Helping yourself can mitigate damages.

When someone is injured due to the negligence of another person, it might seem logical that the victim should maximize their damages as much as possible, to potentially increase the compensation they could receive in a personal injury lawsuit.

But this is exactly what you shouldn’t do.

Duty to Mitigate

The duty to mitigate is the obligation that someone who was injured has to make reasonable efforts to limit the resulting harm. Neglecting a duty to mitigate prevents the recovery of damages that could have been avoided through reasonable efforts. It is common for the defendant in a personal injury case to try to minimize the damages he is liable for by showing that the plaintiff failed to take reasonable steps to reduce his injury, such as:

  • Seeking medical treatment in a prompt and timely manner. Failing to take the steps that a reasonable person would in receiving the required medical care can reduce a plaintiff’s potential for recovery, especially when there is proof that delay in seeking medical treatment contributed to the injury.
  • Seeing a doctor or other medical professional to treat an injury, not relying solely on alternative methods and home remedies. Depending on the nature and severity of the injury, using alternative methods may be seen by a court as unreasonable and may lead to a reduction in the plaintiff’s recovery for damages.
  • Complying with a medical care provider’s advice. When a doctor or other provider recommends a course of treatment and an injured person refuses to follow it, his damages will be reduced if it can be shown that a reasonably prudent person would have followed the medical advice given, and that his lack of compliance resulted in a lack of improvement or an aggravation of his injuries.
  • Finding work, even if it is not in his customary trade. Damages will likely be reduced if a person’s injuries keep him from performing the type of work he did before the injury, but he chooses not to pursue work or retraining in other types of jobs he is physically able to pursue. This may be true even if the type of work he is now suited for will not provide him with earnings equal to what he was making before the injury.

Reasonable Steps

Bottom line: An injury is not an excuse to act unreasonably, and doing so will usually do a plaintiff more harm than good, both in terms of his physical health as well as the in the diminished worth of his personal injury case.

Image by iain.

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