Personal injury law allows an injured party (plaintiff) to seek compensation from the party responsible (defendant) for their injuries. However, the law also requires that the plaintiff take reasonable steps to minimize their financial losses and injuries following their accident. This is known as the “duty to mitigate damages.”
Failure to mitigate could result in a plaintiff receiving less damages for their injuries, or in some cases, none. If you have suffered a personal injury and would like to know more visit this website to book a free consultation with an experienced attorney. This article will explain the effects that the duty to mitigate has on a personal injury claim.
The Duty to Mitigate
Mitigation is a legal principle that requires “someone who is injured by another’s negligence to take reasonable steps to reduce the damages, injury, or cost, and to prevent them from getting worse.”
This prevents injured parties from accumulating excessive or unnecessary costs or damages that they then claim from the defendant. For example, the defendant may argue that the plaintiff’s failure to seek medical attention or to follow the advice of a doctor following their accident meant they failed to take measures to reduce or prevent the extent of their injuries.
A plaintiff need only take reasonable steps to avoid further damages following their accident and it will be up to a judge or jury to decide whether reasonable steps were taken by the plaintiff to do so. In some cases, this may entail purchasing certain equipment to aid in the healing of an injury such as an ankle support brace following a slip and fall accident. Although a plaintiff may incur some additional expenses in the short-term these may be deemed reasonable in order to mitigate their damages.
Failure to Mitigate
If a plaintiff in a personal injury case fails to mitigate their damages following an accident, it will weaken their case and their ability to recover damages. A defendant will often use failure to mitigate as an affirmative defense which means they have accepted their negligence but argue that their liability ought to be reduced due to the plaintiff’s failure to take reasonable steps to limit their losses or minimize the extent of their injuries.
The defendant’s liability to pay damages will be reduced depending on the laws of the state that apply. Under the comparative law rule, if a plaintiff is found to be partially responsible for their injuries, a court will attribute a percentage of the fault to them and reduce their compensation accordingly.
For example, a plaintiff may claim $100,000 in damages following a motor vehicle accident, but due to a failure to mitigate their damages, they are found to be 30% liable for their injuries. Under the comparative law rule, they will only be able to recover $70,000 of damages, or 70%. The burden of proof lies with the defendant to show that the plaintiff failed to mitigate their damages.
As this article highlights, the duty to mitigate can help you successfully recover compensation for your injuries and without added expense or injury. Taking steps to ensure you have done everything you reasonably can will prevent you from being met with this defense.