Home modifications by occupational therapist (OT) based on principles of universal design and accessibility.

Universal/accessible design of the home from an occupational therapy and a construction perspective. This blog is part of a quest for cool, convenient, functional design that makes life safer, easier, and as maintenance-free as possible. It's about the lifestyle.

In what is believed to be the only Home Accommodation case tried to a jury since the Admire v Auto Owners decision, Maureen Kinsella defeated the Insurance Company when an Oakland County jury said that an accessible apartment, with no special modifications, IS a covered benefit.

Our client was a 65 year-old woman who was an above-the-knee amputee, and primarily wheelchair bound as a result of her injuries from a motorcycle/motor vehicle accident. She owned a home at the time of the accident that could not be modified and made accessible.  The Insurance Company agreed that the home she owned pre-accident could not be modified.  Our client leased an apartment that was, WITHOUT MODIFICATION, barrier free by virtue of its bigger size and open floor plan.  The Insurance Company had been paying $1,400 of the $2800/month rent.  However, the Insurance Company argued at trial that it didn't owe anything, per the Admire decision, because the apartment had not been modified in any way and it was an "ordinary expense." In other words, the Insurance Company interpreted Admire as requiring some sort of "modification" to an otherwise "normal" accommodation.

Maureen argued to the jury that the "as-is" apartment was a reasonable accommodation for our client and that our client's need for housing was of a wholly different character than it existed before the accident (i.e., before the accident our client's house was clearly not barrier free; the apartment clearly was barrier free). 

After three days in trial, the jury agreed that the apartment was a covered expense and awarded payment for past rent at the rate of $2000/month (as opposed to the entire $2800/month). The jury said the payment was overdue and awarded interest as well. As we continue to try and understand how Admire affects home accommodation cases, Maureen's victory is an important step along the way: the jury did not accept the insurer's argument that a "reasonable accommodation" requires a modification. 

-This article was taken from the Miller & Tischler Newsletter

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