Wheelchairs allow people with mobility issues to get around and participate in everyday life. Wheelchairs can be limiting but they may also be the best option after a temporary injury or permanent injury makes it difficult or impossible to walk or stand for extended periods. Many injuries that require the use of a wheelchair are caused by personal injury accidents or medical malpractice.
Unfortunately, many wheelchair injuries and accidents requiring mobility devices are avoidable but were caused by negligence or reckless care. If negligent medical care caused paralysis or the need for temporary or permanent use of a wheelchair, the injury victim may have a claim for damages.
Wheelchair Treatments and Injuries
Like the name indicates, a wheelchair is essentially a chair with wheels. Wheelchairs are medical devices that can be used for people who have mobility issues, including difficulty walking caused by injury, illness, or disability. Injuries or diseases that can require the use of a wheelchair include:
- Spinal cord injuries
- Broken leg
- Hip fracture
- Brain injury
- Cerebral palsy
- Motor neuron diseases (MND)
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Muscular dystrophy (MD)
- Spina bifida
- Post-surgical recovery
Temporary Use of a Wheelchair After an Accident
Wheelchair use can be temporary. This generally includes people who are recovering from an injury, illness, or surgery. A wheelchair can help the individual get around while waiting for wounds to heal or while participating in physical therapy or occupational therapy to regain strength. For temporary use, using a wheelchair can move on to crutches or a walker, then a cane, to unsupported walking.
Even temporary use of a wheelchair can come with some risks. Individuals who are not used to operating a wheelchair or use a wheelchair unsupervised are vulnerable to tip and fall injuries, such as by going off a curb or wheeling down an uneven surface. It may even be too difficult to go up an incline to return home after leaving the house.
Permanently Wheelchair Bound After an Accident
Many injuries, illnesses, and disabilities require the permanent use of a wheelchair. This includes amputees and individuals with paralysis. Wheelchair therapy can be used to strengthen the muscles and skills needed to use the wheelchair. Therapy can also be used to help educate a wheelchair-bound patient on exercises available to maintain health and fitness.
Home and Work Modifications for a Wheelchair
One of the most significant changes to a person's life after requiring a wheelchair is the necessary modifications to the home and workplace. A house with any number of steps may need modifications, including an elevator, ramp, or stair chair. Home and workplace modifications can take time and be expensive. If the injury was caused by someone else, they should be responsible for covering the costs of wheelchair modifications.
Transportation can also be limited after requiring a wheelchair. Many chair-bound individuals require assistance to get in and out of a wheelchair. Alternatively, specially modified vans or buses may use ramps and lifts to get a wheelchair on and off. Wheelchairs and transportation may depend on the physical abilities of the individual and some vehicles can be modified for operation without the use of standard foot pedals for braking and acceleration.
Cost and Maintenance of Wheelchair After an Accident
When an injury victim becomes wheelchair-bound after an accident, the patient will likely have significant costs of buying, maintaining, and occasionally changing out of wheelchairs. Some of the most expensive costs are associated with adapting the home, office, and making transportation available with a wheelchair.
The cost of a wheelchair is the patient's burden. However, a wheelchair and wheelchair costs may be paid for by medical insurance, Medicare, or as part of a personal injury award. If another party was responsible for placing the injury victim in a wheelchair, that party should bear the responsibility of paying the costs associated with the wheelchair.
For example, a patient goes to a plastic surgeon for a tummy tuck. The cosmetic surgeon negligently causes an infection which leads to sepsis and loss of function below the waist. The patient should not have to deal with the pain and costs of becoming disabled when the injury was caused by a negligent doctor. The doctor and hospital can be held liable for the damages through a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Basic Wheelchair Cost
The cost of a wheelchair can vary greatly from as low as $150 up to $10,000 or more. An average wheelchair meant for occasional use may cost around $2,000. This depends on the features of the chair, weight limit, types of wheels, and weight of the frame. Features that tend to cost more money include:
- Lightweight strong frames
- All-terrain wheels
- Color options
- Seat modifications
- Power options
- Ergonomic features
Powered wheelchairs use batteries and electric motors to propel the chair and occupant. These generally use a small joystick to move the chair in the desired direction. Powered wheelchairs may be used for in-home use or outdoor capable chairs. Features of a motorized wheelchair may include terrain capability, battery life, and power assist. A motorized wheelchair can range in cost from $2,000 up to $25,000 or more.
Medicare and Wheelchair Insurance
According to Medicare, Medicare Part B covers powered mobility devices and wheelchairs as “durable medical equipment” (DME). The patient generally needs a doctor's prescription for a wheelchair for home use for Medicare to cover the cost. This includes a face-to-face examination and written prescription. Powered wheelchairs are only covered when “medically necessary.”
A wheelchair may only be covered if the doctor and wheelchair supplier are enrolled in Medicare. If the doctor or supplier is not enrolled in Medicare, the claim will not be paid. Patients are generally still responsible for paying a 20% portion and the wheelchair is subject to the deductible restrictions. The DME supplier may also be required to request prior authorization before Medicare will cover the cost of the wheelchair.
Maintenance and Replacement Cost of a Wheelchair
Wheelchairs may be expensive but they are like automobiles and require regular maintenance, repairs, and replacement. A person who is wheelchair-bound may go through a dozen wheelchairs or more over their lifetime, replacing a wheelchair every 5 years or so. Maintenance may cost a few hundred dollars every time something breaks or needs fixing.
Patients Requiring a Wheelchair After an Injury Accident
If medical malpractice or an injury accident takes away your ability to walk, you should be compensated for your loss. Contact the experienced medical malpractice lawyers Gilman & Bedigian. At Gilman & Bedigian, we will use our experience, knowledge, and dedication to fight for you to receive the compensation you and your family deserve. Our aggressive trial lawyers have helped our clients recover millions of dollars in compensation related to infection injuries, paralysis, and medical malpractice. Contact us online or call our law office at (800) 529-6162 for a free consultation.