In a recent case, an appellate court considered whether a woman had presented sufficient evidence to show she was entitled to home renovations after a workplace injury. The woman injured her lower back at work in 1989. In 2014, when the woman was in her 70s, she had a spinal fusion surgery and developed a difficulty in lifting the front part of her foot. She needed to use a cane and had difficulty maintaining her balance. She brought a workers’ compensation claim for the injury she sustained at work to authorize payment for her lawn care, attendant care, and treatment from a podiatrist, as well as home renovations.
To support her claim for home renovations, the woman hired a nurse to prepare a home assessment. The nurse made recommendations for home renovations, including a ramp, outdoor motion sensor lighting, and widened doors. The judge of compensation claims (JCC) awarded the woman all of the renovations recommended by the nurse, along with all of her other claims. The employer appealed the decision.
The state appellate court considered the award and affirmed the award for all of the services except for the home renovations. The appellate court determined there was not sufficient evidence to show that the home renovations were medically necessary. Under state law, the employer is required to provide compensation for treatment for injured workers, including any “medically necessary apparatus.” Under this statute, the employer may be responsible for providing an accessible living environment.
In this case, the court explained that although a psychologist recommended a home assessment, the psychologist did not provide an opinion concerning the medical necessity of any home renovation in particular. An orthopedic surgeon stated that he agreed with some of the suggestions in the home assessment, but he did not specify which. In addition, the nurse’s opinions could not demonstrate that the renovations were medically necessary, since a physician’s opinion was necessary rather than a nurse’s opinion. Since the court found there was not enough evidence to support the award for home renovations, the court reversed the home renovations award.
Workers’ Compensation for Home and Vehicle Renovations in Georgia
Under Georgia law, an employer must provide to an employee the benefits owed under the state’s Workers’ Compensation Act. These benefits include “medical, surgical, and hospital care and other treatment, items and services which are prescribed by a licensed physician” and that the state’s Board of Workers’ Compensation determines are “reasonably required and appear likely to effect a cure, give relief, or restore the employee to suitable employment.” O.C.G.A. 34-9-200(a). That means that an employee who sustains an injury covered under the Act is entitled to certain medical or health care benefits.
Under O.C.G.A. 34-9-200.1, if the employee suffers a “catastrophic injury,” an employer is required to provide the employee with “reasonable and necessary rehabilitation services.” Courts have interpreted this provision to require an employer to provide handicapped-accessible housing to an injured employee. For example, one court found that an employer was required to pay the additional cost of an injured employee’s handicapped-accessible housing after he was forced to move to wheelchair-accessible housing. However, rehabilitation services are only provided when they are reasonably necessary for the employee. The goal of rehabilitation services is to rehabilitate the employee and restore the employee for suitable employment. These benefits may include services such as home or vehicle modifications, training, and self-employment arrangements.
Have You Been Injured on the Job?
If you have been injured on the job in Georgia, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation under Georgia’s Workers’ Compensation Act. This compensation may include services such as home or vehicle renovations or additional housing costs. The Georgia law office of J. Franklin Burns, P.C. has decades of collective experience handling workers’ compensation claims. To learn more about how we can help you seek workers’ compensation benefits, call us at 404-303-7770 to schedule a free consultation.