And now for something completely different . . . wheelchair insurance.

 

Wheelchair-insurance--

Yes indeed, there is such a thing.  And for anyone who needs a wheelchair in order to be independent, it is very important.  Those of us in Southern California may not be able to imagine life without our cars, but imagine if the only way you could get around was in a wheelchair.  Now, imagine that wheelchair is stolen, damaged or destroyed.  For many wheelchair users, insuring their wheelchair may mean the difference between being able to regain their independence after such a loss, or not.  Some homeowners insurance policies do provide coverage for small motorized ‘vehicles” such as motorized wheelchairs, scooters, golf carts, ride-on lawnmowers, etc. (depending upon whether it must be registered as a motor vehicle or not), but if you depend upon a wheelchair for your independence a separate insurance policy to cover it is a more prudent choice. 

But what about wheelchair liabilityinsurance coverage for personal injury or property damage caused by an accidental wheelchair “collision”?   Automobile liability insurance coverage is generally required in the United States, but did you know that in the United Kingdom one must have liability insurance coverage to operate a mechanical (self-propelled) wheelchair in public?  (And here’s an interesting tidbit of information regarding those U.K. policies — just like automobile liability insurance policies, they cover the insured for liability arising from the use of a hired or loaned wheelchair, too.)  From a risk management perspective, this makes sense.  I don’t know what the statistics are (I’ll bet they’re out there, though), but I’m guessing that the statistical probability of causing serious injury to someone with one’s wheelchair is pretty low.  But accidents do happen, and while an able bodied person would likely be able to get out of the way of most motorized wheelchairs, some of them can whiz along, and operate so quietly that they can sneak up on you.  Bicycles are  prohibited on sidewalks for this very reason (although a motorized wheelchair cannot reach the speed that a bicycle can).  And, of course, the risk of serious injury is increased when a wheelchair (motorized or not) knocks over someone who is not able bodied. 

Legal liability arising from the use of a motorized wheelchair.  It can happen.  See, for example, Electric Wheelchair Accident Leads to Hefty Verdict from the South Carolina Lawyer Blog. 

I have not extensively researched the availability of liability insurance coverage for the use of a motorized wheelchair or scooter (a quick Google search came up with plenty of information about purchasing such coverage in the U.K., but I couldn’t quickly find any information about obtaining it here in the U.S.).  If  celebrities can insure their body parts (didn’t Jennifer Lopez insure her . . . well, you know), then it is certainly available.  (Are you aware of a market for such coverage?  If so, please leave a comment and let me know.)  It is possible that a homeowners insurance policy may cover it in certain situations (again, I haven’t researched that yet, though). 

On a related note, HUD has determined that requiring tenants who use motorized wheelchairs or scooters to have personal liability insurance is a violation of the Fair Housing Act.  HUD News Release.  Just because you can’t be forced to have it doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea, though.

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I have just crossed this bridge with my mother and father in law. I know of at least one Insurance company that provides coverage under their home owners or renters polices, provided that the motorized wheel chair is medically necessary.

    • Thank you for your comment! I do know that one may insure the wheelchair itself against loss or damage under many homeowners’ insurance policies. I have yet to see a policy which insures against liability claims which may arise from use of the wheelchair, however. Does your mother and father in law’s policy provide liability coverage as well? If so, would you be willing to share the name of the insurer? Again, thank you for reading my post and for taking the time to leave a comment!

  2. My renters policy will cover any liability loss arising out of the use of my scooter. The simple reason is this…IT’S NOT EXCLUDED! Therefore, it’s included.

  3. From what i’ve seen with some users, soem sort of insurance should be mandatory, as the handling skills of some people aren’t always that great (and not because of their disability either!)

    Finding the right type of insurance for wheelchairs and motorised scooters here in Australia is a bit tricky. A few of the major companies will offer some sort of protection, but you really need to read the fine print, as a friend of mine almost got caught out.

    Anyway, thanks for this post!

    regards,

    Doug

    • Thank you for your comment, Doug. “You really need to read the fine print . . .” – I couldn’t agree with you more, particularly when it comes to an insurance policy!


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