Sorry! Really is the hardest word say UK motorists

Article date: 28 September 2005

Not saying sorry after an accident costs UK motorists at least£28 million* a year – Norwich Union’s new ‘Sorry!Report’ reveals today.

Although nearly nine out of 10 (88%) motorists claim they wantto say sorry following an accident two out of five (38%) thinkdoing so would adversely affect their own insurance claim orprevent them successfully claiming from the other partyinvolved.

And men are twice as likely as women to not say sorry followingan accident.

Norwich Union is starting a campaign today to reassure motoriststhat saying sorry is just an expression of regret, not an admissionof guilt.

Dominic Clayden, Norwich Union’s director of technicalclaims, says: “Not saying sorry has two effects, itencourages some people to exaggerate minor damages or injuries andprevents others from correctly identifying the extent of theirinjuries. Both have an escalatory affect on the cost of claims thatare passed on to motorists in the form of increased premiums andexcesses.”

Almost a third (31%) of motorists admitted they would be likelyto exaggerate injuries or vehicle damage if the other partyinvolved in an accident was angry or accusatory. Whilst two out offive (40%) said they would be less likely to do this if the otherdriver was friendly, showed sympathy and said sorry.

Dr David Lewis, a leading UK psychologist, said of the report:“Tension and stress in the immediate aftermath of a minoraccident can run very high. In these moments under mostcircumstances it is human nature to show empathy and say sorry.But, when it comes to car accidents, many of us don’t feel weare able to do this.”

Nearly two thirds (65%) of motorists say they have never been inan accident where the other party has apologised. And a third ofmotorists said they had been told by family, friends or theirinsurance companies, not to say sorry themselves.

Dominic Clayden added: “Unfortunately this urban mythmakes people think they cannot say sorry after a road accidentwithout risking their insurance claim or laying themselves open tobeing held completely responsible.

“Furthermore, our research shows that it is under tensecircumstances such as these that those involved in accidents beginto feel they must exaggerate their injuries to ensure they are seenas the aggrieved party or punish the other party for what they seeas unreasonable behaviour.”

Dr Lewis continued: “When you are involved in an accidentyour body goes into survival mode which might inhibit the abilityto detect injuries that cannot be seen. As an example, one of thesurvival modes the body automatically starts is the production ofnatural pain killers, such as the stress hormone, adrenalin. Theeffects are only temporary, but can cause a delay to someoneseeking medical attention.”

The ‘Sorry! Report’ shows a fifth of motorists saidthey would feel calmer and less stressed about the situation if theother party apologised, and over half of those who had been advisednot to say sorry agreed it would make the situation calmer and lessstressful.

Every year Norwich Union’s Rehabilitation Centre inBerkshire sees patients with a number of different injuriesfollowing road accidents. Norwich Union’s campaign seeks toraise awareness of the perils of ignoring non life threateninginjuries such as muscle strain which can be caused in accidents. Itwants to promote the importance of self-responsibility formotorists to avoid on-going medical problems by seeking helpfast.

Dominic Clayden, Norwich Union, continued: “Where aninjury is sustained it is vital that it is looked at and treatedimmediately – not to do so can extend recovery time andincrease the impact on their day-to-day life.”

“It’s very natural after an accident to be agitated,emotional and angry. Saying sorry can diffuse much of theseemotions helping all parties to discuss the situation rationallyand politely, and without risking exaggeration or, the other end ofthe scale, ignoring injuries caused. If you look at it from avariety of angles saying sorry really is the bestpolicy.”


Media contacts
QBO BellPottinger
Charlotte Ruddlesdin, 020 7861 2491,
Sarah Street, 020 7861 2428,

Norwich Union
Adam Cracknell, 01603 684916,

Notes to editors
* The £28 million figurehas been calculated based on the following: Norwich Union estimatesthat there are 2,282,000 motor accident claims a year. 20% of theassociated claims are exaggerated. This means that 456,400 claimsare exaggerated.

The Sorry! Report shows that 40% of all motorists would notexaggerate their claims if the other party apologised. Therefore,we can say 40% of the 456,400 claims each year would not beexaggerated if the other party apologised. This equals 182,560 intotal.

Norwich Union estimates that on average people exaggerate theirclaims by 10%. Their figures show that an average claim is £1538,therefore the average exaggeration of an average claim is £154.

182,560 multiplied by £154 equals the extra amount of moneyclaimed every year which could be saved if the parties involvedapologised - (£28,114,240)

This equation assumes only one claim per accident, so pleasenote the true figure could be higher and this is the lowestestimate.

Norwich Union commissioned TNS to conduct research amongst 1010GB adults. Interviews took place between 9th and11th September 2005

About Norwich Union

  • Norwich Union is the UK’s largest insurer with a marketshare of around 14 per cent.
  • With a focus on insurance for individuals and smallbusinesses, Norwich Union insures:
    • one in five households
    • one in seven motor vehicles
    • more than 800,000 businesses
  • Norwich Union products are available through a variety ofdistribution channels including brokers, corporate partners suchas banks and building societies and Norwich Union Direct.
  • Norwich Union’s news releases and a selection of imagesare available from Aviva’s internet press centre at

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