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“I’m Sorry” as a Legal Strategy – Does it Work?


In our personal relationships, we often are told of the value of saying “I’m sorry” when we do something wrong. But when it comes to our business transactions, we rarely do that, when in reality, it can often be an important and powerful negotiation technique.

The Emotional Aspect of I’m Sorry

When we are at fault, or even when we are not, but we want to avoid a small problem mushrooming into a big one, “I’m sorry” can go a long way. Many a lawsuit was avoided, just because the at fault party issued an apology. And many small claims became major, contested, and expensive litigation, because of the failure to say sorry when there is a business dispute or some threat of litigation.

Admission of Guilt?

But wait-isn’t “Im sorry” an admission of guilt or liability? Isn’t it harmful to say you’re sorry, for fear that the other side will use that against you?

The answer is no, at least, not in most cases.

One thing that a business can do is apologize, but not for the allegedly offending behavior, but rather for the result.

Saying “I’m sorry I didn’t read the contract and so I didn’t follow it,” is probably something you don’t want to say.

But saying “I’m sorry you’re not happy” or “Im sorry we’re having these difficulties,” or some apology that doesn’t admit anything, is perfectly OK.

Settlement Offers are Inadmissible

Another thing to remember is that attempts to settle a case are absolutely inadmissible as evidence in your case.

So, saying “I’m sorry, let me offer you a discount to make you feel better,” or something similar, can be construed not as a simple apology, but rather, as an attempt to settle the case, which then cannot ever be used against you.

Accord and Satisfaction

Apologies coupled with offers have another advantage—they can often be used to settle the case, completely, under the terms of that offer, if the offer is accepted.

So, for example, if someone is injured on your property, and you apologize and offer to pay some medical bills, if that offer is accepted, that is the extent of your liability; the acceptance of your “peace offering” (or accord and satisfaction) can be construed as a full and final settlement of all the damages in your case, thus barring the other party from ever suing for more money later on.

Of course, ideally, you would get the acceptance of your offer in writing.

Often, you can simply send a correspondence with an offer—say, a check, or a written offer to do something—and if that is accepted, it may be construed as an accord and satisfaction fully settling the matter under those terms, and thus avoiding further, more significant, liability.

Call the West Palm Beach business litigation lawyers at Pike & Lustig today if you have a legal problem and want the best strategy to get out of it, or to manage it, safely.




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