Compensation?

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Workers' compensation is a specialized insurance system designed to protect employees who suffer injuries or illnesses while on the job.

Think of it as a safety net, ensuring workers aren't left financially stranded due to unforeseen workplace incidents.

Here's a breakdown of its core components:

  • Purpose: Workers' compensation aims to provide financial relief to injured employees, covering medical expenses and compensating for lost wages during the recovery period.
  • No-Fault System: One of the unique aspects of workers' compensation is its 'no-fault' nature. This means that employees can receive benefits regardless of who was at fault for the injury, be it the employer, the employee, or a third party.
  • Benefits: Apart from medical expenses and wage replacement, workers' compensation may also offer rehabilitation services, retraining, and compensation for any permanent injuries. In tragic cases where a worker loses their life, the system provides benefits to the deceased's dependents.
  • Protection for Employers: While it offers a lifeline to employees, workers' compensation also protects employers. Employees typically forfeit their right to sue their employer for negligence by availing these benefits.

In essence, workers' compensation is a balanced system aiming to safeguard employees and employers in workplace accidents. A workers comp attorney well versed in benefits and employment law can help guide you through the process.

What Is a Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE)?

A Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) systematically measures an individual's ability to perform various work-related tasks.

It bridges medical assessments and real-world job demands, ensuring workers can safely and effectively return to their roles post-injury.

Let's break down its essential elements:

  • Objective Assessment: Unlike subjective evaluations based on personal opinions, an FCE provides objective data about a worker's physical capabilities. This includes lifting capacity, endurance, flexibility, and other essential physical functions.
  • Comprehensive Evaluation: The FCE isn't a one-size-fits-all test. It's tailored to the specific demands of a worker's job role. For instance, a construction worker's FCE might focus on lifting heavy objects, while an office worker's might emphasize repetitive tasks like typing.
  • Criteria Evaluated: (1) Physical Strength - can the worker lift, push, or pull the required weights?; (2) Flexibility - can the worker bend, stretch, and reach as their job demands?; (3) Stamina - how long can the worker perform specific tasks without fatigue?; and (4) Balance - this is especially crucial for jobs that require stability, like working at heights.
  • Outcome Implications: The results of an FCE can influence several aspects of a workers' compensation claim. It can determine whether a worker is ready to return to their original job, needs modifications, or should consider an alternative role.
  • Conducted by Professionals: FCEs are typically administered by trained physical or occupational therapists who use standardized methods to ensure accuracy and consistency.

Understanding the FCE is crucial for anyone involved in a workers' compensation claim. It's the cornerstone that helps align medical recovery with practical job demands.

What Happens During an FCE?

Undergoing a Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) can be a pivotal moment in a worker's recovery journey.

It's a comprehensive assessment, but what can one expect during the process?

Let's delve into the key stages:

Initial Interview

The evaluation typically begins with an interview. The therapist gathers information about the worker's medical history, job responsibilities, and any specific concerns or limitations they might have.

Standardized Tests

These are tests designed to measure various physical abilities. Examples include:

  • Lifting Tests: Assessing the worker's ability to lift weights from the ground, waist level, or overhead.
  • Flexibility Tests: Measuring the range of motion in joints, especially the spine, knees, and shoulders.
  • Endurance Tests: Evaluating how long a worker can maintain specific postures or repetitive actions.

Job-Specific Tasks 

Depending on the worker's role, they might be asked to perform tasks that mimic their job duties. This could range from simulated office tasks like typing to more labor-intensive activities like carrying objects.

Data Compilation

After the tests, the therapist compiles the data, comparing the worker's performance against the demands of their job and industry standards.

Feedback Session

The worker receives feedback on their performance, gaining insights into their strengths, limitations, and potential work modifications.

The FCE is a blend of standardized testing and personalized assessment, ensuring that workers are evaluated in a context that mirrors real-world job demands.

Can You Fail an FCE?

The term "fail" can be misleading when discussing a Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE).

Unlike a traditional test with a clear pass or fail, an FCE is more about understanding a worker's physical capabilities in relation to their job demands.

Here's what you need to know:

  • No Pass or Fail: An FCE has no pass or fail outcome. Instead, it provides a detailed analysis of a worker's physical strengths and limitations.
  • Mismatched Abilities: If the evaluation reveals that a worker's current physical capabilities don't align with their job requirements, it doesn't mean they've "failed." It simply indicates a need for job modifications or alternative roles.
  • Safety First: The primary goal of an FCE is to ensure a safe return to work. If a worker cannot perform certain tasks safely, it's in their best interest to recognize these limitations.

