What is a Without Prejudice Offer?

Please can you explain what is a without prejudice offer? I have been contacted by an insurance company with an offer to pay me compensation, but I am not sure what ‘without prejudice’ means.

It is important to know not only what is a without prejudice offer, but also its implications should you decide to accept the offer, or reject it in favour of making a legal claim for compensation.

Many accident victims are confused about what is a without prejudice offer, and reject a settlement offer in the belief that a third party is accepting liability for an accident. Many accident victims fail to seek legal advice about accepting a without prejudice offer, and later to regret the decision.

An offer to settle a personal injury claim that is marked as being ‘without prejudice’ is not an admission of liability. When an offer to resolve a claim is made ‘without prejudice’ it simply means that any information contained in the letter is not be admissible in court. Provided that the offer is made as a genuine attempt to resolve a claim, no information contained in the letter can be used against the respondent should court proceedings be required to settle the case.

The person issuing the without prejudice offer is perfectly entitled to adopt a different point of view to that expressed in the letter should the offer be rejected. Although an offer to settle the case has been made, it does not mean that the respondent would accept liability should a claim be made, and in most cases a full defence of a claim would be prepared.

It is essential that you seek legal advice about accepting a without prejudice offer from a personal injury solicitor. You should have the offer assessed for suitability and your case must be evaluated to determine the probability of success, should you decide to reject the settlement. If your case is not particularly strong, it may be in your best interests to accept the offer. Conversely, if you are likely to be able to recover a significantly higher amount of compensation, and you have a good body of evidence to support your case, a solicitor is likely to advise you to reject the offer and to proceed with a claim, although that decision will be entirely yours to make.

It is undoubtedly good news that you have been offered compensation without prejudice, as it demonstrates that the person who caused the accident – or specifically his or her insurance company – is willing to settle the case quickly. It does not mean the offer is fixed, and it may be possible for a solicitor to negotiate a higher compensation amount with the insurance company.

You should bear in mind that although you have been offered compensation without prejudice, there may be terms and conditions associated with the offer which must be accepted. Offers of settlement for personal injury claims in Ireland made without prejudice may require the accident victim to accept compensation without liability being accepted by the third party at fault for the accident. For many accident victims, obtaining admission of liability is just as important as the compensation payment.

It is important that offers of settlement for personal injury claims in Ireland are discussed with a personal injury solicitor to prevent the undersettling of a claim, and it is strongly advisable that you consult a personal injury solicitor for legal advice before responding to the letter, regardless of whether or not you choose to also have protection under the ‘without prejudice’ principle.