Liability is admitted – can I relax?
The defendant has admitted liability, or the insurance company for the Defendant has admitted liability.
Admitting liability is quite common in personal injury compensation case. The Claimant and their representatives relax as the fight is cancelled, and all that is necessary is to sort out the compensation.
What might surprise you is that an admission made before Court proceedings can be withdrawn. Court rules are in place to manage the position where the parties do not agree to the withdrawal of an admission of liability. A further surprise is that a Defendant withdrawing does not have to show that new evidence has been discovered.
The position was recently dealt with by the Court of Appeal in a case called Annie Rachel Woodland (by her father and litigation friend Ian Woodland) and (1) Beryl Stopford (2) Deborah Maxwell (3) The Swimming Teachers Association
This was a complicated case which involved a number of parties the issue being the supervision of young children having swimming lessons at their school. Liability was admitted by loss adjusters, professional investigators, but when solicitors later became involved they reappraised the evidence and thought the admission of liability was wrong. The Court has a wide discretion based on several factors which I will summarise too concisely by saying that each party is entitled to a fair hearing of their case.
The Court of Appeal in the Woodland v Stopford case accepted the Judge had properly weighed up the case and found no reason to overturn the decision. An appeal Court is not there to rehear a case, it is there to check a decision was not outside the bounds of the law. A tough decision based on the correct principles will be upheld on appeal.
So what does this mean? In a case where a liability of admission is made it is usual for the Claimant’s solicitor to do no further work on the question of liability, or fault. It is unnecessary, and the legal costs will not be recovered from the Defendant.
So the surprising position is that an admission of liability in a personal injury compensation case can be withdrawn. It is not just a matter for the Defendant as a Court may be involved, but the Court discretion is so wide that the change of position could well be upheld.
Why is an admission made, and then withdrawn. Insurance companies will always look at the potential value of the compensation and they place a “reserve” on the case. A “reserve” is the amount of money an insurance company hypothetically sets aside to pay compensation in the case. How much time and expense an insurance company puts into a case will depend heavily on the reserve for compensation. If a case is worth £5,000 much less expense is worthwhile when compared with a case ten times the value.
Insurance companies also like to keep the legal costs as low as possible. An early admission of liability means the Claimant’s solicitors are not running up a big bill investigating a case. The insurance company will hope to settle the case without Court proceedings, so it controls the legal costs of the Claimant solicitors and does not have to instruct its own solicitors.
The most common reason to withdraw an admission of liability is where new evidence comes to light. A new witness, an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive, or the possibility of insurance fraud are all reasons for withdrawal of the admission of liability.
The change of position usually arises when the defendant case passes into new hands, and the instruction of solicitors after the service of Court proceedings is the usual time. This factor has to be borne in mind when issuing Court proceedings.
Another vital issue is that even when liability s admitted the Defendant can still argue a Claimant is partially to blame. Contributory negligence is the correct term for partial blame, and this is considered elsewhere on this site so please click here.
You might ask is nothing straightforward? Good question to which the answer is you must have experienced advice on your side in a personal injury compensation claim.