SMRT asked passenger hurt in Joo Koon train collision to sign non-disclosure agreement before reimbursing medical fees

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A passenger who was injured when two trains collided into one another at Joo Koon station on 15 Nov last year has shared his experience of how transport operator SMRT asked him to sign a non-disclosure agreement before reimbursing the medical fees he had incurred due to the accident.

Sharing his story with a local socio-political website, the anonymous passenger wrote that when the trains collided in the accident last year, he fell backwards and landed on his bottom. Although the passenger thought that was the extent of his injuries, he only later experienced pain in his left ankle and numbness in his left arm.

The passenger visited a clinic the next day and emailed his medical bill to SMRT to get a reimbursement. He only heard back from the organisation one and a half months later, when they contacted him to tell him that his claim of $31.70 has been approved, pending a “discharge voucher” that he had to sign.

The passenger agreed but describes having a “rude shock” when he received the voucher that was mailed to him:

 

“A few days later, they mailed the “discharge voucher” to me. When I read the “discharge voucher”, I got a rude shock. They mailed me a bloody contract and expected me to sign it.
“This contract demanded 3 terms:
1) The payment is final, no further amounts can be claimed.
2) No further responsibility can be held on the SMRT.
3) Terms of the agreement are to be kept entirely confidential.”

Angry, the passenger refused to sign the voucher and told SMRT staff that even if he was amenable to the first two conditions, he would never sign away his rights to disclosure. SMRT and the passenger then became embroiled in a back-and-forth over the agreement:

“This whole back-and-forth went on for more than 1 week, with the staff transferring the case to her manager, whom I have had to explain all over, that I will under no circumstances surrender my rights to disclose anything that I want to disclose. The manager explained to me that this was simply their company policy, and every claimant had to go through the same things. I told her promptly, her company policies are none of my concern, and they are the ones who caused the problem in the first place. The compensation should have been UNCONDITIONAL.
“Finally at the end, I told her to stop making me repeat myself. Under no circumstances would I sign a something that would allow SMRT to use against me. I will not sign away my rights to full disclosure, end of discussion. I told her, if SMRT refuses to pay the reimbursement, that’s fine. I was already prepared to either: a) I forfeit the compensation, b) I go to the small claims tribunal.
“Finally, the SMRT manager relented. She said she would reimburse the amount into my EZ-Link card, WITHOUT HAVING TO SIGN ANY CONTRACT. I said, okay then.”

The passenger’s claim was finally ready for collection a week after this, on 15 January 2018 – exactly two months after the train collision.

Writing that his intention is not to shame SMRT by sharing this incident, the passenger added: “Well, yes, not the most pleasant experience. But at least a resolution was met without having to conform to SMRT’s strict procedures. If they chose to, they could have done this better, without having to demand claimants follow their terms unilaterally.”

SMRT has since responded that the discharge voucher is a standard document used in all claims matters. The organisation’s Vice President for Corporate Communications, Margaret Teo, shared with reporters:

“SMRT welcomes commuters’ input. Our Commuter Engagement team has taken input from the incident and we are making continuous improvements as part of our company Kaizen initiatives to serve our commuters better. The safety and well-being of our commuters are our top priorities.”

Read the full story here:

“Firstly, I am not writing this to shame SMRT. And overall, I got a resolution. But it certainly could have gone a lot better though.

“I was one of the passengers of the front cabin of the train in the Joo Koon MRT collision on November 15th 2017. During that incident, I fell on my backside. I walked out of the station, feeling lucky that I only got a bump on my backside, without any other injury. However, later that afternoon, my left arm felt completely devoid of strength, and my left ankle started to hurt. The following day, I went to see a clinic doctor. I then proceeded to emailed the smrt staff with my medical bills for claims.

“It took them one and a half months for them to contact me again. The SMRT staff told me the claim is approved. However, they will need me to sign a “discharge voucher” before the amount of $31.70 can be reinbursed.

“A few days later, they mailed the “discharge voucher” to me. When I read the “discharge voucher”, I got a rude shock. They mailed me a bloody contract and expected me to sign it.

“This contract demanded 3 terms:
1) The payment is final, no further amounts can be claimed.
2) No further responsibility can be held on the SMRT.
3) Terms of the agreement are to be kept entirely confidential.

“Angrily, I told the staff, there was no way in hell that I would sign such a contract. I told them in no uncertain terms, that even if I was agreeable to the first 2 conditions, there was no way that I would sign away my rights to disclosure.

“This whole back-and-forth went on for more than 1 week, with the staff transferring the case to her manager, whom I have had to explain all over, that I will under no circumstances surrender my rights to disclose anything that I want to disclose. The manager explained to me that this was simply their company policy, and every claimant had to go through the same things. I told her promptly, her company policies are none of my concern, and they are the ones who caused the problem in the first place. The compensation should have been UNCONDITIONAL.

“Finally at the end, I told her to stop making me repeat myself. Under no circumstances would I sign a something that would allow SMRT to use against me. I will not sign away my rights to full disclosure, end of discussion. I told her, if SMRT refuses to pay the reimbursement, that’s fine. I was already prepared to either: a) I forfeit the compensation, b) I go to the small claims tribunal.

“Finally, the SMRT manager relented. She said she would reimburse the amount into my EZ-Link card, WITHOUT HAVING TO SIGN ANY CONTRACT. I said, okay then.

“A week after that, 15th January 2018, exactly 2 months after the incident, the amount of SGD $31.70 was approved and ready for collection.

“Well, yes, not the most pleasant experience. But at least a resolution was met without having to conform to SMRT’s strict procedures. If they chose to, they could have done this better, without having to demand claimants follow their terms unilaterally.”