Injured People

Major claims series, part 2: Home modifications

TGB’s personal injury team writes about including home modifications in compensation claims for people with catastrophic injuries.

When people sustain spinal injuries, they often need significant structural modifications to their home.

If a person is restricted to a wheelchair, ramps are a very important modification to ensure that the house is accessible. House features that many take for granted, such as steps to the front porch, become an issue. If they live in a two storey house, lifters will sometimes be required if the staircase can accommodate it.

Much of the fitout of the home will need to be lowered to suit sitting someone who is in a wheelchair. This often means completely rebuilding the kitchen and lowering the benchtops.

Bathroom and toilet modifications are also common, and safety is a priority. A person must be able to move about their bathroom facilities without risk of further injury, so items such as grab rails are required. More space is often required to accommodate a wheelchair.

A particular issue for older homes is the size of the doorways and passageways, which are often too small. Wheelchairs require about a metre of space for every doorway in the house and in some cases this means significant renovations are necessary.

The land also needs to be level, and paving and other forms of landscaping may also need to be modified. It is important for a person in a wheelchair to have clear, wide and safe paths to entry and exit points.

When such modifications are required sometimes the current home simply won’t be suitable and the person will need to move or in extreme cases, build a home custom-made to their needs. 

For those who have suffered a brain injury, the requirements are different. People in this situation will often need equipment to help them with memory related organisational issues. It is common for occupational therapists to recommend that the person purchases a smartphone (such as an iPhone), to help with calendar appointments, reminders, timers and notes. 

Allowing for these modifications and equipment is an important part of the compensation system, which aims to return the injured person to independence and have them as close as possible to where they were before the accident. This is irrespective of what help they may have available from family and friends – the law treats them as though they live alone.

The injured person’s lawyer will manage this process and will work closely with an occupational therapist who specialises in catastrophic injuries. An experienced “OT” will know what to look for and also ensure that high safety standards are met. They also know where to source the equipment, which in some cases may even need to come from interstate or overseas.

Read PART 1: Recovering the cost of travel here  

Read PART 3: Personal care here

Read PART 4: Vehicle Modifications here

TGB is a leading personal injury law firm with significant experience in catastrophic injury claims. If you were injured in a motor vehicle accident in South Australia, Northern Territory or Western Australia, contact your nearest TGB office or register for a free initial appointment here.