In the face of a recall, a disaster, or a crisis, too many attorneys counsel their clients to avoid apologizing and to avoid taking responsibility in order to minimize their legal exposure. These lawyers would likely have their clients believe that doing so would “open the floodgates of litigation,” or “provide evidence of wrongdoing that would strengthen claims.”
The truth is that if your company was involved in a large-scale crisis, it will likely face some litigation or at a minimum, a government investigation. And, there are many ways to take responsibility without stating that your company was at fault. In short, focus on solutions and leave the finger-pointing for the courtroom.
If there are a number of people and companies involved in the crisis at hand—there usually are—you may not be solely at fault, or you may not be at fault at all. Nevertheless, it’s important to let the public, your customers, and your employees know that you are stepping up to the plate. By stating that your company is, for example, “doing everything possible to rectify the situation,” or “working closely with authorities and partner companies to bring about a solution,” and “paying the costs of remediation,” you are neither accepting fault or pointing fingers. But, importantly, you are working on repairing the trust of the public, lawmakers, and your regulators.
In particular, if your company is involved in a crisis in which people are injured, it is imperative to express some regret about the events that occurred. And, it is possible to craft an apology that does not expose you to additional liability. It’s not easy, but it’s possible. (For more on apologies, see our post, The Art of the Apology).