You can be entitled to compensation if you’re injured in an accident through little-to-no fault of your own. However, insurance companies will fight you every step of the way. They’ll try anything to limit the amount of money you get. One tactic involves arguing that you failed to “mitigate” your damages.
What is Mitigation?
Simply put, mitigation means limiting or reducing (a) your injuries and (b) the costs of an accident. Legally, you have to take “reasonable steps” to try to minimize your damages. Damages include the costs and expenses you incur after your accident. This might include medical bills, rehabilitation, and lost wages.
Why? The person who’s responsible for your accident and injuries will only be liable for the harm they caused. You can’t make things worse and expect them to pay for those added costs.
What Are Reasonable Steps?
So, you have to take “reasonable steps” to mitigate your damages. What does that mean?
In regard to mitigating your injuries, you have to:
- Use care
- Take safety precautions, and
- Obey laws designed to protect you.
Ask yourself this: if a reasonable person was in your shoes, what would they do?
Here’s an example. Let’s say that you’re driving in Los Angeles and decide not to wear your seatbelt. Wearing a seatbelt is required by law because it helps to minimize your injuries and protect you if you’re involved in a car accident. Suddenly, you’re side-swiped by another vehicle. You sustain severe injuries in the crash.
When you file a lawsuit against the other driver, who is admittedly at fault, they claim that you failed to mitigate your injuries. Why? Because you weren’t wearing your seatbelt. Aa a result, your injuries (and damages) are worse than what they should have been. The at-fault driver argues that they shouldn’t be responsible for all of your costs because of this.
In mitigating your injuries, you’re also mitigating your damages. You have to take “reasonable efforts in light of [your] circumstances” to limit your costs after an accident. This could involve:
- Seeking medical help right away,
- Getting rehab and taking medication, as prescribed
- Refraining from activities that could worsen your injuries.
Simply put, you have to do what you can, given your situation, to treat your injuries and recover. If you do something that jeopardizes your progress or aggravates your condition, you might be accused of not mitigating your damages.
Failure to Mitigate is an Affirmative Defense
An affirmative defense is used when someone admits to causing harm, but offers an explanation, excuse, or justification. Here, someone might admit that they caused an accident, but argue the affirmative defense of failure to mitigate. They’ll point out every way that you allowed your injuries or damages to get worse. They’ll rely on this to limit the amount of money they’re required to pay you after an accident.
Don’t be surprised if an insurance company keeps a close eye on you after an accident. They’ll be on the lookout for anything that could be used to argue that failure to mitigate. Make sure that you do everything in your power and use all of the resources available to you to avoid harm and minimize your costs.