Expert Service Provider Dan Thompson of DeeGee Rehabilitation Technologies discusses home modifications in the US and Canada and the impact on insurance claims.
Special thanks to our sponsor, AM Best Company, Best’s Recommended Insurance Attorneys & Adjusters, including Expert Service Providers.
The Insurance Law Podcast
Home 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’re pleased to have with us again today expert service provider Dan Thompson, President and CEO of DeeGee Rehabilitation Technologies, with offices in Ontario, Canada, and in Arizona. Dan has worked with the litigation arena for over 26 years.
He is a registered rehabilitation professional, registered vocational professional, and a certified life planner. His company’s 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’re very pleased to have you with us again today.
Dan Thompson: Thank you very much for having me, and I look forward to the podcast.
John Czuba: Thanks, Dan. Today’s topic for discussion is home modifications. And Dan, for our first question today, what are home modifications, and what impact do they have on insurance claims?
Dan Thompson: Home modifications may consist of ramps, elevators, low threshold, wider doorways, ceiling lifts, or other modifications, such as hardwood flooring, to ensure a place is wheelchair accessible. In other words, to meet the person’s physical needs.
That may also include wheel under counters, grab bars, low-light switches, higher electric outlets, or non-slip flooring in bathrooms, anti-scald devices, for example, to make sure that the showerheads aren’t burning people, environmental controls, or even a backup generator to ensure that critical equipment, such as ventilators will continue to operate despite power outages.
Having said that, John, if someone, let’s say is deaf, their accommodations may include a TCY or a telephone text machine to ensure that they can communicate with the outside world. It may also include flashing lights, instead of an alarm bell, if, of course, there’s smoke or carbon monoxide within the home.
And of course, if the individual is blind, and I’m actually working on a case right now in the East Coast of Canada for an individual who is blind, and because they lived in a group home setting, the standard of care has come into play.
So to make things more accessible for them, that may include talking appliances to improve their safety, and it may also be a matter of having home reorganized, and ensuring that things are maintained in the same spot.
So if they’ve got good ergonomics, and you know that the sofa is located in the middle of the room, then they are less likely to trip over it or have it become an inconvenience for them. So those are some examples, I think, of that. And then, of course, it would be the insurance company’s responsibility to make sure that they maintain that for that individual, both now and in the future.
John Czuba: Dan, how about any differences between the United States and Canada in terms of how home modifications are dealt with by the insurance industry?
Dan Thompson: Well, sure, n Ontario, which is where I live half the year, there’s been a whole cottage industry that has developed for companies who do home modifications. In an essence, John, what they end up doing is, their floor plans to make the home accessible will be a matter of moving the kitchen to the bedroom, the bedroom over into the other area.
And their objective, really, is try to jack up the cost so that it’s so expensive to renovate the existing home that they end up buying a brand-new home for that individual. While as I’m sure you can appreciate, the problem with that is, this individual may be a fourth generation person who’s received government subsidies, or been a fourth generation welfare person. And the whole point of an insurance settlement is to maintain their lifestyle, or to ensure that they can do the things they did before. Or if you take somebody, of course, that was poor, or didn’t have a whole lot of money, it doesn’t make sense to have the settlement become a windfall for them.
Because obviously that’s going to, I think, prejudice the amount of money that they need. So in essence, if we look at it from that perspective, I think it’s important to only give them what they need, and not necessarily what they want.
John Czuba: So overall what’s the average cost or lifetime costs for home modifications, Dan?
Dan Thompson: Well, I mean, that’s an interesting question. Here in the United States, of course, we have legislation set up by the Veterans Administration, and what they do is they look at the fact that they’ve averaged about $64,000 for the average cost to renovate a home. And to me, that makes much more sense, because if you think of $20,000 to renovate a bathroom to make that wheelchair accessible, about another $20,000 to make a kitchen wheelchair accessible, and $10,000, I think most jurors can see that as being a reasonable cost.
The problem with those cottage industry companies that we talked about before is that they also do not take equity into consideration. So, I think in my opinion, when we set up a life care plan, yes, there should be accommodations for an individual who, in essence, needs to have their home accessible for them.
But I think it should be a onetime cost. I don’t think that every time they move, that we should be renovating each new home. If they’ve been given $64,000 or $50,000, depending on what number is agreed upon by plaintiffs and defense, then that, as I said, should be that one cost deal, and that we shouldn’t have to renovate when they move from Seattle to Florida, or to Tallahassee, or whatever the case may be, so.
John Czuba: Dan, who should typically cover the costs?
Dan Thompson: Well, I mean obviously, the whole point of having insurance and to have that settlement, is that I think the insurance companies should be paying that. Now, having said that if you take individuals who are injured outside of the litigation arena, then there are government subsidies, so as I mentioned, there’s programs through the Veterans Administration to help cover those costs. I guess in a way, of course, Veterans Administration is also government and/or insurance as well. But in Ontario, for example, the March of Dimes of course has a program where they will subsidize part of the cost of ensuring a home that’s wheelchair accessible.
So, I would say that if you’re inside the insurance arena or if you’re looking at a settlement, those costs of course will be covered by the insurance carrier, and if you’re outside of that, then probably government subsidies would come into play.
John Czuba: And Dan, what do you see for home renovations or modifications in the future?
Dan Thompson: Well, I see more developments in terms of smart homes. So, right now, of course, we’ve got everything from — you can monitor on your phone what’s happening at your house. You can see if there’s an intruder or burglars of some sort.
You, of course, can regulate the temperature of the home. So you could turn up the heat, you could turn up the air-conditioning, or turn it down if you’re going to be away for a vacation. So I see more developments in that area to just ensure that the home is going to be more convenient and accessible for individuals with disabilities.
But keep in mind, John, if we look at the telephone, which is a revolutionary device, and was developed over a hundred years ago by Alexander Graham Bell, he designed that initially to accommodate his wife’s hard of hearing, or her deafness and yet everybody uses the telephone. I mean, I’m sure it’s an epidemic with young children who use their cellphones nowadays, instead of developing their social skills. So, to me, although I see more developments in that area, they may not necessarily be an extraordinary cost that needs to be put into a life care plan, it may be something that just comes automatic into new homes as they’re developed.
John Czuba: Dan, thanks so much for joining us today.
Dan Thompson: John, thank you very much, and look forward to doing one of these in the future.
John Czuba: That was Dan Thompson, President and CEO of DeeGee Rehabilitation Technologies with offices in Arizona and Ontario, Canada. And you can learn more about Dan’s company at deegeerehab.com. 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 ambest.com/claimsresource.