Jeremy Laurance: Thankfully, an apology isn't an admission of liability

Health check

I was late for a meeting and as I jumped on to a crowded tube train the closing doors clouted me on the back of the head. Not for the first time; anyone who stands over 6ft runs a similar risk. But on this occasion my head was knocked into that of the woman next to me. Her hand flew up and, a few seconds later, she crumpled slowly to the floor.

"You've headbutted her. She needs to go to hospital," said another woman standing beyond her. I apologised, and tried to comfort the woman I had injured, hoping she would quickly recover.

She did not. She remained squatting in the corner of the carriage. Other passengers were becoming restive. At the station I escorted the woman on to the platform, and she was still clutching her forehead. There a kindly platform guard took care of her. I explained what had happened and apologised again. The woman said she would sit down, then asked for my business card "in case anything goes wrong." I found one, and went on to my meeting.

On the way I reflected on what had happened. It was clearly an accident but was I, nevertheless, culpable? I should not have jumped on to the train at the last moment. If she was seriously injured would I be liable?

It was not a hard blow but some people are more vulnerable than others. You do not expect to be head-butted on the tube; the shock alone would be pain enough. Did my apology amount to an admission of liability? I began to imagine lawyer's letters, a court case...

Is this how doctors feel after an accident? And is that why they can be so dilatory with apologies and explanations? If so, they are, as I was, ignorant of the law. The UK Compensation Act 2006 makes clear that an apology is not equivalent to an admission of liability. The law does not stand in the way, as many think, of ordinary expressions of regret.

Later that day I received an email from the woman. She had made it to her office and was sitting with an ice-pack on her head but was otherwise OK. "You hit your head too – I hope you are OK," she wrote. That was kind.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

    £15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

    Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

    £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

    Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

    £16575 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity is ava...

    Day In a Page

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

    Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
    Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

    One day to find €1.6bn

    Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
    New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

    'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

    Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
    Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

    Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

    The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
    Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

    Historians map out untold LGBT histories

    Public are being asked to help improve the map
    Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

    Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

    This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
    Paris Fashion Week

    Paris Fashion Week

    Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
    A year of the caliphate:

    Isis, a year of the caliphate

    Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
    Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

    Marks and Spencer

    Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
    'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

    'We haven't invaded France'

    Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
    Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

    Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

    The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
    7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

    Remembering 7/7 ten years on

    Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
    Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

    They’re here to help

    We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
    Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

    Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

    'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
    What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

    What exactly does 'one' mean?

    Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue