Senate approves bill protecting seafarers from ‘ambulance chasers’

MANILA, Sept. 21 (PNA) – The Senate approved on third and final reading on Monday a bill protecting the country’s seafarers from the so-called “ambulance chasers.”

Senate Bill No. 2835 aims to prevent professionals, particularly lawyers and physicians, from offering seafarers and other workers to pursue claims or benefit against their employers in exchange of exorbitant professional fees.

Senator Juan Edgardo ‘Sonny’ Angara, one of the authors of the bill, said professionals convinced or coerced seafarers and workers into entering agreements for legal or consultancy services even when such agreement were not needed.

Angara explained that ambulance chasers is a term used to describe lawyers who, upon learning of a personal injury that might have been caused by negligence or the wrongful act of another, immediately contact the victim for consent to represent him or her in a lawsuit in change for a percentage of the damages that will be recovered from the case.

”The term ambulance chasing comes from the stereotype of lawyers that follow ambulances to the emergency room to find clients,” he said.

In most cases, Angara said, seafarer-claimants end up losing a huge portion of their claims to their lawyers who charge exorbitant fees.

Under the proposed measure, lawyers’ fee would be limited to only a maximum of 10 percent for the compensation awarded to the complainant.

Angara said professionals found guilty of “ambulance chasing” would be slapped from PhP 50,000 to a maximum of PhP 100,000 and/or imprisonment of one to two years.

”This is why we increased the budget for the legal assistance fund from PhP 30 to PhP 100 million so that competent legal service will be made available to OFWs in distress,” Senator Cynthia Villar, co-author of the bill, said. (PNA)