The importance of hiring excellent occupational therapists and building contractors for auto accident victims who become disabled and need handicap accessible homes
Many times, auto accident victims’ collision-related injuries are so severe that the victims are no longer able to walk, move around or otherwise perform the body functions that they were normally and independently able to do before the collision.
That’s where Michigan No-Fault home modifications benefits come into play.
Below, Michigan Auto Law auto accident attorney Alison F. Tomak discusses the Top 5 things that Michigan auto accident victims, their families and their attorneys need to know about home modification benefits:
1. Hire an excellent occupational therapist.
An excellent occupational therapist (OT) will create a floor plan that not only accommodates an auto accident victim’s physical limitations, but enhances his or her quality of life both now and future. In some cases, the plan may include adding a room dedicated to housing the exercise equipment that is part of the victim’s recovery and rehabilitation regimen. A good occupational therapist will be well-versed in the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) requirements as well as ramping options. The quality of the OT will have profound effect on the likelihood of the auto accident victim’s No-Fault carrier approving the plan and paying for the proposed modifications.
2. Hire an excellent contractor.
It is extremely important to work with an excellent contractor. First and foremost, the contractor must be certified in handicap-accessible building. Beyond that, you will want a contractor who maintains regular contact and keeps everyone up-to-date on the modification project’s progress (including periodic e-mails with pictures of the contraction).
3. Make sure the auto accident victim’s home is ‘up to code.’
Most likely, your contractor will pull permits before starting construction. If your client’s home is not up to code, he or she could be fined for the code violations, and your contractor will not receive a permit. As such, your contractor should inspect the home for any violations as soon as possible and make the necessary repairs to bring the home up to code so that the permits can and will be issued.
4. Carefully review the contract for home modifications.
We all know that insurance companies are primarily concerned with their exposure, and their priorities are no different in a home modifications case. Here are a few common provisions that an auto accident victim and his or her insurer may want to discuss:
- Future modifications, maintenance and repairs: As with any No-Fault claim, the insurer will want a release of future responsibility. The contract must address future modifications, maintenance and repairs of a victim’s home. Consider adding a provision that the insurer remains responsible for any modifications or alterations necessitated by a change in the victim’s condition.
- Taxes and utilities: The insurer may try to include a provision that the victim remains fully responsible for all taxes and utilities. Michigan case law says otherwise (for now, anyway). Include a provision that the insurer remains responsible for all increases in utilities and taxes. A victim should be prepared to submit documentation of these increases to the insurer.
- Homeowners insurance: The insurer will likely require a victim to maintain homeowners insurance on the property. The home modifications contract should state that the insurer will be responsible for an increase in the cost of insurance caused by the home modifications.
5. Spend time with an auto accident victim at home.
This is a given: you can’t fully understand an auto accident victim’s need for home modifications by reviewing a floor plan. You can’t address every potential snag by signing a detailed contract. Spending time with a victim at home helps the people who care about that victim effectively advocate for him or her. Be sure to take the time to walk through the victim’s home with the OT and contractor, especially in the presence of the victim, his or her family and his or her caregivers.