Before we delve into the duty to mitigate, can we put things into context?
Before delving into the duty to mitigate, it is useful to start with a brief overview of the litigation process. Thus, if you are an individual who has suffered a loss or injury, due to the negligence or carelessness of someone else, you may be able to make a claim for financial compensation. Provided this is the case, you are generally referred to as the claimant, or plaintiff. Legally, in order to make out your claim in a court of law, your lawyer will be tasked with proving various aspects of your case. However, many claimants are unaware that as they move through the litigation process, or even before it gets started, they have responsibilities as well. One of those responsibilities, which is the focus of this discussion, is the duty to mitigate.
What does the “duty to mitigate” mean?
The duty to mitigate is a legal principle which provides that when a plaintiff makes a claim for personal injuries suffered as the result of someone else’s negligence, the injured individual must do whatever is reasonable to limit or ease their physical and financial losses. In other words, a wronged plaintiff is entitled to recover damages for the losses suffered, however, this principle is subject to the qualification that a defendant is not responsible to pay for losses which could have been avoided if the plaintiff had acted reasonably. For example, an injured plaintiff must take reasonable steps to seek medical treatment. Additionally, once treatment is sought, the plaintiff has a further duty to follow the recommendations of their treatment provider in an attempt to get better. Practically speaking, as a plaintiff, these are the types of behaviours you will want to employ in order to ensure that you live up to your duty.
Ok, so I understand the nature of the duty, and how I should ensure that I live up to it, but why is the duty to mitigate important to me?
As indicated above, a plaintiff who fails to fulfill this duty cannot claim damages which result from their own failure to mitigate. In other words, a plaintiff cannot claim for losses that could reasonably have been avoided. So, failing to follow the advice of a health care professional, such as a doctor or physiotherapist, could mean that down the road a judge may reduce your award for damages for the reason that, had you followed these recommendations, you may have recovered faster or suffered a less severe injury.
In light of the above, it is apparent that the duty to mitigate is a very important aspect of any personal injury case. Although your injuries may have been caused by someone else, you must recognize that, in order to receive full compensation for your injuries, you will have to live up to your end of the bargain.
If you or a loved one have been seriously injured due to someone else’s negligence, and you are unsure what you can claim for, the legal team at Wagners can help you. You can reach us at 902-425-7330 or 1-800-465-8794.