The Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament says it will summon Malawi Law Society (MLS) over reports that its members continue filing “bogus claims” relating to accidents.
Committee chairperson Peter Dimba said being a statutory body created by the Constitution, MLS appears before his committee periodically, but he could not recall ever discussing the issue of bogus claims by some lawyers.
He said the committee, which is mandated to provide oversight on administration of the law in the country, will follow up with MLS on the matter, adding they expected the lawyers’ body to act on errant members to bring sanity to the legal profession.
According to the Insurance Association of Malawi (IAM), while insurance firms have continued registering loses through fake claims from road accidents and personal injuries in manufacturing companies, an unprecedented level of claims are now originating from tea estates.
The association, which claimed last January that fake insurance claims cost their members K5 billion in 2019 alone, said in an interview on Wednesday that tea estates are now largely targeted.
In an interview on Wednesday, IAM president Bywell Chiwoni said another source of bogus claims the insurance firms are struggling to settle is the tea estates.
He said: “[Although this is the case], there’ve been a lot of intervention, including engagement between the tea estate association with the Judiciary and the insurance association.”
In a separate interview, Tea Association of Malawi president Sangwani Hara said his association has compiled a report which they plan to present to the Judiciary as evidence of the bogus claims.
He said the association engaged the Judiciary last year on the matter and will soon present the report to the Judiciary.
Said Hara: “The bogus claims have reached unprecedented levels. We want to provide proof to the Judiciary about our fears of a collusion we have always suspected between clinicians or some medical personnel and some lawyers.
“We’ve been working with Insurance Association of Malawi to get to the bottom of these bogus claims. In the worst case scenario, you have claims of workers that never existed and were never on a payroll.”
The tea association president said every tea estate has a clinic where every injury must be reported first, but said there have been cases where workers bypass these clinics and go to other clinics where they obtain medical reports that appear doctored.
In some instances, Hara said, claimants make exaggerated claims through their lawyers that have saddled the tea estates with hundreds of millions of kwacha to pay out.
In January this year, IAM told Nation On Sunday that the scheme is complicated as conspirators in the syndicate include “ambulance chasers” (people who follow up on accidents, lawyers, medical doctors, some police officers and in some cases, employees of some insurance firms.
At the time, Chiwoni said initially, the scheme focused on road accidents, but it later moved to manufacturing industries and lately to tea estates where some agents are planted to find out recorded personal injuries to some lawyers who file the cases in court, sometimes without the knowledge and instructions of those injured.
The insurance body has 10 members that include eight insurance companies, one reinsurance firm and one reinsurance broker, according to Chiwoni.
Last year, the Ministry of Labour issued a caution against the malpractice, saying it was concerned that the defrauding of employers and insurance companies was continuing.
The ministry had further accused medical personnel and lawyers of their involvement in making unsolicited claims for injuries at the workplace.
In December 2020, the Anti-Corruption Bureau appealed to professional bodies to ensure that their members are discharging their duties ethically to avoid being found on the wrong side of the law. Attempts to get a comment from MLS proved futile as they had not responded to our questionnaire by press time.