Physical Therapy Expert Witness Opines on Motorized Wheelchair Safety

Stephen Gomez

Written by
— Updated on October 2, 2017

motorized wheelchairThis case involves the failure of a retailer to properly instruct a client on the ordinary care and use of a motorized wheelchair. The plaintiff, a sixty-one-year-old male, was assigned a motorized wheelchair by his physician. When the wheelchair was delivered, the delivery person/ instructor, who was assigned a list of items to go over with the plaintiff, only covered the basic functions of the wheelchair’s usage, explaining that the helpline was available if the plaintiff had additional questions. Specifically, the instructor failed to instruct and teach the plaintiff the proper safety methods when transferring to and from the wheelchair. The plaintiff fell from the wheelchair while attempting to transfer himself to the couch to watch television, incurring significant medical expenses and injuries to both of his arms.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. How can a retailer ensure that a new recipient of a wheelchair is properly informed about elements related to the vehicle's safety?

Expert Witness Response E-006762

I do evaluations of patient’s appropriateness for wheelchairs on a regular basis in order for Medicare or insurance companies to cover them. An evaluation by a physical therapist and approval by a doctor is typically required and usually includes assessment of mobility/transfers. The vendors, too, have checklists or guidelines which they are supposed to follow either by policy or regulation. In most cases, this is an essential part of the instructor’s training and supervisors review the proper safety procedures with the instructors on a regular basis. In some cases, companies schedule follow-up visits and calls to review pertinent information with the recipient. Overall, most retailers take a comprehensive approach that includes training, review, follow-up, and updating to ensure the safety of recipients. It is in the details of that process in this particular case that will reveal any deficiencies by the retailer.

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