A seafarer, who was no longer reassigned to work, may be entitled to total and permanent disability benefits due to an illness he suffered on board the ship.
This is the Supreme Court decision in CF Sharp Crew Mgt. vs Daganato (GR n° 243399, July 6, 2022) involving an injured sailor hired as a chef.
While carrying a heavy supply of food, the sailor suddenly slipped and fell, causing mild to moderate lower back pain. The pain persisted and his condition worsened until he was medically repatriated.
After surgery and therapy, he was assessed by the company’s designated physician with grade 11 partial disability (mild rigidity or loss of 1/3 trunk lifting capacity).
He then consulted a personal doctor who issued a medical certificate stating that he was definitely unfit, in any capacity whatsoever, to resume his maritime duties as a sailor. He claimed disability benefits under the collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
Under Supreme Court rulings, the company-appointed physician is required to issue a final and final disability assessment within 120 or 240 days from the seafarer’s date of repatriation.
The 240-day extension must be justified and the onus is on the employer to prove the need for such an extension. Failure to issue such an assessment within 120 or 240 days, as the case may be, will render the seafarer’s disability permanent and total.
The periods of 120 or 240 days are counted from the date of the medical repatriation of the sailor, even in cases where the date of repatriation does not coincide with the date of his first consultation with the doctor appointed by the company.
The doctor appointed by the company in this case was only able to issue a certificate after 157 days from the medical repatriation of the sailor, without any assessment or indication as to his ability to return to work, nor any justification for extending the 120 days. – daytime period.
The Court ruled that the sailor’s disability became total and permanent when the company’s appointed physician failed to issue a final and conclusive assessment within the 120-day period required by the rules.
On the other hand, the sailor’s medical report certifies that he is definitely unable to resume his work as a sailor. Prior to his deployment, the sailor was declared fit for duty and did not suffer from any physical abnormality likely to render him unfit for maritime activities.
The Court said it was reasonable to assume that the sailor would not have been allowed to start his job, especially for the position of chef, which was a physically demanding job, if he was unfit for the job. .
Case law dictates that permanent total disability means “the inability of an employee to earn wages in the same type of work or work of a similar nature for which he was trained or accustomed to perform, or any type of work that a person of his mentality and level can do.”
Due to his injuries, the Supreme Court ruled that the sailor could no longer resume his maritime activities or work as a chef because it would require him to be in excellent physical condition.
The Court pointed out that the seafarer’s total and permanent incapacity had been reinforced by the fact that he was no longer reassigned to work and could no longer earn money on the basis of the work for which he was usually trained. The Supreme Court further decided that the sailor would be entitled to a higher amount under the CTC because he had been the victim of an accident.
The Court pointed out that it was up to the employer to prove that there was no accident since he was in possession of the accident reports. However, they did not.
In Crystal Shipping, Inc. v. Natividad (GR no. 154798, 20 Oct. 2005), the Supreme Court granted invalidity benefits on the basis of information according to which, due to his illness, the sailor was unable to work as a mate. for almost three years.
The occupational physician is mandated to justify the expertise by the medical findings he has collected during the care of the sailor.
The occupational physician’s assessment must be complete and final for the purpose of determining the seafarer’s degree of disability. The assessment must truly reflect the extent of the seafarer’s illness or injury and his or her ability to return to work as such.
(Atty. Gorecho heads the Seafarers Division of the law firm Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan. For comments, email [email protected]or call 0917-5025808 or 0908-8665786)
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