If you are suing someone for your injury or loss, they may accuse you of failing to fulfill your duty to mitigate the damages. “Duty to mitigate” is your obligation as a plaintiff to take reasonable steps to reduce the extent of your injury or loss. In other words, even if the defendant’s negligence caused your injury, the jury will not award you compensation for damages that you could have reasonably prevented.
Unfortunately, your duty to mitigate damages is not always clear-cut. Essentially, the court will compare your actions to that of a reasonably prudent person.
Here are 4 examples of how a court might expect you to mitigate damages:
- Seeking medical attention. If you were injured, a jury will generally expect you to have exercised reasonable care by going to the doctor in a timely manner. One exception to this is if you delayed treatment because you didn’t know you were seriously injured. What you thought was a simple sprain, for example, might have actually been a broken bone. If the injury was obvious, on the other hand, failing to seek medical attention could prevent you from recovering full damages. In another instance, using alternative treatments (e.g. homeopathic remedies, acupuncture, chiropractic treatment, etc.) will likely not suffice.
- Getting surgery. If you seek medical attention and your doctor recommends surgery, choosing to forego the operation may resemble a failure to fulfill your duty to mitigate. When a reasonable person would go through with the surgery as a form of treatment for their injury, you will be held to that expectation as well. However, the operation’s success rate and level of complexity will factor into this expectation. For example, if the operation had a relatively low success rate and posed long-term risks to your health, the jury will likely accept your decision to refuse.
- Going through with treatment/following medical advice. Some injured plaintiffs visit the doctor immediately but refuse treatment or disregard recommendations. As a result, they aggravate their injury or miss the opportunity to fully recover. A court will most likely consider this a failure to reasonably mitigate damages.
- Finding another job or additional training. When your injury prevents you from performing your current work, the jury expects you to pursue alternative work in a timely manner. This may involve seeking additional training at your job or finding an entirely new line of work. If you allow your losses to accumulate without taking steps to replace your current job, securing full damages may be impossible.
If the defendant accuses you of failing to mitigate damages, they have the burden of proof. In other words, they must prove that you could have reasonably avoided a portion of the damages. Proof, in this case, is by a preponderance of evidence, so the chance that you disregarded your duty to mitigate must be greater than 50%.
Injured plaintiffs are not the only ones with a duty to mitigate damages. If you have a tenant who breaks the lease early, for example, you have a duty to mitigate losses by finding another tenant. In another instance, you may be a homeowner, and your plumber replaced your piping rather than fixing a leak, which was what you originally hired them to do. You won’t be able to sue for damages resulting from the leak if you knew about this breach of contract, and you failed to hire another plumber.
Need More Information or Skilled Representation?
If you suffered an injury or loss as a result of someone else’s negligence, you deserve compensation. Our highly experienced legal team at Crossen Law Firm can closely evaluate your unique situation to determine what the court will consider your duty to mitigate damages. Our goal is to provide qualified legal counsel so you know exactly what to expect if and when we take your case to court. Thereafter, we can fearlessly advocate for your rights and work to secure the compensation you deserve.
Schedule your initial consultation or give us a call at (317) 401-8626 today.