Seafarer's work-related injury; company-designated physician

Pursuant to Section 20 (A) of the 2010 POEA-SEC, when a seafarer suffers a work-related injury or illness in the course of employment, the company-designated physician is obligated to arrive at a definite assessment of the former's fitness or degree of disability within a period of 120 days from repatriation.[1] During the said period, the seafarer shall be deemed on temporary total disability and shall receive his basic wage until he is declared fit to work or his temporary disability is acknowledged by the company to be permanent, either partially or totally, as his condition is defined under the POEA-SEC and by applicable Philippine laws. However, if the 120-day period is exceeded and no definitive declaration is made because the seafarer requires further medical attention, then the temporary total disability period may be extended up to a maximum of 240 days, subject to the right of the employer to declare within this period that a permanent partial or total disability already exists.[2] But before the company-designated physician may avail of the allowable 240-day extended treatment period, he must perform some significant act to justify the extension of the original 120-day period.[3] Otherwise, the law grants the seafarer the relief of permanent total disability benefits due to such non-compliance.[4]

In this regard, the Supreme Court, in Elburg Shipmanagement Philippines, Inc. v. Quiogue, Jr.,[5] summarized the rules regarding the company-designated physician's duty to issue a final medical assessment on the seafarer's disability grading, as follows:
  1. The company-designated physician must issue a final medical assessment on the seafarer's disability grading within a period of 120 days from the time the seafarer reported to him;
  2. If the company-designated fails to give his assessment within the period of 120 days, without any justifiable reason, then the seafarer's disability becomes permanent and total;
  3. If the company-designated physician fails to give his assessment within the 120 days with a sufficient justification (e.g., seafarer required further medical treatment or seafarer was uncooperative), then the period of diagnosis and treatment shall be extended to 240 days. The employer has the burden to prove that the company-designated physician has sufficient, justification to extend the period; and
  4. If the company-designated physician still fails to give his assessment within the extended period of 240 days, then the seafarer's disability becomes permanent and total, regardless of any justification.[6] (Emphases supplied)
Case law states that without a valid final and definitive assessment from the company-designated physician within the 120/240-day period, the law already steps in to consider petitioner's disability as total and permanent.[7] Thus, a temporary total disability becomes total and permanent by operation of law.[8]

ALSO READ THE FOLLOWING:

[a] Worker's duty to get post-employment medical exam.
[b] G.R. No. 232905. August 20, 2018 - Project Jurisprudence.
[c] Magsaysay Maritime v. NLRC (G.R. No. 186180; March 22, 2010).
[d] Case Digest: Philman Marine v. Cabanban - Project Jurisprudence.
[e] Substantial evidence to prove work-related, compensable injury.
[f] Presumption of work-relatedness - Project Jurisprudence.
[g] G.R. No. 226411. November 21, 2016 - Project Jurisprudence.

[1] See Sunit v. OSM Maritime Services, Inc., G.R. No. 223035, February 27, 2017, 818 SCRA 663, 677-678.

[2] Vergara v. Hammonia Maritime Services, Inc., 588 Phil. 895, 912 (2008).

[3] See Talaroc v. Arpaphil Shipping Corporation, G.R. No. 223731, August 30, 2017.

[4] Elburg Shipmanagement Philippines, Inc. v. Quiogue, Jr., 765 Phil. 341, 362 (2015).

[5] Id.

[6] Id. at 362-363.

[7] See Talaroc v. Arpaphil Shipping Corporation, supra note 86.

[8] See Tamin v. Magsaysay Maritime Corporation, G.R. No. 220608, August 31, 2016, 802 SCRA 111, 128.

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