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Title: I wrongly admitted liability. Can I claim?

Date: 16 January 2014

Question

I’ve not long had my bike licence, and two weeks ago when I was riding home from work, filtering through heavy traffic, a car emerged from a side road and I collided with the side of his vehicle.

Although I was battered and bruised and my waterproofs were torn in the impact, I apologised straight away as I thought it was my fault. But my friends have told me that in fact I can make a claim against the driver. However, if I have admitted liability, albeit mistakenly, does this mean I can’t now bring a claim against him for my injuries and damage?

Anonymous, email

Answer

Admissions made in the immediate aftermath of an accident are not binding. When someone is involved in an accident they are, generally speaking, not in a clear state of mind to assess the accident circumstances and to form a considered view as to where blame lies. Many people will make off the cuff statements that may be misconstrued as being an admission such as saying that they are sorry. Such statements do not bind the person to an admission and any apology will be subject to the context in which it is made, e.g. it may be that you were sorry for him having been in an accident, but this does not mean that you are sorry for having caused the accident.

Whilst a lay-person may consider that they were responsible for an accident, as the law on liability is complex, the court may find otherwise. Your accident circumstances are a classic example, as accident circumstances such as yours have been the subject of several Court of Appeal decisions. These decisions are fact specific but have resulted in a range of liability splits. Indeed, even if an admission of liability is made by an insurer or a solicitor, it is not binding and can be withdrawn in certain circumstances.

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