Liabilities of employer when seafarer suffers work-related injury

THE LIABILITIES of the employer when the seafarer suffers work-related injury or illness during the term of his contract include medical treatment apart from disability benefits and sickness allowance.

A medically-repatriated seafarer, either due to an injury or an illness, should remember that there are three basic medical documentations that will play vital roles in availing himself benefits under the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration Standard Employment Contract (POEA- SEC), to wit:

  1. Pre -Employment Medical Examination (PEME)
  2. Accident or illness report while on board the vessel
  3. Post-medical reporting within three working days upon arrival in the Philippines

One who claims entitlement to the benefits provided by law should not only comply with the procedural requirements of law but must also establish his right to the benefit by substantial evidence. The burden, therefore, rests on the seafarer to show that he suffered or contracted his illness or injury, while still employed as a seafarer, which resulted in his permanent disability.

A seafarer must present evidence or report that he complained of any medical condition while working on board the vessel during the term of his contract. This is to give the company or insurance authorities the basis for evaluating whether the personal injury or illness in question can be recognized as an occupational injury or disease.

A work-related Illness is any sickness as a result of an occupational disease listed under Section 32-A of this Contract with the conditions set therein satisfied. A work-related injury is an injury arising out of and in the course of employment.

Otherwise, he will be disqualified for disability benefits since he disembarked due to a finished contract. There must be a showing that he suffered the illness or injury within the effectivity of POEA contract, from departure from the point of hire until return to the point of hire (i.e. Airport to Airport ). The employment of the seafarer shall cease when the seafarer completes his period of contractual service aboard the ship, signs-off from the ship and arrives at the point of hire.

In the recent case of Veronico Tagud vs BSM Crew Service Center Phils. (G.R. No. 219370, Dec. 6, 2017), the Supreme Court ruled that the seafarer failed to discharge this burden. He only presented an x-ray report dated Oct. 21, 2008 taken in Wynnum, Queensland, where the Kota Pemimpin vessel docked three days after he lost his balance due to the tilting of the ship which hurt his right elbow region. But even findings in the x-ray result stated that there was no fracture and no abnormality except for a small olecranon spur. This finding is therefore not conclusive and can lead to many other assumptions.

Also, after the x-ray procedure was taken, the seafarer could have immediately requested for a follow¬ up check-up or demonstrated that he was in need of urgent medical attention. But he did not. Thus, the reasonable conclusion is that at the time of his repatriation, the seafarer was not suffering from any physical disability requiring immediate medical assistance and that his employment was terminated due to a finished contract.

It is also well noted that many other incidents could have occurred in the duration of four months from the time he was repatriated until he consulted a private physician which could have triggered the pain in his upper right extremities and that such illness or injury could not have been work-related at the time he was still employed by respondents.

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Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho is a graduate of UP College of Law (1998) and is currently a junior partner of Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan (SVBB) law offices. He heads the seafarers’ division. He is a speaker on nationwide paralegal seminars on seafarers’ rights. He is the president of the Maritime Law Association of the Philippines (MARLAW) from 2016 to 2017, and an active member of the Maritime Forum Inc. , the National Seafarers Day (NSD) committee and International Pro Bono Network.

The SVBB law works hand in hand with various seafarers’ welfare organizations such as the Apostleship of the Seas (AOS) Philippines, Luneta Seafarers Welfare Foundation (LUSWELF), International Seafarers Welfare Assistance Network (ISWAN) and United Filipino Seafarers (UFS).

Atty. Gorecho is a legal commentator on maritime issues on print, radio and TV. He is a co-anchor of the radio program Bantay OCW Usapang Marino aired over Radio Inquirer/ DZIQ every Wednesday from 10:30 a.m. to 12 noon. For comments, please send email at [email protected] or call 09175025808 / 09088665786/PN

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