Does an apology constitute an admission of liability?

Published 11 Jun 2018

A heartfelt apology is often one of the first steps to settling an argument with someone. Saying you’re sorry to a person that you’ve wronged opens up the path to forgiveness and can provide closure.

But conventional wisdom in legal matters is that defendants can do themselves more harm than good when they apologise to a plaintiff. An apology is usually portrayed as an admission of guilt, which the courts may see as justification for ruling in the plaintiff’s favour.

So how does this affect public liability claims in Queensland? Are individuals or organisations admitting liability for your injuries if they apologise to you?

What do Queensland liability laws say?

The Civil Liability Act 2003 governs how compensation cases for public liability claims are handled in court. Parts 1 and 1A of Chapter 4 in the legislation specifically deal with the topic of apologies and other expressions of regret in liability cases.

According to the Act, any apology made by or on behalf of the person alleged to be liable:

  • Does not express or imply an admission of fault or liability; and
  • Is not relevant to how liability should be determined in the case.

Put simply, an apology will not be held against a defendant, legally speaking. They are free to show regret or compassion for your injuries without the courts ruling they were to blame for the incident. Furthermore, apologies are not admissible in court, so a judge will even not consider them as evidence in a civil claim.

The value of an apology

Apologies may not advance your public liability claim, but they can offer other benefits in legal disputes – and there is research to prove this.

A study from the University of Illinois showed that plaintiffs who received an apology in a hypothetical injury claim were more likely to settle and enjoyed a greater feeling of justice being served.

“The apology fulfills some of the goals that triggered the suit, such as a need for respect, to assign responsibility and to get a sense that what happened won’t happen again,” said Jennifer Robbennolt, University of Illinois professor of law and psychology.

“It seems relatively clear that plaintiffs want apologies and it also seems that defendants often want to apologise.”

At Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers, we’re sensitive to the needs of our clients and want to resolve injury claims in a way that best suits you. Please contact us today to learn more.

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