By Stephen Yung
Partner at Simpson, Thomas & Associates
Timely treatment is essential to symptom management and rehabilitation if you have been hurt in a major accident. Personal injury lawyers at Simpson, Thomas & Associates handle many types of personal injury claims, and in our experience, proper treatment has the potential to greatly enhance an accident victim’s quality of life. The coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis has forced many health clinics to reduce services and even temporarily close, leaving car accident victims without the option of hands-on assessment and treatment for their injuries. If you are wondering how to continue with treatment during the pandemic and what COVID-19 means for your ICBC claim, we always recommend that you consult your Dr. and follow their recommendations for treatment.
The good news is that many treatment providers are able to provide virtual care, also known as “telerehabilitation” or “telehealth” services, delivered by telephone or by using approved video technology. The other piece of good news is that the cost of telehealth treatment sessions will in many cases funded within your ICBC claim, either as pre-authorized treatments in your Part 7 accident benefit claim or as special damages in your personal injury tort claim.
Some treatment providers are continuing to offer in person treatment. We recommend that our clients consult with their medical practitioner and/or treatment providers as to whether this is appropriate for them.
What telehealth treatment options are available during COVID-19?
Not all types of treatment providers have been authorized to provide telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Massage therapists and acupuncturists are not authorized by ICBC to provide telehealth services due to the nature of the services they provide. The following types of treatment providers have been temporarily approved by ICBC to provide telehealth sessions, provided that they follow policy guidelines and restrictions on the manner in which the services can be provided to car accident victims during the pandemic: physiotherapists, kinesiologists, chiropractors, psychologists and counsellors, and occupational therapists.
Are my accident injuries suitable for telehealth sessions?
Consult with your doctor and/or your treatment provider as each case is different. The nature and severity of your car accident injuries and your specific rehabilitation needs must be considered in determining whether telehealth sessions would be beneficial in your case. For example, injuries such as concussions, whiplash, sprains and strains, and certain orthopedic injuries may be well-suited to telerehabilitation with a physiotherapist. Using virtual care or telehealth sessions, a physiotherapist can assess your condition and make note of objective signs such as swelling or redness; provide education, active exercises, and functional rehabilitation activities; and monitor and document the progression of your injuries.
What if I don’t receive telehealth treatments during the COVID-19 pandemic?
In a personal injury claim, the plaintiff (i.e., the accident victim) has a duty to mitigate damages and the losses flowing from the injuries. For example, if it has been recommended that a plaintiff undergo medical treatment and the plaintiff does not follow that medical advice, ICBC will raise the defence of failure to mitigate and seek to reduce compensation accordingly. An issue that must be considered is whether failure to take advantage of telehealth treatment options during the COVID-19 pandemic will amount to a failure to mitigate in the context of a personal injury ICBC claim. It is unclear how long the pandemic will last, and while telehealth options may not be ideal, we strongly encourage our clients to consult with your medical practitioner as to whether telehealth treatment is appropriate for you..
Get free legal advice
Serving our clients is our top priority. Our personal injury lawyers remain available to advise you on your ICBC claim, and our team is here to guide you through the unique challenges presented by COVID-19. Call us today at (604) 689 8888 to request a free phone or video consultation with one of our highly experienced major accident lawyers in Surrey/Delta, Vancouver, Burnaby, and Abbotsford.