Injured parties have a duty to mitigate damages after sustaining an injury caused by another person. In other words, an injured party must take reasonable steps to prevent avoidable damages. The duty to mitigate applies to personal injury cases in Florida.
A failure to mitigate damages could reduce the amount of compensation an injured party might receive for a personal injury claim or lawsuit. Understanding your legal rights and responsibilities after a car accident, fall, or other injuries can help you avoid being accused of failure to mitigate damages.
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What Steps Should I Take To Mitigate Damages in My Personal Injury Case?
You are required to take reasonable steps to minimize damages. Of course, what is “reasonable” can be slightly different depending on the facts of the case. Examples of things that you can do to decrease the chance the defense alleges that you failed to mitigate damages include:
- Seek prompt medical treatment for injuries. Immediate medical care can help you recover faster, reducing medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses.
- In addition to seeking medical care, follow your doctor’s treatment plan. Failing to follow your doctor’s treatment plan can lengthen your recovery period and increase your risk of developing permanent impairments.
- Report new symptoms and signs of injury to your doctor immediately.
- Take your prescribed medications according to your doctor’s instructions.
- Participate in physical therapy and do the home exercises instructed by the therapist.
- Stay out of work until your doctor releases you to return to full duty.
- If your physician restricts your activities, do not engage in those activities until cleared to do so by your doctor.
- Return to work when your doctor says you can or accept light duty if the doctor prescribes light duty to reduce the amount of lost wages.
- Promptly seek a second medical opinion if you disagree with your doctor’s diagnosis or treatment plan.
There could be other steps that you should take to comply with the doctrine of avoidable consequences. If you filed a personal injury lawsuit, the jury determines if the steps you took were sufficient to mitigate damages.
How Does a Jury Decide Whether I Took Reasonable Steps to Avoid Damages?
The defendant must allege a failure to minimize damages as an affirmative defense. The defendant alleges that the plaintiff failed to take steps that could reduce the amount of damages they suffered due to an accident or injury. The defendant has the burden of proving their allegations.
The jury has to determine if the plaintiff’s conduct met the “reasonable person” standard. Then, the jurors decide what a person of reasonable prudence would have done in the same situation to mitigate damages.
After that, the jurors compare the plaintiff’s conduct to that of the reasonable person. They also consider why the defendant claimed the plaintiff failed to mitigate damages.
The factors that a jury might consider to make their decision include, but are not limited to:
- The opportunities that you had to mitigate the losses and other damages you claim the defendant caused.
- The date you became aware of your duty to mitigate after an injury or accident.
- The effectiveness of the steps you took to minimize damages.
- The timeliness of seeing a physician after an accident or experiencing symptoms.
- The amount of time between your injury and when you began making efforts to lessen your damages.
- The costs you were required to bear to minimize damages and your ability to pay those costs.
Delays in medical care and failing to follow a treatment plan are common reasons for insurance companies to raise the issue of mitigating damages. The jurors could find in your favor if you prove that a reasonable person would have delayed medical care in the same situation.
How Can My Failure to Mitigate Damages Impact My Compensation for a Personal Injury Claim?
- Past and future medical expenses
- Physical therapy, personal care, and nursing care
- Past and future lost wages and benefits
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Diminished earning potential
- Mental and emotional distress
- Permanent impairments and disabilities
- Physical pain and suffering
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- Decrease in quality of life
The defense might claim that your failure to mitigate damages resulted in financial losses you would not have incurred otherwise. Therefore, their argument goes, you should not be permitted to recover compensation for these losses as you could have mitigated them.
If the jury finds you did not take reasonable steps to minimize damages, you do not receive compensation for the amount of damages you could have avoided. For example, suppose that your doctor recommended physical therapy. However, you did not attend physical therapy.
As a result, you sustained a partial permanent impairment. Because you did not complete physical therapy, the jury could find that you failed to mitigate damages. Therefore, you might not recover compensation for the permanent impairment.
Schedule a Free Consultation With Our Florida Personal Injury Lawyers
If you sustained an injury or were involved in an accident, contact our law firm for a free case evaluation. Our Florida personal injury attorneys are ready to help you recover the money you deserve for your financial losses and other injuries.