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Workers Compensation

What Is A Functional Capacity Examination?

A functional capacity examination is a series of tests that are performed, usually by a physical therapy group, to determine your ability to work.

They will have you perform various physical activities, such as:

  • lifting,
  • carrying,
  • pushing,
  • pulling,
  • sitting,
  • standing,
  • walking,
  • and all of these movements will be analyzed by them.

A functional capacity examination may be required in some circumstances, such as if a police officer is injured at work and needs to be full duty because of her job duties. The police department may require that the officer undergo a functional capacity evaluation to make sure that they are fit and able to perform their policing duties.

Frequently, the insurance company will arrange to have a functional capacity evaluation done in those circumstances. I recommend that the worker confer with an attorney because the tests are not necessarily accurate and they may not help your workers’ compensation case. 

The examination is not medical treatment and the law provides that an employer is required to provide medical treatment. I frequently advise my clients, if it is not required for them to return back to work, to not go to the functional capacity examination.

My experience has been that a judge will not order a worker to attend a functional capacity evaluation. It is somewhat different if the doctor prescribes a functional capacity evaluation.

In those circumstances, it may be considered medical treatment and therefore the injured worker may have to attend the functional capacity evaluation. Overall, I am extremely leery of functional capacity evaluations.

I do not think that they are scientifically reliable and I think they are a tool used by the workers’ compensation insurance company to undermine a valid claim. The functional capacity evaluation will frequently indicate that there has been sub- maximal effort and the employee has embellished their restrictions. 

If you are at the point where you are directed to go to a functional capacity evaluation, my recommendation would be for you to confer with a workers’ compensation attorney to determine whether it is necessary and appropriate for you to attend the functional capacity evaluation.

Again, your employer may require that you undergo the functional capacity evaluation in order for you to return to work. If the functional capacity examination demonstrates that you are not able to return to your job, you could very well be terminated from your employment.

What Is An Independent Medical Evaluation?

An independent medical evaluation is not necessarily independent. The doctors performing evaluations in the workers’ compensation systems are recognized as advocates for the respective parties.

The doctor your attorney sends you to will be writing a report and advocating for you. The insurance expert medical witness will be advocating for your employer or the workers’ compensation insurance carrier.

It is recognized in the system that the doctors for the workers are exactly that: for the workers. The doctors for the insurance companies are expert witnesses for the insurance company. Essentially, there is no truly independent medical evaluation in the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation system.

What If My Doctor Releases Me From Treatment With Permanent Work Restrictions That Cannot Be Accommodated By My Employer?

If you have been out of work for a lengthy period of time and your employer cannot accommodate the permanent work restrictions, you may very well be out of a job and you must pursue other options, such as lighter work, unemployment benefits, or Social Security disability benefits.

If your injury causes you to lose your job, it would be in your best interest to pursue all that you are entitled under the law.

What If My Job Is No Longer Available After I Am Discharged From Medical Treatment?

If you have been out of work for a considerable period of time and are not covered under the Family Medical Leave Act, you will have to apply for unemployment and seek other work.

Unemployment will use the wages you earned immediately before your work accident for the purposes of establishing your unemployment entitlement. Unemployment is not usually available, however, to injured workers who have been unable to work for more than 18 months.

What Should I Do If The Doctor Says My Injuries Are Minor And Does Not Recommend Any Type Of Treatment?

If you are unsatisfied with the advice of the first doctor you see, you should request that the insurance company refer you to another doctor for a second opinion. If they refuse, it would be wise to confer with an attorney to explore your options.

You may be able to file a motion with the court for purposes of obtaining an order from the workers’ compensation judge compelling them to provide you with treatment.

Frequently, your attorney will send you to a physician experienced in the workers’ compensation system, who will write a report setting forth treatment recommendations. The report is then filed with the court to get your issue before a workers’ compensation judge.

What Happens After My Medical Treatment For My Work Injury Is Over And My Temporary Disability Benefits Stop?

If your injuries have left permanent residuals impacting your work ability or activities of daily living, you have a right to pursue a permanency award through the workers’ compensation system.

You would most often do this by retaining an attorney to represent you in this process, who will take the necessary steps to make sure that your case is ready for court and to advise you along the way as to the way your case will resolve.

What If I Don’t Want To Return To My Job After My Medical Treatment Is Over?

Your workers’ compensation claim is not tied to your employment with the same employer. You are free to quit that job and pursue other career options.

For more information on Functional Capacity Examination In NJ, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (908) 200-2297 today.

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