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Dan Thompson

Dan Thompon is a registered rehabilitation professional, registered vocational professional and certified life care planner. He is currently the president...

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John Czuba

John Czuba has 28 years experience in the publishing industry. Since 1994 he has worked for the A.M. Best,...

Episode Notes

Expert Service Provider Dan Thompson of DeeGee Rehabilitation Technologies discusses vehicle modifications in the US and Canada and the impact on insurance claims.

Special thanks to our sponsor, A.M. Best CompanyBest’s Recommended Insurance Attorneys & Adjusters, including Expert Service Providers.


The Insurance Law Podcast

Vehicle Modification and Impact on Claims



Intro: This is the Insurance Law Podcast, brought to you by Best’s Recommended Insurance Attorneys.

John Czuba: Welcome to the Insurance Law Podcast, the broadcast about timely and important legal issues affecting the insurance industry. I am John Czuba, Managing Editor of Best’s Recommended Insurance Attorneys, including Expert Service Providers.

We are pleased to have with us expert service provider Dan Thompson, President and CEO of DeeGee Rehabilitation Technologies, with offices in Ontario, Canada and Arizona. Dan has worked with the litigation arena for over 25 years. He is a registered rehabilitation professional, registered vocational professional, and a certified life planner.

His company services include providing expert opinion to insurance carriers, attorneys, and medical professionals by assessing the needs and vocational capabilities for people with disabilities.

And Dan, we are very pleased to have you with us again today.

Dan Thompson: Thank you John. Thanks for having me once again.

John Czuba: Today’s topic for discussion is vehicle modification. And Dan, for our first question today, what exactly are vehicle modifications, and what impact do they have on insurance claims?

Dan Thompson: First of all, to indicate, as we discussed during previous podcasts, I would say that attendant care and housing are probably the two most expensive items or goods and services you are going to get within a life care plan.

However, next to that, vehicle modifications are probably the third most expensive item or service within a life care plan. And obviously, I guess what makes them so expensive is that the person is going to need those modifications for the rest of their life.

So vehicle modifications can vary, John. In essence, they may be something as simple as a steering knob for someone who has limitations with their intrinsic hand function.

In addition, it may be as complicated as doing a full conversion within a minivan or a full sized van to allow an individual who is dependent on using a wheelchair for mobility to either enter or exit the vehicle or to independently operate it.

So it can be a very, very expensive proposition, or it can be something as simple as a steering knob, as I mentioned before.

John Czuba: So Dan, what are the annual or what are the lifetime costs of vehicle modifications?

Dan Thompson: Sure. Well, in the example I mentioned before, in terms of the simple steering knob, it may only be a couple of hundred dollars, whereas a full sized conversion can be expensive. It can be as much as $40,000.

Now, typically, we as life care planners have a model that we have to go by, and the replacement frequency is supposed to be every seven years. In addition, John, what we are supposed to do is we are supposed to assume that that individual has a vehicle already.

So in other words, we are only looking at the “extraordinary cost” with the conversion as opposed to paying for the full vehicle. But if you take somebody who is fairly young or maybe even someone in a pediatric case, that $40,000 may have to be replaced, as I indicated, every seven years.

And although you may get some residual value in a trade in, that’s still a fairly large chunk of change that you are going to have to pay out for the rest of that individual’s life. So as I am sure you can appreciate, you can see that the cost can go up quite substantially.

John Czuba: What kind of vehicles can be modified, Dan?

Dan Thompson: Sure. Well, I guess pretty well anything that has wheels and/or that goes on water. So when I initially thought about this, I was initially thinking strictly about van modifications or things like that, but the reality is, John, people go on airplanes. They go on commercial buses. There’s a whole variety of public and private transportation that one could look at.

Now, if we go back to the van modifications that I mentioned before, there are two major companies that provide these modifications. The first one is the BraunAbility Corporation and they are out of Winamac, Indiana. They were founded way back in 1947 by Ralph Braun, who was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy when he was six years of age. Now, they offer side entry conversions and rear entry conversions in both minivans and in full size vans.


