Traditionally, defendants purposely avoid apologizing to the plaintiff because an apology is an admission of guilt and will only increase the payout in legal disputes ranging from wrongful firings to injury cases. However, according to new research described in ScienceDaily, apologies can actually be beneficial to the plaintiff if done correctly.
University of Illinois professor Jennifer Robbennolt surveyed more than 550 people about their reaction to apologies offered during settlement negotiations in a hypothetical injury case. Robbennolt found that, counter to traditional thought, apologies actually reduced financial demands and increased the likelihood of agreement. However, apologies that accept fault have more impact than apologies that simply express sympathy without claiming responsibility.
According to Robbennolt, apologies that accept blame can have a powerful psychological impact on the plaintiff, providing them with a sense of closure and accountability that makes them less angry and more willing to forgive. For defendants, apologizing can therefore reduce legal costs as well as damages by settling the case more quickly.
What’s the catch? The lawyers. Both the defendant and the plaintiff need a lawyer to help them through the case. However, lawyers tend to take a more traditional approach, advising the defendant not to apologize and the plaintiff not to settle for less. In addition, lawyers may also be motivated to elongate the settlement process because it means more money for them! In other words, clients can benefit from apologies while lawyers do not, creating a conflict of interest and a lack of resolution.
How can we effectively resolve this conflict of interest?
Article image by clker.com.