PA Workers’ Comp Insurer Required to Pay for Additional Modifications to Home of Worker Paralyzed in Work Injury

Injured workers in Pennsylvania are entitled to payment of wage loss benefits, as well as payment for medical treatment related to the work injury. The term “medical treatment” in PA is defined broadly. It includes obvious items, such as an MRI or x-ray, medications, doctor visits and surgery, but it also can include items you might not immediately consider, such as prosthetic devices and home modifications.

Regarding home modifications, Pennsylvania Courts have previously held that a workers’ comp insurance carrier only has to modify an injured worker’s home one time. While the workers’ compensation insurance company is required to replace medical equipment that wears out, such as wheelchairs, braces and orthotics, the law was unclear whether revisions to a home modification had to be paid for by the workers’ comp insurance carrier.

Recently, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania decided the case of Equitable Resources v. WCAB (Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board). In that case, the injured worker was paralyzed in the work injury. The workers’ compensation insurance carrier paid for modifications to the home. Unfortunately, some time later, it was discovered the modifications were done poorly, and considerable expense was required to fix the mistakes made by the original contractor (who, by the way, was selected by the employer). The workers’ comp insurance carrier refused to pay for the subsequent repairs, believing they had paid for the initial home modification, and that was the extent of their responsibility.

The Court found repair of the home modifications closer to the replacement of a worn-out wheelchair than additional modifications to a home. As such, the Court directed the workers’ compensation insurance carrier to make payment. This seems to be a just result, appropriately reflecting that the PA Workers’ Compensation Act is, “remedial in nature and is intended to benefit workers, and therefore, the Act must be liberally construed in order to effectuate its humanitarian objectives.”