Handling Personal Injury Claims





Ukraine is one of the largest suppliers of the labor force to the world’s maritime industry. Significant numbers of personal injury claims with Ukrainian seafarers is a constant tendency in Ukraine which has adverse effects on Shipowners who employ Ukrainian seafarers and need to be considered when dealing with Ukrainian crew claims. Lack of information about claims handling and local developments and practice may lead to high damages and payments of unjustified claims compensation. Usually, sums of compensation related to the loss of seafarers’ working capacity stipulated at employment contracts and collective fleet agreements. These documents mostly provide the relevant scale of sums to be paid depending on the degree and character of the professional incapacity (disability).



Case study



A seafarer worked as AB and suffered complicated leg fracture whilst employment. 120 days after the injury the seafarer remained disabled. On the initial stage of claim handling local manning agent was instructed by the Shipowners to handle the claim with the seafarer. The lawyer appointed by the seafarer claimed for 100% disability plus medical and rehabilitation costs, moral damage, legal costs, etc. We negotiated the claim and found that the seafarer had no legally valid medical documents (disability certificate, report) confirming his degree of disability. Moreover, it was not clear if his disability is permanent or temporary? We also verified that the seafarer did not visit doctors regularly and treatment was not properly arranged. We required and finally agreed with the claimant lawyer to appoint independent medical experts from the Club’s PEME accredited local clinic. Medical examination held in our presence showed that the seafarer was indeed disabled, however, the doctors advised that in case of regular medical treatment and medical assistance, the seafarer will retrieve leg moving abilities hence disability might be reduced in future. Thus, we obtained a legal ground to start the negotiation with the claimant.



Result



After difficult negotiations with the seafarer’s lawyers, we settled to 65,000 USD compensation comparing with substantial claimants’ demands in amount 120,000 USD. Moreover, medical charges were reduced and we agreed only a lump sum compensation payment. We arranged to sign R&R at Notary office and the claim was settled finally without negative consequences as claims in tort, moral harm. Legal costs and any auxiliary extra costs which most probably would be imposed in case of commencement court proceedings.



P&I Correspondents recommendations:



For the effective settlement of personal injury claims, we recommend the following steps to be done:

• All personal injury cases should be brought to the Club/P&I Correspondents attention as soon as possible.

• If the accident occurred abroad, the family should be duly informed and appropriate medical facilities should be recommended and prepared in advance.

• Explain the Owners/Club’s position regarding his claim settlement. Delay in providing the true and exact information about the personal injury case increases the risks on the opposite lawyer's involvement.

• Keep permanent contact with the injured seafarer/his family and closely monitor the procedure of medical treatment/rehabilitation/medical assessment in order to ensure that most effective care is being given, medical costs which should be fair and reasonable and in line with the local standards.

• Request the supporting vouchers for all medical costs incurred. It is necessary to explain the seafarers initially that only expenses supported by the relevant vouchers could be reimbursed.

• If the medical operation or expensive treatment is required, we recommend instructing P&I Correspondent to discuss and agree on such costs and period of required treatment in advance with the hospital administration.

• Large hospital bills should be passed to the P&I Club at first instance and reviewed and relevant breakdown should be required. Due to P&I Correspondents involvement into the process of medical bills settlement, the hospital bills have been reduced.

• Require on a regular basis updated seafarer’s medical reports, certificates, x-rays photos, seafarer’s medical charts, etc.

• Discuss the seafarer’s health condition with the attending doctor or/and involve independent and trustable medical consultants for a comprehensive and independent medical conclusion, certainly with prior Club/Owner’s approval.

• Request an independent medical assessment as to the seafarer’s current health condition and treatment/rehabilitation required and further prognosis as to his recovery, period of recovery or character of disability (temporary or permanent).

• Mitigate, negotiate and settle the claims before the court. In the case of the court, the corresponding costs (legal costs, moral damage, additional medical costs, etc.) will be added to the sum of the main claim.

• Sign the Statement of Receipt & Release at Notary Public in order to avoid potential allegations/claims from the claimants.