Mitigating Damages 

If you are injured in an accident in California, you can sue the responsible party for compensation in a personal injury lawsuit. You have a duty to mitigate your damages, however, following an accident. If you do not mitigate damages, your potential settlement amount could be reduced based on your own actions. 

What Is the Duty to Mitigate Damages? 

What Is the Duty to Mitigate Damages? 

The duty to mitigate means that an accident victim must make reasonable efforts to reduce or limit the harm they suffer due to the other party’s negligence. While an injured person can’t undo the damage, they are expected to take certain steps to avoid further injury. If a person does not make an attempt to mitigate their damages, their payout could be reduced in a personal injury case. 

Historically, under California law, people have a duty to mitigate their damages and make reasonable efforts in light of the circumstances. The legal basis for this duty is based on principles of fairness. Suppose a person makes no effort to avoid an accident (that they could have avoided) or does not take steps afterward (such as seeking medical help) to limit their harm. In that case, it is not fair to hold another person accountable for those mistakes. 

The duty to mitigate in a personal injury claim applies whether a lawsuit is filed or whether a claim is settled through insurance or an out-of-court settlement. The duty exists in nearly all cases, but there can be exceptions where it does not need to be shown. For example, if someone’s injuries are so serious that they cannot take any reasonable measures on their own, they are not required to show mitigation. In most cases, however, the duty to mitigate can affect the results of a settlement or jury verdict. 

How Does Your Duty To Mitigate Damages Work? 

Here’s an example. Let’s say that you slip and fall near the pool at a hotel, landing on your wrist. Your wrist hurts after the incident and starts to swell. Not wanting to interrupt your stay, you decide not to get your injury checked out at a hospital. You continue to avoid treatment for another couple of weeks until the pain becomes too much to handle. 

When you finally seek treatment, a doctor says you need surgery for a fracture in your wrist. Further, they tell you the fracture worsened because you put pressure on the area while avoiding treatment. When you later file a slip and fall lawsuit against the hotel, their lawyers will claim that you failed to mitigate your damages. 

While the facility might bear some responsibility, they will argue they are only responsible for a portion of your damages. This could be a successful argument due to your failure to mitigate damages. 

The duty to mitigate does not completely prevent a plaintiff from collecting damages if they fail to take certain actions. It will divide a damage award based on the percentage of fault for the injuries, however. Further, it only requires people to do what is reasonable (in other words, what most other people would have done). It does not require extraordinary efforts or actions to limit the injury’s effects. 

What You Should Do After An Accident To Mitigate Damages 

The following are actions you can take to avoid a claim that you did not mitigate your damages: 

  • Seek immediate medical help. Report your injuries right away to a medical provider and seek attention for any issues you face. Make sure to follow your doctor’s recommendations and take medications that are prescribed for you. 
  • Follow-up. Attend any follow-up appointments and referrals for physical therapy or rehabilitation. If you discontinue treatment by your own choosing, this can be used against you later. Meanwhile, keep a log of your appointments and organize medical bills summarizing your treatment and expenses. 
  • Report the incident. Notify the police if you are able to. Having a police report summarizing the accident can help explain the situation and the injuries involved. This also shows that you took action to address a serious emergency. 
  • Document lost wages. If your injuries affect your ability to work, make sure you keep documents explaining why you can’t work. When you are cleared to return to work, do so. This is important if you later include lost wages as part of your damages. 
  • Rest. Avoid activities that can worsen your injuries and shift blame from the wrongdoer to yourself. 

When it comes to mitigating damages, jurors would be asked to use a “reasonable person” standard when judging your actions. You are expected to act as a person using ordinary care and prudence would have done under the circumstances. 

A Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help You Mitigate Your Damages 

The duty to mitigate damages is a crucial feature of personal injury law in California. Even after being injured in an accident, a person needs to keep certain things in mind and avoid further losses. Defendants in a personal injury claim will seek to reduce your compensation if you contributed in some way to your injuries. 

An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you in the critical early stages in the aftermath of an accident. Doing so can help you obtain a financial award that fairly addresses your damages. Contact an experienced legal team to learn more about mitigating damages and advancing your personal injury claim.