Now, their main competition is another company on the other side of the country, which is Vantage Mobility International. Now, they are out of Phoenix, Arizona, which of course is where my company does its business during the winter. And they have 25 years of experience within the mobility industry.

Now, they offer side entry minivan conversions with a variety of manufacturers. So in other words, you are not limited to what type of vans can be converted. It could be Chevy, Chrysler, Toyota, Honda, or Dodge Caravans.

Now, again, they also offer side entry SUV conversions for Honda’s Pilot. And they also do commercial vehicles such as taxis and medical transport, so people can go back and forth to their medical appointments.

Now, there’s a cheap conversion that’s out there. This is by an Oakville company here in Ontario. They are called Liberty Motor. And they offer a very inexpensive manual ramp that comes in a taxi. And obviously, the taxi companies love it because it’s a fairly inexpensive conversion. And it can be — these vehicles, as I am sure you may appreciate, get a lot of wear and tear.

I think one of my favorite companies is a company called ATC. They are out of Fort Wayne, Indiana and their founder, Mr. Steve Kitchin, he also sustained a spinal cord injury. And in essence, they have got I think a revolutionary conversion that offers a gull-wing door on vehicles, Chevy products. So it could be a high end vehicle such as a Cadillac Escalade, which is what I own, and the nice thing is during inclement weather, this gull-wing door protects you as you are going in and out.

Now, you could also look at cruise ships. And I even found, as I was doing research for this podcast, that there’s a company out of British Columbia called basically Campion Marine. And what they offer is a lift system that takes the person and their wheelchair right onto a boat, so they can either become an angler or they can just enjoy the water and go across the water.

So as you can see– I know that was a bit of a long-winded answer, but there’s a whole variety of things that can be converted so people can use it.

The only real limitation that I see is going on airlines. To this day, the FAA will not allow individuals in wheelchairs to stay in their chairs. So you either have to be somewhat ambulatory or they have to literally transfer you from your wheelchair into one of their seats.

John Czuba: Dan, are there any differences between vehicle conversions in Canada versus the United States?

Dan Thompson: Well, as I mentioned before, I think there’s numerous manufacturers, both in Canada and the United States that offer unique and specialized conversions for various types of vehicles. And I think in essence, that offers more and more opportunities for people with disabilities, which of course in turn will improve their quality of life.

John Czuba: And who should cover the cost, Dan?

Dan Thompson: Okay. Well, in essence, any time a life care plan is prepared, typically it’s for someone who is in a litigation process. So really it’s the insurance companies I guess that will be covering this.

Now, there are some adjunct government agencies, such as The March of Dimes, who will cover the cost of the conversions for people with disabilities to improve their quality of life. But for the most part, it’s usually the insurance companies that are covering those costs.

John Czuba: And Dan, what do you see in the future for vehicle conversions?

Dan Thompson: Well, I see something out of The Jetsons, where I have always fantasized that if I had a hovercraft type wheelchair, this way fences, gates, uneven terrain, water would never be an obstacle. This way, literally, you could float around and there really would not be an obstacle for anybody to get around.

Now, of course those technologies are not in existence right now, but I would love to see something like that in the future.

John Czuba: Dan, thanks again very much for joining us today.

Dan Thompson: John, thank you much for your time and I really appreciate it.

John Czuba: That was Dan Thompson, President and CEO of DeeGee Rehabilitation Technologies, with offices in Arizona and Ontario, Canada. And special thanks to today’s Producer, Frank Vowinkel.

And thank you all for joining us for The Insurance Law Podcast.

To subscribe to this audio program, go to our webpage, www.ambest.com/claimsresource.

If you have any suggestions for a future topic regarding an insurance law case or issue, please email us at [email protected].

I am John Czuba, and now this message.

Outro: Best Insurance Professionals and Claims Resource is the top website for locating qualified professionals and need to know insurance information for the claims market, brought to you by A.M. Best, the world leader in insurance industry information. Visit www.ambest.com/claimsresource.

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Episode Details
Published: August 29, 2018
Podcast: The Insurance Law Podcast
The Insurance Law Podcast
The Insurance Law Podcast

The Insurance Law Podcast features discussions with leading insurance attorneys about timely industry issues.

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