Functional Capacity Evaluations are also called Work Capacity Evaluations. They are generally performed by occupational therapists (“OT”) who have special training and are called Certified Work Capacity Evaluators. Occasionally, doctors perform the same function.
A Functional Capacity Evaluation usually takes at least a day and sometimes more. Usually, the assessment is done at the office of the OT but sometimes they are done out of the office perhaps at the workplace setting or at your home.
Generally speaking, Functional Capacity Evaluations are a better tool for you than for ICBC because it helps prove your personal injury claim. Functional Capacity Evaluations attempt to determine whether or not an individual, on an objective basis, can do a certain level of activities or work. The OT performs extensive testing and makes a decision as to the functional limits of the individual, whether it is sedentary, light, medium or heavy work or activities. They look at the ability of a Plaintiff to perform a certain job.
Since the day long testing involves numerous real life situations which simulate work and activities, it is hard for ICBC to turn around and suggest that the testing process or outcome is somehow invalid. Also, it is easy to argue that the Functional Capacity Evaluation is a better measure of disability than the measure used by an ICBC doctor who performs a 15-30 minute physical exam.
Functional Capacity Evaluations are helpful in judging whether you are able to perform your pre-accident employment duties. If you have been able to return to your pre-accident employment, a favorable result from a Functional Capacity Evaluation can still help to establish a loss of capacity claim. This would be the case if the testing process showed that you are unable to perform all jobs and duties that you would otherwise have been able to do had you not been injured.
In performing the evaluation, the OT assesses your capacity to do certain activities and then reviews the type of job you did before the accident based on statistics from the Canadian government. If your work capacity does not meet the job duties described by the government then the OT would find that you are not competitively employable to do that job.
In terms of when to have a Functional Capacity Evaluation, this test is best performed at a point when ICBC or the disability carrier is pressuring you about returning to work. If you have a favorable test result, which shows your physical capacity does not allow you to work, how can ICBC or the disability carrier cut off the short-term benefits?
The other time when a Functional Capacity Evaluation should be performed is within six months of a trial date or a few months in advance of an attempt to settle your claim with ICBC.
Unfortunately, Functional Capacity Evaluations are expensive and usually cost in the order of $2,000-$4,000. MSP does not cover this expense and it is unlikely ICBC will cover it upfront either, so that is why you need a lawyer that is willing to spend the money in order to get the assessment done. The Functional Capacity Evaluation expense is what is called a “disbursement”. This type of expense is something you can generally recover from ICBC but only after the claim ends.
In terms of when ICBC uses a Functional Capacity Evaluation, they may use a Functional Capacity Evaluation in a situation where they need to provide a contrary opinion to the one that your lawyer obtained for you. The other main reason why ICBC may use a Functional Capacity Evaluation is to establish credibility issues. This is because during the Functional Capacity Evaluation, the OT will run validity tests to make sure that you are giving a maximum effort and not overstating your problems. Remember, these are experts and they are trained to pick out somebody that is not trying as hard as he/she should, or is exaggerating. Therefore, the last thing you want to do when you undergo a Functional Capacity Evaluation is to try to exaggerate or mislead. You will be caught.