Personal injury litigation and functional capacity evaluations.
In the course of personal injury litigation, the plaintiff is often sent for a “Functional Capacity Evaluation” (FCE). Sometimes the plaintiff is referred for an FCE by their own lawyer to provide additional evidence of the extent of impairment, and sometimes they are sent by ICBC Defence lawyers to confirm physical limitations and the impact this may have on the plaintiff’s future employment.
An FCE provides a snap shot of a person’s functional abilities over the period of one day, and the focus is usually on determining whether a person is able to complete specific job demands. The FCE is usually completed by an Occupational Therapist or Physical Therapist with specific training in administering this type of testing.
5 Things to know:
1) How Long will it take?
Most FCE’s are conducted over a full day, and some will involve a second day of testing. Be prepared to spend the entire day at the clinic and arrive wearing comfortable, loose fitting clothing that is suitable for physical activity.
2) What will I be expected to do?
Although there are some slight differences between FCEs, they all involve testing of basic physical activities such as bending, lifting, crouching, carrying, walking, reaching, hand dexterity testing, and grip strength testing. It is likely that the evaluator will also measure your weight, height, blood pressure and heart rate.
3) Are there any ‘trick’ tests?
FCEs include tests that are focused on evaluating your level of effort, but you won’t be told which tests are used to evaluate effort. This is why it is important to give your full effort on each and every test, even if the particular test seems silly, easy, or unrelated to the area of injury.
4) What about pain?
FCE evaluators can observe your behavior and can ask you questions about your pain level, but they cannot ‘observe’ your pain level, because pain is subjective. Therefore, it is important to provide the evaluator with specific and timely information about which tasks in the assessment cause you discomfort and / or pain. If the evaluator provides you with a form to complete on the day following the evaluation, or arranges to phone you, it is important that you communicate if the testing increased your pain level and / or impacted on your functioning after the testing was completed.
5) What if my job is different?
The FCE results will be compared to the physical job demands of particular categories of occupations that have been compiled into large databases in the USA and Canada. These occupations range from ‘sedentary’ through to ‘very heavy’ physical demands, and include general descriptions of occupations. FCE testing is completed in the clinic setting, so it can’t fully replicate your work site. Your specific job may involve physical demands that may be different than the information in the databases and the clinic based testing. For these reasons, it is important to provide the assessor with any details you have about your job and your specific employer, especially if your job is unusual. It is also important to tell the evaluator if your symptoms are impacting on your ability to complete other activities such as recreation and tasks around your home such as cleaning, yard work, and taking care of children.