Can I claim after saying sorry?

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 it.

Although I was bruised and shaken up and my bike had some superficial damage, I apologized 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 bike damage?
Russell Watts, by 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.

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