Most people who are injured in an accident instinctively know that they should immediately seek out the closest emergency department or a doctor. If injuries do not require hospitalization, then they are commonly referred to physiotherapists, massage therapists, chiropractors, or another practitioner of physical therapy.
Many people do not know that a registered occupational therapist can be exceedingly helpful to their recovery, rehabilitation, and quality of life after an accident – regardless of the severity of their injuries. In fact, most people don’t know what an occupational therapist is.
An cccupational therapist is a registered health professional. Often abbreviated to simply ‘OT‘, they are governed by the College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario. The College defines OT practice as:
“the assessment of function and adaptive behaviour and the treatment and prevention of disorders which affect function or adaptive behaviour to develop, maintain, rehabilitate or augment function or adaptive behaviour in the areas of self-care, productivity and leisure.”
Contrary to their title, OTs do not necessarily address an injured person’s occupation. Rather, they help people restore function and participation in all areas of their lives – work, home, leisure and social activities, mobility, and much more. They will often work directly with your physiotherapist and other treating health care practitioners.
If you have been injured, it is useful to have an occupational therapist on your rehab team right away. The OT can perform many useful roles:
Many OTs also have sub-specialties, such as in mental health or amputations. These OTs provide further specialized services to individuals with these types of medical conditions.
If a client is not able to function optimally because of brain injury, mental health, or behavioral problems, we also provide direct treatment to help these issues resolve. So, while equipment, education, quasi case management and assessing for benefits are key aspects of our role, when those are stable, we [provide] direct treatment to help people live better.
OT services, unless delivered in a hospital, are privately-funded. If you are hospitalized following an accident, the OTs services will be covered by OHIP while you are in the hospital. Once discharged, you will need to retain a private OT yourself. If you have a medical-dental benefits plan, it is possible that some OT services may be covered by your plan.
If you have been injured in a car accident, OT services are covered by the medical-rehabilitation sections of the SABS. If you hire an OT, they will obtain the necessary funding from your auto insurer by way of a Treatment and Assessment Plan – called an OCF-18 – in order to do the initial assessment. Ongoing OT treatment will be set out in a further form. The OT bills the auto insurer directly.
If you require equipment and devices, the OT will complete forms for those items and submit them to the auto insurer on your behalf. If the auto insurer approves the expenses, the OT will assist you with the purchases and provide you with instructions on how to use the equipment and devices.
If you have commenced a lawsuit for your injuries, your lawyer may hire an OT to assist with the case. In the litigation context, OTs provide the following forms of assistance by way of expert evidence:
In these scenarios, your OT may be called upon to give evidence in court.
You may locate an OT near you by contacting the College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario. Your family doctor and physiotherapist/massage therapist may be familiar with some OTs who work in the community. Finally, if you have retained legal counsel then your lawyer may know of some OTs who are well-versed in the SABS.