There is no hard and fast rule as to how the doctor gives you restrictions. Some doctors will order a Functional Capacities Evaluation. They will review the recommendations from the FCE and either adopt those as your permanent restrictions or modify them.
Other doctors will use their personal judgment regarding what you can do. Many of these doctors scoff at the increased use of FCEs and are confident they can accurately assess safe levels of physical activity.
A third group of doctors are inclined to give you no set restrictions at all but encourage you to watch yourself or “find another line of work.” These doctors are undoubtedly well intentioned but often create real problems in workers’ compensation claims. As we’ve heard, this set of doctors explain they are concerned that giving you written restrictions will handcuff you indefinitely, especially if you are looking for work with a new company. On the other hand, we think it is a little naïve to expect an employer to accommodate a worker’s request for job modifications when the doctor hasn’t specifically said the injured worker needs it.
An example of where this third group can inadvertently create problems occurred for us when a doctor released our client without any restriction in writing. Our client insisted that the doctor had told him to find a different line of work. Based on this, the client did not return to work the next day. Not showing up for work he was summarily terminated. The insurance adjuster then moved the Industrial Commission to cut off his weekly checks on the basis that he had no documented disability.
We took the doctor’s deposition and he seemed astonished. “But, I told the rehabilitation nurse that he could not return to his old job. I just didn’t want to limit him in terms of his future options.” When asked why this didn’t appear anywhere in her report the nurse simply replied that she’d asked advice from the adjuster. The adjuster told the nurse to leave it out of the report, as she wanted to terminate the injured worker’s checks. The rehabilitation nurse went along with the adjuster’s request.