Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Want to avoid being sued? Say you're sorry!

Yes, it really is often just that simple. In fact, many clients often want an apology more than they even want money. As this article notes, patients who have adverse results (including actual malpractice-caused adverse results) are much much much less likely to sue if the hospital and doctors simply apologize. Of course, sometimes more than an apology is needed, but even there, as the article notes, "Patients seem far less angry when they receive an honest explanation, an apology and prompt, fair compensation for the harm they have suffered." No need for any lawsuits there.

Which applies generally. If you wrong someone, a sincere apology, especially if accompanied by an attempt to make up for the harm, is the surest way to avoid a lawsuit (and is far far cheaper for everyone concerned). That's the first advice I'd give to anyone in a potential lawsuit situation - sit down, talk with the other party, and apologize if appropriate. Refusing to admit fault where fault is pretty clear, refusing to apologize, just really pisses people off and makes them more likely to sue. Even if a lawsuit does happen anyway, it may be far less acrimonious and may settle much more easily and on better terms if, from the start, the defendant was apologetic and expressed true remorse.

This isn't rocket science. (And I've noted it before).


Stew said...

Common assumption is that an apology can be considered admition of guilt and could be detrimental if a law suit follows.
So people are advised to never apologise.

Personally I find apologies go a long way to disarming a situation. Ever gone back into a store to complain about a faulty product or bad service? You're all fired up, going to give them a piece of your mind and they say "We're terribly sorry, you're absolutely right. What can we do to rectify the situation?"
Takes the wind right out of your sails

DBB said...

Yeah, that is the common assumption, and the funny thing is, it is exactly the opposite - nothing is quite as infuriating as someone who does you wrong, then refuses to apologize or even admit they did anything wrong, particularly when it is communicated through layers of legalise that often not only does not include a "sorry" but includes an implication that really the person who was wronged was the one who was 100% at fault. Which tends to piss people off, leading to law suits...