When a person is injured through the negligence of someone else, the injured person has a duty to mitigate their damages in order to minimize the effects and loss related to any injuries. A personal injury plaintiff will be denied the right to recover any part of damages that the court or a jury finds could reasonably have been avoided.
What Is Mitigating Damages?
Even a person who suffers personal injury through no fault of his or her own has an obligation to take reasonable steps to avoid further loss and minimize the consequences of the injury.
In Georgia, under the mitigation of damages doctrine — where to mitigate means to reduce or lessen — a person who has suffered an injury or loss should take reasonable action to avoid additional injury or loss.
What Steps Should I Take to Mitigate My Damages?
You do not have to act above and beyond what would be reasonable. Georgia law only requires you to reduce your damages by using ordinary care and diligence. If you take the steps that a reasonable person would take under the circumstances, you have exercised ordinary care and diligence. In personal injury cases, the duty to mitigate damages arises most often in relation to medical treatment. Any delay in seeking medical treatment, unreasonably refusing medical treatment, disregarding the medical advice of healthcare providers, and refusing recommended surgery may all be deemed a failure to mitigate damages.
What Are Reasonable Examples of Mitigating Damages?
- An injured person who chooses not to have surgery when a doctor recommends surgery will not recover damages for injuries that could have been reduced or avoided had they had the recommended surgery.
- An injured person who chooses to use alternative treatments such as holistic and homeopathic treatments instead of seeking traditional medical treatment may lead to a reduction of damages that can be recovered.
- An accident victim has a duty to mitigate damages by seeking medical treatment for any injuries. If medical treatment would help a victim recover or reduce the severity of symptoms, a jury will understandably expect the victim to seek treatment as part of their efforts to get better.
What Happens if I Don’t Mitigate My Damages?
The failure of a plaintiff to take reasonable steps after suffering an injury or loss can result in a reduced damages award. The purpose of the duty to mitigate is to deny the recovery of damages that could have been reasonably avoided had the plaintiff taken reasonable action. The person at fault in your accident or injury should only be responsible for the damages they caused. Georgia law does not require a negligent party to pay for damages they didn’t cause. If your case goes to trial, most trial court judges will utilize Georgia’s Pattern Jury Instructions and instruct the jury as follows:
“When a person is injured by the negligence of another, he or she must mitigate his or her damages as much as is practicable by the use of ordinary care and diligence. If you believe that a party has suffered damages as alleged, under the law, that party is bound to reduce those damages, as much as practicable, by the use of ordinary care. If you believe that by the use of such care, that party could have reduced the damages, you would determine to what extent and reduce damages to that extent.”
This is why it is so important to never miss medical appointments and to do everything medical professionals recommend after a personal injury.
For More Information, Contact Williams Elleby
The duty to mitigate will almost always come up either during settlement negotiations or court deliberations. If you have questions about the law and your case, contact Williams Elleby to schedule a free consultation by calling 833-LEGALGA.