Pennsylvania Workers’ Comp Insurance Pays for Cost of Wheelchair Accessible Van

In a recent decision favorable to injured workers in PA, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania said that, under certain circumstances, a workers’ compensation insurance company must pay not only to modify a van to be wheelchair accessible, but to pay for the cost of the van itself. This is an important change in the law, because there had been an older case, finding the workers’ compensation insurance company was only responsible to pay for making a van wheelchair accessible (and not for the cost of the van itself).

The injured worker in this case, who was paralyzed in a work injury, was not able to get out of the house, even to medical appointments, without this special van. Fortunately, the Court saw the unfairness of making the workers’ compensation insurance company pay only to modify the van for a wheelchair, when the injured worker might then not even be able to afford buying the van itself. The Court said, ” . . . the van is crucial to restore some small measure of the independence and quality of life that existed before the work injury.”

This rule is probably limited to cases like this, involving a catastrophic injury. The Court also said the situation of the injured worker in each case needs to be examined. For example, is a new van required? Did the injured worker own a van before the injury? Was any automobile owned by the injured worker before the injury? The answers to these questions, and others, would determine whether the workers’ compensation insurance company would have to pay for the cost of the van in any future case.

This case is titled, Griffiths v. W.C.A.B. (Seven Star Farms, Inc.), and it was decided by The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania on March 19, 2008.