In the insurance industry, ‘wheelchair’ is a four letter word. This may not be comforting if you own or operate wheelchair vans. But, it seems like nearly every claim we encounter with non-emergency medical transportation companies (particularly here in Georgia), is wheelchair related. The reason? Wheelchairs are complicated, varied, and typically unstable. Let me offer you a couple of examples of what I mean.
Wheelchair Flips Over Killing Passenger
The first wheelchair claim I ever came across was a death claim. The passenger was morbidly obese with no lower appendages due to multiple amputations and suffering from heart disease and chronic diabetes. In this case, there wasn’t even an accident. The wheelchair flipped over when the driver came to a stop. The passenger slammed his head on the ground and was deceased before the paramedics were even on the scene.
So what happened? It turns out that the wheelchair had no counter weights in the base, making it extremely top-heavy. Although it was not the non-emergency transportation company’s fault that the chair wasn’t weighted, a jury decided that the driver should have noticed when the chair was being strapped down. The net result: $800,000 in wrongful death settlements.
Electronic Wheelchair Rolls Off Ramp
Another claim came about when a passenger in an electronic wheelchair, engaged the chair in reverse while it was still on the ramp being unloaded. The wheelchair, along with the passenger, went backwards off the ramp and into the curb. The result was two broken femurs, a totaled electronic wheelchair, and a $200,000 settlement despite the fact that there was little the attendant could have done to prevent the accident.
Insurance Company’s Viewpoint
Now imagine you’re the insurance company. The above precedents indicate that the NET company is nearly always going to be considered ‘at fault’ if there is a wheelchair related claim. Therefore, insurance companies will almost always charge more for wheelchair-heavy fleets, particularly if the owner and drivers do not have adequate experience with wheelchair van transportation.
Owning or operating wheelchair vans can make it hard to obtain cheap Non Emergency Transportation insurance. A good risk management practice for any NET company is to make sure that all of your drivers have been well trained in the science of wheelchair securement, including the correct way to attach tie-downs and lap belts, as well as the best way to handle an emergency situation when something does go wrong. Wheelchair van drivers are always in a hurry, and so often behind schedule. Teaching them to take an extra thirty seconds to double-check that the wheelchair and passenger are secure before leaving can mean the difference between a good day and a really bad one.