Two recent Illinois workers’ compensation cases address the issue of modification of a vehicle or home after a disability caused by a work accident. In both of these cases, the workers won their arguments that they should be awarded the costs of their respective modifications. In the first case, a pre-existing condition didn’t prevent worker from getting the vehicle he needed, and in the other, it didn’t matter that the recommendation for home modifications came from a physical therapist rather than a doctor.

In the first case, the employer was ordered to provide the injured worker with a handicapped-accessible van that accommodated his needs, as well as training to teach him how to use the vehicle. The twist in this case was that the worker had the pre-existing condition of muscular dystrophy. In fact, his pre-existing condition already required the use of a modified van.

The other side argued that the worker’s need for the van was due to his pre-existing condition, and also that he already had access to other benefit programs to provide him with a van, but these arguments didn’t work. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission said that the worker was entitled to the modified van because he was found to be “permanently and totally disabled” after his work injury. In other words, the need for the van was in part due to the work injury.

In the other case, the injured worker was arguing for payment for the costs of modifications to his home. The arbitrator and the commission denied the cost of those modifications because they were recommended by a physical therapist rather than a doctor. The court disagreed, deciding that a physician’s prescription is not a requirement. The law in Illinois doesn’t say that a doctor needs to give an opinion or even testify when it comes to awarding benefits like these. The worker just needs to provide evidence that the award is reasonable and necessary, according to this case.

The law says that injured workers in Illinois are entitled to coverage of all reasonable and related medical expenses. This doesn’t only cover strictly medical things like prescription drugs and surgery. We’ve seen cases with all types of treatment that get approved. Some get approved without a fight; many are disputed but we are able to get them for our client after arguing the case to an arbitrator; sometimes, the treatment is just too unrelated or non-traditional. It often comes down to the opinion of your doctor and the experience of your attorney. Don’t assume you aren’t covered.

By Michael Helfand