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Understanding Your Duty To Mitigate Damages After a Car Crash

young black man in physical therapy with female therapistIf you get injured in a car crash and sustain injuries, you already have a lot to deal with, not the least of which is getting the medical care you need. If you also intend to file an injury claim, however, it is vital you understand the legal obligation to mitigate your damages.

But what does this mean for you as the injured victim, and how could it affect your claim? This blog explains how to mitigate your damages and how failing to meet this legal duty could hurt your ability to recover damages.

Need legal help in Georgia after being injured by a negligent driver? If so, our experienced auto accident attorneys in Savannah are prepared to help. Not sure if you have a case? Many people ask us this question, which is why we offer a completely free case review.

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What Does it Mean To Mitigate Damages in an Injury Claim?

Mitigating damages means taking reasonable actions to help your recovery move forward and prevent your injuries from getting worse. When injured victims fail in this legal duty, it costs the liable insurance company more money.

For example, if you fail to avoid the activities your treating physician has restricted you from and your injuries get worse instead of better, you may need more medical care. If your recovery gets lengthened because of this failure, you may also have to miss more time from work. These two areas alone mean there are more medical costs and more lost wages for the insurance company to pay.

So what specific steps might the insurance company expect you to take to properly mitigate your damages? Specifically, this could include things like:

  • Seeking medical treatment without delay: Ideally, your treatment should begin right after the crash. Waiting to get a proper medical examination could put your health at risk. Some injuries are not visible, but they can still be life-threatening without treatment, such as organ damage or internal bleeding. Seeking medical care right away also helps to link your injuries to the crash.
  • Following your doctor’s plan of care: It is vital that you adhere to your doctor’s recommendations, whether it is ongoing medical care or not engaging in activities that could aggravate your injuries and make them worse.
  • Attending medical appointments: Missing follow-up appointments with your doctor, ongoing treatments or even physical therapy can all be considered as failing to mitigate damages. If you need to miss an appointment for a valid reason, you should contact your doctor before the scheduled time to make a new appointment.

Failing to meet your legal duty to mitigate damages gives the insurance company leverage to be able to reduce or deny your claim. From their perspective, someone who is injured and wants to get better will do all he or she can to protect their health and aid their recovery.

The goal here is to minimize the impact of your injuries on your health and finances. It is not about reducing the care you need but ensuring that you are not unnecessarily adding to the cost of your recovery.

How Could an Injured Victim Fail To Mitigate Damages?

There are several ways an injured victim might fail to mitigate damages. Some of the most obvious examples of failing to mitigate your damages include:

  • Not seeking medical treatment right after the accident: Not only does this put your health at risk, it gives the insurance company room to argue that you could have sustained your injuries somewhere else.
  • Ignoring your healthcare provider's recommended plan of care: If you do not follow the prescribed treatment plan from your healthcare provider, the insurance company could see this as failing to mitigate damages.
  • Returning to work too soon: Going back to work without first getting medical clearance could be seen as a failure to mitigate. While it is understandable you want to miss as little work as possible, going back to work before your doctor has cleared you could cause you to suffer additional injuries or exacerbate your original injuries.
  • Engaging in restricted activities: Deciding to engage in activities your doctor restricted you from while recovering could worsen your condition. It could also cause your claim to get denied.
  • Getting unnecessary surgery: While your doctor may recommend surgery for some injuries after trying other treatments that have not worked, it is not usually the first step. Surgery is costly, so getting it when your doctor has not said it is mandatory for your recovery could backfire. The insurance company may be unwilling to pay for those costs. Every surgery carries risks for you as well, so it should only ever be considered when there are no other options.

Who Decides Whether the Plaintiff Properly Mitigated Damages?

The determination of whether you have properly mitigated damages is usually made by a judge or jury in a personal injury lawsuit. They will review evidence such as medical records, expert testimony as well as your actions following the accident. The insurance company may also have a say in this process, as they will be looking for reasons to reduce the compensation they owe.

Sometimes just the appearance of not mitigating damages could harm your case. For instance, if you post pictures of you smiling with friends at what looks like a party. While this may seem extreme and may even be unfair, it provides ammunition the insurance company can take and use to cast doubt on your credibility.

What Are the Consequences of Not Mitigating Damages in an Injury Claim?

If it is determined that you failed to take reasonable steps to mitigate your damages, the compensation you receive could be significantly reduced. The court or insurance adjuster may decide that some of your losses could have been avoided if you had acted differently. This means you might not be reimbursed for certain medical expenses or lost wages because they are considered to have been preventable. In short, it could end up leaving you with a lot of damages to pay out of your own pocket.

Does it Cost Money To Properly Mitigate Damages?

Mitigating damages often involves incurring some expenses, such as medical bills for treatment. However, while you may have to pay these costs up front, they are usually recoverable as part of your injury claim. The key is to ensure that the expenses are reasonable and necessary for your recovery. You should also be diligent in saving your receipts and carefully track expenses related to the accident and your recovery process.

What Steps Could the Insurance Company Take To Prove Failure To Mitigate?

Insurance companies are in the business of protecting their bottom line. This means minimizing paying more than what is deemed reasonable and necessary. To prove a failure to mitigate damages, the insurance company is sure to examine your medical records. They will also likely seek opinions from their medical experts. Depending on the circumstances of your claim, they may even review your social media accounts for evidence that could suggest you did things that made your condition worse.

Throughout the legal process, it is a reminder to continuously be aware of your actions and how they can be perceived in the context of your injury claim.

How Can an Attorney Benefit My Injury Claim?

Mitigating damages after a car crash is not just a legal obligation. It is a practical approach to helping your recovery to move forward. A knowledgeable attorney can help in many ways, such as by guiding you throughout the legal process.

By understanding what is expected of you and taking appropriate actions, you not only contribute to your healing process but also safeguard your right to fair compensation. Always consult with your attorney to ensure your actions align with your best interests and legal requirements.

Need Legal Help? Call Roden Law Today To Discuss Your Situation

At Roden Law, we are prepared to provide the guidance and legal help you need to help you avoid making mistakes that could hurt your claim.

Not sure where to start? The best place to begin any injury claim is by calling an attorney. Having a knowledgeable attorney on your side from day one can significantly benefit your claim and improve your ability to obtain full and fair compensation.

Many people may be worried about the cost, but since we take injury cases on contingency, there are no upfront costs or fees to pay. We only get paid if you do.

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