You Can Receive a Motorized Scooter under Virginia Workers Compensation
You may have difficulty standing, walking, and moving around if you suffer an injury to your back, hip, knee, ankle, or foot while working. Depending on the severity of your injury and how well you respond to medical treatment, you may need to use an assistive device to get around.
When you hear the term “assistive device,” you probably think of a cane, crutch, walker, or wheelchair. But some of you may require the use of a motorized scooter after a work accident. A scooter can make it easier for you to run errands such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy.
This article explains when the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission will force the employer and its insurance company to provide you with a motorized scooter. If you have any questions about your workers compensation claim or are looking to negotiate a workers comp settlement as you approach maximum medical improvement, contact workplace accident attorney Corey Pollard for a free consultation.
Summary of Cases Discussing the Motorized Scooter Issue in Virginia Workers Comp
In Lineberry v. Virginia Military Institute, VWC File No. 526-657 (April 4, 2005), the injured employee filed a workers compensation claim seeking authorization and payment for a motorized scooter prescribed by his treating physician. She had already proven that she suffered an injury by accident arising out of and in the course of her employment.
The medical record showed that the claimant had undergone a total hip replacement. In 1998 her treating physician prescribed an electric scooter, which the defendants paid for. This scooter, however, did not have enough power for the claimant to operate around the community and stopped often while the claimant was trying to operate it. As a result Dr. Joiner wrote the following in 2003:
Mr. Lineberry’s prescription for an electric scooter was written specifically to assist him in dealing with problems with mobility arising from his December 13, 1976 work injury. The scooter was and is considered necessary for mobility at home and in the community. With[out] such a device he is unable to access the community without undue pain and needless expenditure of energy.
Dr. Joiner later wrote that the scooter would not replace an automobile but would assist in everyday mobility.
Another treating physician, Dr. Henning, prescribed repair of the claimant’s scooter or a new four-wheeled scooter in July 2003. The following year Dr. Henning completed a Medical Necessity Request Form wherein he stated: “It has been deemed medically necessary to prescribe for this patient Wrangler PMV600 by Pride Mobility Products Corp.”
At deposition Dr. Henning testified that he prescribed the scooter to provide the claimant “a little bit of independent around his neighborhood … Apparently he had another one that is either worn-out or isn’t very effective. And this type vehicle has enough range that apparently he can get from his house to like the local drugstore and has enough – there is a few hills in his neighborhood, has enough power to get him up and down the hills, where the other one apparently did not have the battery power.” Dr. Henning further testified that a scooter company representative had observed the claimant and recommended this model.
Following the workers compensation hearing the deputy commissioner determined that a scooter might be an “appliance” under Virginia Code Section 65.2-603. The deputy commissioner further determined that the claimant failed to prove that the requested scooter was a reasonable and necessary medical expense.
Prior Workers Comp Cases Addressing Scooters
On appeal the Commission affirmed the deputy commissioner’s decision and provided a summary of case law on motorized scooters.
In Raines v. Raines Const. Co., VWC File No. 166-25-13 (November 6, 2000) the Commission found that a hover-round motorized scooter/wheelchair was a medically necessary appliance where the treating physician had recommended the wheelchair “to assist in standing up and sitting down without assistance.” The claimant was “chair or bed confined,” could not ambulate without assistance, and had weakness in his hands and arms.
In Hastings v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., VWC File No. 204-63-02 (September 1, 2004) the Commission denied the claimant’s request for a scooter where the doctor testified that he prescribed the scooter at the claimant’s request and that there was no objective evidence supporting the need for a scooter.
In Jenkins v. Green Motor Lines, Inc., 79 O.W.C. 81 (2000) the Commission approved the claimant’s request for a three-wheel motorized scooter where the evidence showed the scooter was medically necessary for treatment of the claimant’s depression.
In Galyean v. Southeastern Adhesives Co., No. 2479-92-2 (Va. Ct. App. July 27, 1993) (per curiam) the Court of Appeals affirmed the Commission’s denial of a claim for a motorized scooter. It found that the scooter was not medically necessary when it was prescribed because it would be “very helpful … to assist [the claimant] in public places.”
Affirming the Deputy Commissioner and Establishing a Test for Scooter Claims
After discussing past cases the Commission stated the test for determining whether it will approve ar request for a motorized scooter:
To establish that the employer is responsible for the costs of this appliance, the claimant must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the scooter is both reasonable and medically necessary. As noted by the Deputy Commissioner in his opinion, an appliance is medically necessary if it is necessary to alleviate a claimant’s pain and symptoms caused by the industrial accident or if it serves to treat or improve the claimant’s causally related physical or psychological condition. On the other hand, an appliance prescribed merely to accommodate a claimant’s request without objective evidence supporting the claimant’s need for the appliance is not medically necessary. (Citation omitted). Also, an appliance deemed by the treating to be “very helpful” for the claimant to use in public places is not medically necessary. (Citation omitted).
Using this test, the Commission found that the medical evidence established that the scooter was prescribed to make it easier for the claimant to get around town, not to assist in treating or improving a physiological or psychological condition or to increase the claimant’s mobility. As such, the claim was denied.
Help With a Motorized Scooter Claim under Virginia Workers Comp
As you can see, a claim for a motorized scooter can be complicated under the Virginia Workers’ Comp Act. You’ll need strong medical evidence to support your own testimony at hearing.
Corey Pollard can help. We’ll do everything we can to help you get the motorized scooter you need to increase your mobility after a work injury. And if you have difficulty standing and walking for extended periods we can also serve as your Richmond disability lawyer or Newport News SSD attorney so that you get approved for SSDI benefits.