Sorry is a powerful word. For people receiving an apology it can validate and acknowledge their feelings and emotions and can be an important step on the path to healing.
In a legal context saying sorry was equated with admitting fault for the incident giving rise to the apology. Therefore understandably, parties to litigation have felt reluctant about apologising, especially when liability may have been formally denied in the proceeding.
Fortunately, in matters of personal injury or wrongful death the law has cut the link between an apology and an admission of liability. The relevant legislation is section 14J of the Wrongs Act 1958 (Vic). This section provides that, in a civil proceeding where the death or injury of a person is in issue or is relevant to an issue of fact or law, an apology does not constitute either an admission of liability for that injury or death or an admission of unprofessional conduct, carelessness, incompetence or unsatisfactory professional performance. This applies to apologies, written or oral, made any time before or after the commencement or contemplation of the proceeding.
Though not a legal remedy a sincere apology can be an important part of a successful resolution of a claim to which section 14J applies.
Nevett Ford has a wealth of experience acting for plaintiffs and defendants in matters to which section 14J applies and can guide them through the challenge of formal legal proceedings including using informal conferences, mediations or conciliations. To consult for legal advice in Melbourne, please contact us on 03 9614 7111 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.