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Many people know that a simple, sincere apology, can avoid a lot of legal trouble. Whether you might have caused a car accident, said something defamatory, broken a contract, or perhaps even committed a minor criminal offence, an expression of remorse can go a long way to avoiding a dispute and solving problems. That is why the law in BC encourages people to apologize by ensuring that if they do apologize, it cannot be used against them as proof they did something wrong. This BC law is called the Apology Act, and is a very short piece of legislation that very few British Columbians know about.
The Apology Act defines an apology as:
…an expression of sympathy or regret, a statement that one is sorry or any other words or actions indicating contrition or commiseration, whether or not the words or actions admit or imply an admission of fault in connection with the matter to which the words or actions relate.
The Apology Act states that an apology made by, or on behalf of a person, does not constitute an express or implied admission of fault or liability by that person. Importantly, the law provides an apology cannot be taken into account by any court in determining whether a person is at fault for an event. An apology cannot be used as evidence in court. For example, if you are in a car accident, and you apologize to the other driver, the other driver cannot raise this apology in court as proof you think you might be at fault for the accident.
Some people believe that apologizing for an accident can void their insurance coverage. Generally speaking, insurance policies require people not to prejudice the insurer’s ability to defend them, and if they do, the insurer can avoid providing coverage to that person. The Apology Act however, provides that an apology cannot void insurance coverage.
Many people know that if you are in an accident, you only have two years to file a claim in court to preserve your right to compensation. This is called a limitation period. In some circumstances, that we discuss in another blog, the limitation period can be extended beyond two years. However, the Apology Act is clear that an apology does not serve to confirm the basis for bringing a claim, or postpone the running of the two-year limitation period. This means that if someone denies they caused you harm, and then later apologizes for it, your two year limitation period runs from the time they caused you harm, not when they later apologize.
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