People who cause an accident often worry that if they apologise they open themselves up to a claim for compensation, or a larger claim for compensation.
But there is a big difference between saying sorry, and actually making a self-incriminating statement that can create a liability at law.
So what is the effect of an apology?
In most personal injury claims for compensation, a persons intention or state of mind is irrelevant for the purposes of establishing negligence. Courts are more concerned about whether a persons conduct fell short of the appropriate duty of care, rather than the intention of the person apologising at the time.
So saying sorry generally has no real impact in a compensation claim.
People who say sorry for an accident also have the protection of legislation.
Under the Civil Liability Act 2003, an expression of sympathy, regret or compassion after an accident cannot be used as evidence in court proceedings. In a recent case in the District Court the judge found that one of the drivers in a motor vehicle accident apologised after the collision, however the Judge was required to disregard the apology, and determine liability for the car accident on the facts of the particular case.
So if you say sorry, it cannot be used against you.
However, care still needs to be taken when apologies are considered in the context of contracts of insurance.
Most insurance policies prohibit an injured person from admitting fault for an accident. Some insurance policies go so far as to say that if you admit fault, then the insurance company can refuse to pay the claim.
So regardless of the protection of the legislation, an expression of regret may result in the insurance company voiding the policy.