Some people say “I’m sorry” because they don’t know what else to say in an uncomfortable situation. Others say “I’m sorry” to express sympathy or concern. Some people say “I’m sorry” because they want to apologize for a situation they’ve caused. So, what would a personal injury lawyer tell you about apologizing?
What’s the legal effect of saying you’re sorry?
Suppose you’re in a car accident and it was your fault. Without a doubt, you know the other driver didn’t do anything wrong. You can see that the other car is damaged and the driver appears injured. Should you apologize or admit fault?
Or, what if you’re in an accident but you’re not sure about who was at fault? You can see the other driver is hurt, so like any good Southerner, you go over and instinctively say, “I am soooooo sorry. Are you alright? Do you need an ambulance?” Have you just admitted liability for the car accident?
“I’m Sorry” = Not Admissible to Show Liability
Tennessee Rule of Evidence 409.1 addresses apologies and saying “I’m sorry.” The Rule provides that certain statements and actions reflecting sympathy for an injured person are not admissible at a trial. The Rule is designed to encourage settlements. The underlying theory is that a settlement is more likely if a person is free to express sympathy to the injured person without making a statement that would be considered an admission of liability.
Statements of Fault are Admissible
Rule 409.1 only extends to “benevolent gestures” and does not exclude statements of fault. If you are a victim in an accident and someone tells you it was their fault, write down their exact words. This evidence could help your injury lawyer prove liability and can increase your chances of recovering damages. If you tell someone that you were at fault for an accident, then your statement will most likely be admissible as evidence if a lawsuit results.
Moral of the Story
A simple apology can go a long way toward making an injured person feel more comfortable with settling a case rather than filing a lawsuit. People like to receive apologies. Be human. Feel free to say “I’m sorry”, but be careful about statements of fault.
Need a Personal Injury Lawyer?
Call Wiseman Bray PLLC at (901) 372-5003 or email us here. We have a personal injury lawyer for you. You can also visit our website to learn more about our approach to personal injury work and some of the results we’ve achieved for our clients, with offices in both Memphis and Nashville.