April 16, 2010

Responsibility for Attendant Care – Compensation for Family Members

Responsibility for Attendant Care – Compensation for Family Members

by Chuck DuBose, Esq.

Recently the Court of Appeals further clarified responsibility for attendant care services. In Medical Office Management v. Hardee, A09A2381 (decided March 23, 2010), the employer appealed an award of attendant care services in which those services were rendered to the employee by her husband. The employee sustained memory problems and vertigo following a blow to the head during a robbery. Three of her medical providers recommended at-home attendant care services as a medical necessity.

The Court of Appeals noted the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act contains no express prohibition against the recovery by an employee of attendant care services provided by a family member, including a spouse. The Court also noted the fee schedule even contemplates reimbursement for home health care services provided by family members. The Court of Appeals determined that its 1939 decision in Bituminous Casualty Corp. v. Wilbanks (in which the Court had determined the ordinary services of a wife to her husband after his return from a hospital did not constitute compensable treatment under then applicable workers’ compensation law) did not preclude an award of attendant care in this case.

Specifically, the Court noted the Workers’ Compensation Act had changed since 1939 and now requires employers to furnish to employees “other treatment … and services which are prescribed by a licensed physician…which…shall be reasonably required and appear likely to effect a cure, give relief, or restore the employee to suitable employment.” The Court therefore concluded the change expanded benefits to include non-medical, at-home attendant care services. The Court also concluded the employee’s husband was entitled to be reimbursed for the at-home attendant care services he had provided while the employer had denied such services. While it was noted the husband could be expected to assist his brain-damaged wife, he was not legally required to provide the physician-prescribed attendant care. That responsibility, according to the Court of Appeals, fell upon the employer so that the husband was entitled to compensation for providing such care.

If you have questions or comments, please contact your David & Rosetti attorney at 404-446-4488 or by visiting our website at www.davidandrosetti.com. Nothing contained in this blog should be construed as legal advice or opinion on specific facts. For editorial comments or suggestions, please contact David W. Willis at (404) 446-4491 or by email at david.willis@davidandrosetti.com

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