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Injured seafarers and ambulance chasing lawyers

Seafarers who have been injured onboard a ship are often lured by ambulance chasing lawyers into bringing a lawsuit against the ship owners/managers, by promising them a compensation over and above what is stated in SEA or CBA. If lawyers succeed against owners then a hefty amount is retained by them as attorney fees and expenses, and only a small percentage is remitted to the seafarer. In one such case, the Philippine Supreme Court recently handed down a judgement suspending the lawyers involved for malpractice.

Facts: A seafarer, during his time in the hospital was approached by lawyers who convinced him to engage their services and that of a Singp. law firm, and also coaxed him to pay attorney's fees of 35% of any recovery/settlement obtained. The seafarer received $80,000, from which 35% was charged by the law firms. The Singp. Law firm then filed a case against shipowners in Cyprus. Settlement was for $95,000, out of which only $20K reached the seafarer. He then commenced action against the law firm in Philippines for unethical acts and ambulance chasing.


The Court found that lawyers had not only acted unethically in convincing him to hire them and encouraging him bring a lawsuit against the owners, but had also failed to handle his money with fidelity.

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