Research has shown that telling an offended party that you are sorry defuses many situations, whether it is in a personal relationship, a malpractice suit or even in a discrimination lawsuit. Yet many people are hesitant to say “I’m sorry” because they feel that will be perceived as an admission of guilt. Fortunately, in many states there are laws that protect companies from these apologies being admitted into evidence.
According to the website Sorry Works!, “Thirty-six states have ‘apology laws’ which prohibit certain statements, expressions, or other evidence related to disclosure from being admissible in a lawsuit. Most states simply cover expressions of empathy or sympathy, while a few states go further and protect admissions of fault.” Mediator and arbitrator Maria Walsh has seen the power of “sorry”. She says that one of the key components in settlement demands is a show of respect. Absent that respect the lawsuit becomes more than a legal battle, it becomes “a psychological battle with moral overtones.”
In her role as a mediator and arbitrator Walsh has seen that statements of apology work in both directions. Many times it is not just the plaintiff that feels injured it is also the defendant company that feels injured as well. She says that apologies are difficult to make and often have to be accomplished by third parties. Messages passed through neutral parties can be effective and can pave the path to an effective settlement.
I think it is well-known that respect goes a long way. In terminating an employee you always need to strive to treat the terminated employee with respect, much as you would like to be treated respectfully. Often people file lawsuits solely because they felt disrespected in the process of being terminated. As Walsh says “Parties need not agree on the merits of their dispute. With sufficient tools to promote compromise, they can still achieve a settlement.” This helps avoid the cost of court, and that is nothing to sneeze at.
States with apology protection laws
The states with apology protection laws include:
However, Sorry Works! states that an apology can be exercised in any state and it will work to the company’s advantage. Plaintiff lawyers hate to hear a company apologize in court. It has a tendency to reduce settlement penalties.