Serious work injuries sometimes make it difficult or impossible to drive a standard vehicle. Leg injuries make driving difficult because most cars use foot pedals for the gas and the brake. Back injuries sometimes affect leg use as well. Driving a car with a manual transmission is difficult for someone with an arm injury. In these types of cases, a question that is often asked is, “Does the workers’ compensation insurance company have to buy a modified vehicle?”
Is it safe for you to drive?
If an injury prevents you from driving safely even with modifications, then the workers’ compensation insurer is definitely not going to have to purchase you a car. For example, you might take medications that make it unsafe for you to drive. You could have an eye injury that prevents you from getting your driver’s license.
In these situations, the workers’ compensation insurance company should pay for transportation to your medical appointments. They should probably also pay for some “discretionary” transportation as well. “Discretionary transportation” would be trips out of the house to shop for groceries and other items or to visit friends and family among other things.
Could you drive safely if your car was modified
If your injury prevents you from driving your current vehicle but would still allow you to drive a modified vehicle, it still does not necessarily mean that the insurance company has to buy you a car. The insurance company’s obligation is to provide transportation for you to get to the places you need to go.
The insurance company can do this without buying a car for you as long as they are willing to pay the cost of a taxi to transport you. Many insurance companies do choose to buy a modified vehicle because they believe it will be less expensive than paying a taxi service every time you need transportation.
Vehicles are modified for two main reasons:
- To accommodate the physical limitations from an injury. Modifications that fall in this category include hand controls, foot pedals that do not require as much force, and adjustments to the steering wheel and parking brake.
- To allow an injured worker to transport a scooter or wheelchair that is needed because of the injury
Prior to buying a modified vehicle, it is a good idea to have a driving evaluation. Your treating doctor should prescribe this to make sure that it is safe for you to drive. This evaluation will also determine what modifications would be needed to make a vehicle suitable and whether your current vehicle can be safely modified. Sheperd Center in Atlanta performs many driving evaluations in Georgia workers’ compensation claims
How do I get a modified vehicle
Once you know what modifications you need, you can better evaluate your transportation options. It may be possible to modify your current vehicle. You might need a different vehicle such as a large van that could be modified to accommodate a wheelchair.
It is possible that the insurance company may propose providing you with a vehicle in exchange for a Partial Stipulation and Agreement Settling Transportation Claims. Such an agreement would generally include the insurance company paying you a lump sum of money (to buy a vehicle) in exchange for you giving up your right to have the insurance company provide transportation for some period of time. You should seriously consider the consequences and carefully review any documents before agreeing to this because:
- Usually, you will be giving up most, if not all, of your rights to have the insurance company page for transportation for a long period of time.
- The insurance company cannot make you do this. You can always choose to make them continue to provide you with transportation without settling your transportation rights.
This article is intended as a general overview of the subject of transportation. There are many factors to consider when looking at transportation issues. The State Board of Workers’ Compensation’s Managed Care and Rehabilitation Division has published a transportation paper which discusses a lot of these issues in further detail.
However, that paper primarily focuses on what catastrophic rehabilitation suppliers should do in cases that have been designated catastrophic. Even if your case has not been designated catastrophic, you could be entitled to transportation.
If you are going to need a vehicle modified as a result of your work injury, talk to your attorney if you already have one. If you do not have an attorney, you should seriously consider having a free consultation with an attorney who specializes in workers’ compensation.