Everything You Need To Know About Functional Capacity Evaluation

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functional capacity evaluation

Workplace injuries happen all the time. In 2021 alone, per 100,000 workers, 23.000 suffered minor, while more than 600 suffered major injuries. 

Because work-related injuries are a common occurrence, the US government developed workers’ compensation systems. Injured workers can rely on these benefits to recover from their ailments in peace without worrying about medical costs or the financial repercussions of their injury.

Workers’ comp is a ‘’no-fault’’ system, meaning that your employer doesn’t have to be found negligent for you to receive the benefits. However, employers will often try to dispute this coverage to save money through their insurance company.

If you suffered a workplace injury, you might be required to take a functional capacity evaluation. which might help to prove and objectively quantify the nature of your injury. Since this evaluation determines the actual impact of your disability on your work-related activities, it can help or harm your claim. 

Continue reading as we break down the functional capacity evaluation and everything it entails.

Functional capacity evaluation defined

This evaluation is a series of tests designed to gauge a worker’s physical abilities, conducted by a certified evaluator. In other words, functional capacity evaluation is a surefire way to provide neutral information on the severity of the injury or illness.

The tests that the evaluator performs determine:

1. Physical strength
2. Ability to lift and carry objects
3. Range of motion
4. Stamina
5. Flexibility

This evaluation is necessary to quantify how injured a worker is and how much their limitations affect their working ability. Thus, to assess the correct level of benefits, a professional has to evaluate the worker’s ability in a standardized manner.

You won’t be simply labeled as injured because every injury is different, so the evaluation will match your ability to the demands of your job. The tests you go through will be tailored around your specific injury and the job itself. 

For example, if your job involves carrying heavy loads over long distances, you’ll be tested on your ability to walk and carry heavy objects. If the evaluation shows you can’t perform this task, you might not be able to perform the same duties but you might be able to handle a less physically demanding job.

What happens during a functional capacity evaluation

If an independent medical evaluation required by the insurance company of your employer shows that you’re able to return to work, you might have to go through functional capacity tests to receive clarification on your current condition.

On the day of the evaluation, the person performing the assessment will review your case and allow you to ask any questions. Next, they might even review your medical records and perform additional musculoskeletal screening.

After you fill out the paperwork, the tests can begin.

As we previously mentioned, the nature of your work-related activities will determine the tests you must undergo. If you lift heavy objects, you’ll have to lift weights, but if your job heavily relies on cognitive function, your cognitive abilities will need to be tested.

For instance, the evaluator might ask you to:

1. Undergo dexterity tests
2. Run on the treadmill
3. Stack boxes
4. Kneel
5. Lift weights
6. Balance
7. Take hand-eye coordination tests

These are just some of the tests you might undertake. The entire process might take upwards of six hours, taking part over two consecutive days. 

The role of the evaluator isn’t only to instruct you. They’ll also observe your ability to perform these tasks, as well as your level of exertion and range of motion. They’ll take note of any symptoms, such as sweating or trembling while performing the exercises.

Since these tests are carefully designed not to exacerbate any conditions, the evaluator will ask you questions during or after the test to gauge the level of pain. Additionally, they will ask about your injury, your pain levels, and which activities make your symptoms worse.

After everything is done, the evaluator will create a comprehensive report based on the findings of the functional capacity evaluation. They’ll also give their professional opinion on whether you’re ready to return to your job and if so, in which capacity. 

They’ll then send the report to the person who requested the assessment, which can then be used to modify, continue, or terminate your benefits.

The benefits of functional capacity evaluation

At face value, this assessment seems like it might harm your benefits, but in fact, it can help all parties involved. Your employer will most likely appreciate the information that you’re able to work to a limited capacity instead of not working at all. Additionally, a proper evaluation makes it easy to discern if you’re committing insurance fraud.

Ultimately, you’re the party that can benefit the most.

Functional capacity assessment can help determine the right time when you should return to work and in what capacity. This matters because returning to work too early or performing duties outside of your abilities might cause a reinjury, which could put you out of commission for a long time. 

Additionally, this procedure can also keep your coworkers safe. If you can’t lift heavy objects, there is a risk of you hurting other employees. For example, you could drop a heavy box on your colleague’s foot. This evaluation helps clarify your limitations, thus keeping you and the people around you safe.

Figuring out the level of injury can be tricky, which often causes disputes between employers and injured workers. This evaluation helps clear any misconceptions by providing an impartial account of your capacity to work. 

It also helps quantify the injury. For instance, two workers with broken legs might seem to have the same level of injury, but their fractures and job requirements might be completely different. A functional capacity evaluation helps diagnose the exact level of injury and its impact on an injured employee’s working ability. 


It is a lot more accurate than self-reporting since it’s based on standardized tests, meaning it can help ascertain the right time when you should return to work.

Furthermore, you might require other forms of support, such as occupational therapy. A functional capacity evaluation report can help you receive the appropriate benefits which might help you recover faster. 

Functional capacity evaluation is nothing to fear of

This particular evaluation is a major component of the entire workers’ compensation process. The problem is a lot of injured employees view it as something very frightening. In reality, it’s not always your employer that might ask for this evaluation to be completed.

If you have an attorney, they might even ask for a functional capacity evaluation themselves.

Why?

Quite simply, it can be beneficial to your case. With a comprehensive report on your limitations, an attorney can favorably interpret it and use it to bolster your benefits claim. 

Regardless of the circumstances, we hope you got a better understanding of everything regarding this crucial assessment, and understand there’s nothing to fear. At the very least – consider it as a way to gain a better idea of how debilitating your condition might be.