If you were to review the newspapers, you could be forgiven for thinking that Prince Phillip was discourteous by not apologising to those involved in the incident last Thursday.
It is a popular belief amongst drivers that following an accident you can’t say “sorry” as this could be taken as an admission of liability (that you were the one in the wrong).
This is of course not true. Pretty much anyone regrets a road accident, whether they’re to blame for it or not. Whose policy ultimately pays out depends entirely on evidence, and that will not be significantly altered by the shocked utterances of people at the scene.
Presumably, part of the worry is not the damage caused by saying sorry, but what comes next: ‘sorry, I didn’t see you’ or ‘sorry, I thought you were going to turn left’. These extra words can change the position significantly and become evidence against you.
In truth, you shouldn’t apologise at the scene of an accident, but not because you’ll automatically admit liability in doing so. Instead, it is your car insurance policy that will often ask that you refrain from making such a remark. The last thing you need is for your insurance policy to be rendered void. In those circumstances, the money comes out of your pocket. Then you really will be sorry.
It’s worth bearing in mind however, that in many areas of our work, maybe less so with road traffic accidents but very often with accidents at work and in public places; the first thing that the client will say to me is ‘they haven’t even said sorry, or rung up to see how I am’. The implication is that the claimant might not even be making a claim if they were treated with a decent amount of respect and courtesy. With that in mind, you do wonder how much money is saved by prohibiting apologies, and whether a more compassionate approach might be better for all.