Urban myth also considers you liable if you offer to repair a scratched fairing or cracked mirror after a minor knock. This proposition is also nonsense. An apology, or offer to fix, is not an admission of liability. Said urban myth is unhelpfully recycled whenever you get one of those, ‘what to do In the event of a collision,’ cards with your Insurance certificates. Admit nothing and call us is the general gist. And here is your insurer’s motive: it is not to keep you from opening yourself (and your insurer) to liability for losses, it is so your incident gets filtered through the ‘collision management’ circus that pays insurers so handsomely.

If you decide to sort things out between yourselves, then the insurance brokers do not get the chance to: move your bike to a storage compound at £25 per day; arrange an engineer’s report at £180 (with the engineer assessing 20 or more vehicles at one location); keep the vehicle for three weeks; organise an exorbitantly priced hire vehicle at north of £100 per day and then inflate your premium for five years. The second ‘income stream’ is keeping the dispute open so both parties get spanked for five years’ worth of loading. And finally even if you have a non-fault prang, if it is run through your insurers the fact you have had a claim marks you as being a higher risk so you will get a loading.

Fair? No. But fairness is not a factor in insurance. The real law is simple: prior to the Compensation Act 2006 an apology for a collision was treated by the law as a matter of good manners with no legal consequence. Likewise, an offer of redress, if unaccepted, had no legal consequences. Occasionally when I was a junior lawyer I had equally junior opponents arguing that an apology amounted to an admission, but this got short shrift from every Judge who would, without fail, regard an apology as a normal human reaction and of no value in determining blame.

Since 2006 it is now a matter of clear statute that ‘an apology, an offer of treatment or other redress… shall not of itself amount to an admission.’ However, If you offer to repair someone else’s vehicle and they accept you have an agreement, that is different. That becomes a matter of contract…

To become formal, in Civil Law, and for an admission to be binding (and even then not totally binding) it must be in writing and is governed by Part 14 of the Civil Procedure Rules, and must follow a formal notification of a claim. And even in these formal circumstances the Courts are relatively forgiving about allowing a formal admission, in writing after having received legal advice to be withdrawn. So you saying ‘sorry’ for clipping a mirror and offering to pay is both good manners and legally irrelevant in so far as your insurers are concerned.

Andrew Dalton

Bike Magazine June 2019