Injured worker wins golf cart

A man injured on the job in Nova Scotia will be able to golf in Florida this winter. In a decision that breaks brand new ground, the Workers Compensation Board has been ordered to buy the worker a motorized golf cart. It will also pay for a trailer so he can haul the cart to the Sunshine State.

Industrial accidents are a sad fact of life in Nova Scotia. The question raised here is whether an injured worker in Nova Scotia is entitled to leisure equipment as part of compensation. In this case, the leisure equipment is an $8,500 golf-cart for the disabled.

In March 1990, a 50-year-old man was injured in an industrial accident that left him a paraplegic.

He was awarded a 100 per cent disability, hand controls to drive a vehicle and home renovations.

Six years after the accident, he asked for a golf cart so he could enjoy a favorite pre-injury past-time.

The Workers Compensation Board said no. It refused on the grounds the golf cart was not medically necessary, that it is leisure equipment and not a health care device.

The man appealed to the Workers Compensation Appeals Tribunal.

In a hearing last month, he said the cart would be used to golf in Florida as well as year round making his backyard, his fishing hole and other uneven terrain accessible.

He won.

The commissioner ruled that the golf cart is a medical aid because it would increase his independence and independence is a health care concern.

Workers Compensation has been ordered to pay for the golf cart and a trailer on a one time basis.

Advocates of the disabled see the decision as a precedent. "The broader impact of this is that it could open the door for other such challenges in the future."

One business advocate has harsh criticism for the decision saying it's an insurance program, it's not a social assistance program and that the golf cart means injured workers can now reasonably claim compensation for lost hobbies. "What's frivolous about this is that it shouldn't even be considered. Quite frankly this is not something compensatable. It has nothing to do with wages, nothing to do with rehab and that's what workers compensation is established for.

The worker is not identified in the decision.

Meanwhile, the Workers Compensation Board has five days left to decide whether it will appeal to the courts.