Photo by: The Straits Times

SMRT is fast gaining a representation amongst Singaporeans for being unreliable. The train systems have been plagued with constant breakdowns and various other faults that cause delays. However recently, there was a collision between two trains at Joo Koon Station, and consequently, 38 individuals have been injured and had to seek medical treatment at Ng Teng Fong General Hospital.

While it is comforting to hear that SMRT personnel have mentioned at a joint press conference recently with the LTA that SMRT has a compensation process in place for situations such as the collision, one does wonder to what extent this compensation process would cover the ones who were injured in the incident.

At I.R.B. Law LLP we believe that in situations like this knowing your legal rights could help alleviate some of your concerns as such we hope this article provides you with some insight.


Should SMRT be liable for all Medical Expenses incurred by the Injured Party?

The first course of action of any injured party or their loved ones would be to check SMRT’s terms and conditions that they have subjected themselves to while using the train services. In certain terms and conditions of some service providers, such as sky diving or extreme sports, the service provider would have clauses that state they are not liable for any injury suffered by the user in certain circumstances, for example if the user was drunk or if the user had not followed the stipulated rules and regulations required by the service provider.

In any event even if SMRT’s contract of service between themselves and passengers excludes or limits liability for physical injuries, fear not, Parliament has an Act which will protect us. This act is known as the Unfair Contract Terms Act (UCTA) in Singapore.


Unfair Contract Terms Act Of Singapore

UCTA is a set of statutes designed to protect consumers who may require additional protection by law due to their bargaining powers at the point of time when the consumer entered into the contract. It also prevents a service provider from using a contract terms to exclude their liability for negligent acts that may cause personal injury or even death on another person.

Further more to determine if SMRT is even liable for any injuries caused, we must first ascertain whether SMRT owes us a duty of care and whether they had been negligent in carrying out their duties.


SMRT’s Duty Of Care

If SMRT owes its passengers a duty of care, it would mean that SMRT is required to be reasonably careful and take the necessary precautions to prevent accidents that could have been within the reasonable contemplation of a company that provides such services. SMRT would only be liable if they had failed to take the necessary precautions and if someone had been injured due to their failure.


The Test of Duty of Care in Singapore

The decision in the landmark case in Singapore, Spandeck Engineering v Defence Science & Technology Agency, sets out the test in order to determine whether the a ‘duty of care’ relationship has been established.

This test has a two-stage test approach and it focuses on (i) proximity and policy considerations and (ii) the requirement of factual foreseeability.

This area of law is fairly complex and we would advise anyone seeking to find out if a ‘duty of care’ relationship has been established to seek out a lawyer so that they would be able to review the facts of the case and better advice you.


Can a Duty of Care be established in any other manner?

A duty of care may also be found if SMRT has voluntarily assumed responsibility to take care of to the passenger’s needs, or had knowledge that the commuter has placed reasonable reliance on SMRT to take care in circumstances where SMRT ought to have known of this reliance.

Such a situation could occur if someone had contacted SMRT and informed them of a certain requirement and if SMRT had replied to them and given them an assurance of sorts.


What Is Reasonable Care?

Reasonable care, in this case, means the objective standard of a reasonable person using ordinary care and skill. An objective standard must take into account the position of the defendant and the reasonable standard of care to be exer Examples would be conducting checks and ensuring that the train systems are to prevent accidents from happening. Whether this accident was foreseeable, or whether a reasonable person would have foreseen damage in the circumstances or not would depend on the investigation results.


Physical Harm

A recent example of an accident occurring on SMRT premises was a claim brought by a woman who had fainted and fell onto the tracks and lost both legs when an incoming train ran into her. The argument put forward by SMRT’s counsel was that she was standing behind the yellow safety lines and had no history of fainting spells.

It is important to note that at the end, SMRT conceded that while they owed a duty of care to fellow passengers, but they did not breach the applicable standard of care and were therefore not liable to the woman.


So has SMRT been negligent?

If the injuries sustained by the passengers is due to SMRT’s negligence, then the passenger would be able to obtain compensation based on the above-mentioned laws. In some cases, even though the other party caused the accident, the victim may also be partly to blame for his injury as he failed to take sufficient care. This is known as contributory negligence.


Contributory Negligence

Contributory negligence occurs when the victim’s negligence contributed to the injury he suffered. As a result, he will have to share in some of the liability for his injuries as well. A simple example of this would be someone being injured in a motor vehicle accident. If the passenger did not wear a seat belt, he is partially at fault as the injuries sustained could have been less severe. As such the negligent driver may only be liable for a portion of the injury caused.



At I.R.B Law LLP, we have experienced legal advisers who are passionate about justice and fairness. We firmly believe anyone injured in an accident should be assisted robustly so that they can focus on getting back up on their feet and not be burdened by medical bills.

Should you be in a position where you may need our assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected] or call us at 6589 8913 so that we can advise you on your matter.

The information contained in this article is provided for general information only and may not reflect current status about applicable law, cases, settlements or judgements. Nothing contained on this website or article is intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be construed as I.R.B Law LLP agreeing to provide legal services to you. You acknowledge and agree that your use of this website shall not create a lawyer-client relationship with I.R.B Law LLP.