An FCE is a tool for clarity and safety, guiding decisions for the injured worker and the employer.

What Happens After My FCE?

Completing a Functional Capacity Evaluation is a significant milestone, but it's just one step in the broader journey of a workers' compensation claim.

Here's a roadmap of what typically unfolds post-FCE:

Review of Results

Once the FCE is concluded, the evaluating therapist will compile and analyze the data. This report provides a comprehensive view of the worker's physical capabilities, restrictions, and potential needs for job modifications, especially in relation to reaching their maximum medical improvement.


Based on the findings, the therapist will make specific recommendations. This could range from suggesting ergonomic adjustments at the workplace to recommending further physical therapy or rehabilitation.

Return to Work

Depending on the results:

  • Full Return: If the worker meets the physical demands of their original job, they may return without restrictions.
  • Modified Duties: If certain limitations exist, the worker might return to their job with specific modifications or adjustments.
  • Alternative Roles: In cases where returning to the original job isn't feasible, the worker might be considered for alternative roles within the organization.

Continued Benefits

If the FCE indicates that the worker cannot return to work or requires ongoing medical care, they may continue receiving workers' compensation benefits, including medical and wage loss benefits.

Legal Implications

The FCE report can be crucial in legal proceedings, influencing decisions about disability ratings, settlement amounts, and future medical care provisions.

Ongoing Communication

Workers must maintain open communication with their employers, medical providers, and legal representatives, ensuring all parties are aligned on the next steps.

Remember, while the FCE provides valuable insights, every individual's journey is unique.

What Role Does the Insurance Company Play in an FCE?

The insurance company, often representing the employer, plays a pivotal role in the FCE process and the broader workers' compensation case. Their involvement is multifaceted, and understanding it can provide clarity for workers navigating a compensation claim.

Here's a breakdown.

Initiation of the FCE

Often, it's the insurance company that requests an FCE. They seek an objective assessment of the injured worker's capabilities to make informed decisions about claim settlements and return-to-work plans.

Selection of Providers

While the worker undergoes the evaluation, the insurance company typically has a say in selecting the medical provider or facility where the FCE is conducted.

It's crucial for workers to ensure that the chosen provider is neutral and unbiased.

Review of Results

Once the FCE is completed, the insurance company will closely review the findings. This helps them determine the extent of the worker's disability, potential compensation amounts, and the feasibility of returning to work.

Determination of Benefits

Based on the FCE results, the insurance company may adjust the benefits provided to the injured worker. This could include medical benefits for further treatment or to see a physical therapist, wage loss benefits, or potential settlement offers.

Potential Disputes

A disagreement between the worker and the insurance company regarding the FCE results might lead to further negotiations or legal proceedings.

The insurance company is a key stakeholder in the FCE process, influencing various aspects of a worker's compensation journey.

What Impact Will My FCE Have on My Workers' Comp Settlement?

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The Functional Capacity Evaluation is more than just a measure of physical capabilities—it's a pivotal tool that can significantly influence the trajectory of a workers' compensation settlement.

Here's how:

  • Objective Evidence: The FCE provides objective data about a worker's physical abilities, offering concrete evidence for settlement negotiations. This can be especially valuable if there are disputes about the extent of a worker's injuries.
  • Determination of Disability: The results of the FCE can help determine if a worker has a permanent impairment. This can influence their compensation, especially if they cannot return to their previous job or any job.
  • Future Medical Care: The FCE can illuminate the need for ongoing medical treatment or rehabilitation. If it's determined that a worker will require future medical treatment or surgery, this can be factored into the settlement amount.
  • Earning Capacity: If the FCE indicates that a worker can return to work but with certain restrictions, it might impact their future earning capacity. This potential loss of earnings can be considered in the settlement.
  • Negotiation Leverage: Armed with the FCE results, workers and insurance companies have a tangible basis for negotiations. It can either bolster a worker's claim or be used by insurance companies to limit payouts.
  • Legal Proceedings: In cases where settlements are disputed and go to trial, the FCE results can be presented as evidence, influencing the court's decisions.

In summary, the FCE is a cornerstone in workers' compensation cases, potentially potentially swaying settlements significantly.

Consulting with an experienced workers' comp lawyer can provide tailored advice and representation for those navigating this journey, ensuring fair outcomes. And typically, a workers' compensation lawyer doesn't cost you anything upfront.

Summing it Up

For injured workers, knowledge is power. Being well-informed about the FCE process, its outcomes, and its influence on settlements can make all the difference.

And remember, you're not alone in this journey. Workers' compensation lawyers, medical experts, and support groups are there to guide and assist.