Dr. Weerasooria publishes book on law governing insurance

Friday, 2 August 2013 03:22 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Shabiya Ali Ahlam With the intention of adding more focused content to the legal literature on insurance, Insurance Ombudsman of Sri Lanka Dr. Wickrema Weerasooria made available last week a book on this subject. Titled “The law governing insurance, negligence, damages, and third-party motor claims”, the book, published by the Postgraduate Institute of Management (PIM) was launched at the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) in the presence of senior lawyers and top officials of the insurance industry. The text, which is the 17th to be authored by Dr. Weerasooria, was well received by both the insurance industry and law professionals. It is noted to be the only one of its kind in Sri Lanka. Taking nearly two years to complete, Dr. Weerasooria said he had researched and studied over 15 well known texts to write the 800 page book which consists of 47 chapters. While this publication is aimed at law and insurance practitioners, Dr. Weerasooria said much of the insurance sector has been run without knowledge of the proper law. “I am not blaming the insurance companies for this but that is how thing are done here,” he stated at the book launch event for which Ministry of Finance and Planning Secretary Dr. P.B Jayasundara was Chief Guest and Insurance Board of Sri Lanka (IBSL) Chairperson Indrani Sugathadasa was Guest of Honour. Pointing out to the audience that he is not an insurance lawyer but a banking lawyer, Dr. Weerasooria noted the insurance profession to be difficult as it is the only one that takes over the risk of other people. “Insurers are not undertakers but are underwriters. I couldn’t understand the complexity of this in the beginning but once I started doing my research for the book, it realised how complex it was.” Highlighting that in Sri Lanka for insurance for accidents is not the English law but the Roman Dutch law, Dr. Weerasooria noted two drawbacks on the latter which according to him needs to be reformed. The first being the compensation for victims of accidents namely for motor, he said: “The victim is not someone the insurance company knows and he is not someone they are interested in either. However the law makes him interested.” He went on to say that the lack of proper law on this makes compensation payment for victims a big issue for the insurance industry. The second issue according to Dr. Weerasooria is ‘damages’ for which under the Roman Dutch law is only awarded for patrimonial loss. Certain that most engaged in the law profession will not know the meaning of this term as it doesn’t even exist in the dictionary; Dr. Weerasooria defined this as ‘monetary loss’. “In Sri Lanka we don’t have anything other than patrimonial loss. If you lose a dear one in an accident, you cannot claim for damages unless you prove the one you lost was the breadwinner of the family,” he explained. Highlighting there is common misconception that insurance companies are unwilling to settle cases, Dr. Weerasooria said: “This is entirely untrue. I can tell you that as an Insurance Ombudsman I have studied the insurance offers in detail and I find them to be so very reasonable that I put them in six pages of my text.” Commending Dr. Weerasooria’s efforts in his latest book, Secretary to the Ministry of Finance and Planning Dr. Jayasundara observed that the text provides in-depth coverage on principles governing insurance and regulatory aspects of the industry. “The book provides useful material to understand the difference between the contractual and criminal liability with regard to insurance, associated negligence and damages. It includes coverage of over 250 judicial decisions of Sri Lanka’s superior courts dealing with negligence and damages of third-party claims. It is a publication that embodies well researched material that will no doubt be of high relevance,” Dr. Jayasundara said. He further stated it is evident that Dr. Weerasooria’s role as the Ombudsman has helped him to understand and address diverse concerns of various stakeholders in the industry. “The contents are represented in a professional and objective manner. It refrains from mistakes often made by writers where they tend to adapt a defensive approach when writing without least realising that the freedom to take a view point is best to be left with readers,” he said. Acknowledging the book to be of great value to the insurance industry was Insurance Association Sri Lanka (IASL) President and Janashakthi Insurance PLC Managing Director Prakash Schaffter. “The insurance industry recognises this text as a major contribution to the subject covered by it. Dr. Weerasooria agreed the text was necessary and the IASL agreed to support this right at the outset. We are grateful for him compiling and publishing this book, and I must say that he is an excellent author. We are also thankful to him for dedicating this book to the insurance industry,” Schaffter expressed. Meanwhile, Postgraduate Institute of Management (PIM) Professor Uditha Liyanage spoke of the contribution make by Dr. Weerasooria to the country. “Looking at Dr. Weerasooria over the years, I can say he has worn six hats,” he said. The first is that of a lawyer, the second is that of a public servant, the third is that of a diplomat, the fourth is the hat as the Insurance Ombudsman, the fifth is the hat of a teacher, and the sixth is the hat of a writer. Choosing to speak on the latter, Professor Liyanage said as a teacher Dr. Weerasooria is an enigma no doubt. Speaking of him as a writer he said: “Dr. Weerasooria has written over 150 articles and 17 books. Given his experience, he is not just a writer, but a researcher as well. So for me, he is a collator and a disseminator.” Pic by Upul Abayasekara