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Why must the victim of a personal injury try to mitigate damages?

If you're the victim of a car accident, a slip-and-fall incident or some other sort of injury caused by another person's negligence, you're expected to do your best to mitigate the amount of the damages, or losses, that you suffer.

If you fail to mitigate your losses, you could find any personal injury lawsuit you file in danger. At the very least, the defendant may be able to avoid paying you the full amount of your losses -- leaving you stuck with whatever remaining losses you have.

What does that mean exactly?

There's no one answer to that question, unfortunately, because each person's situation is going to be unique. However, there are certain basic ideas you can follow that should help you decide what to do next:

1. You are expected to accept medical care that is considered safe and likely to help you fully recover your health.

In other words, if you suffered a hand injury that leaves you unable to work, you're expected to seek medical care to treat your hand. In addition, if a surgery that's considered safe would restore your hand's usefulness, it's reasonable to expect you to undergo the surgery.

2. You are not expected to take risky medical procedures or those that have little guarantee of benefits.

In fact, you might not be compensated for treatment that is questionable. For example, if you have a back injury, it's unlikely that an insurer is going to compensate you for Reiki treatments, a type of metaphysical energy transfer that's popular in some areas, no matter how helpful the practitioner claims he or she can be for your condition.

3. You are expected to seek employment according to your abilities.

For example, if an accident puts you in a wheelchair and ends your career as a yoga instructor but you are young and bright, it isn't unreasonable to think that you could take college classes or train for a new career doing something less physical.

Similarly, if you have a back injury but refuse to even look for work that you can do, you could see any potential award drastically reduced as a result.

It's important to remember that the law has a strong interest in fairness and mitigation helps make things fair for the defendant in an accident case.

Source: FindLaw, "The Plaintiff's Duty to Mitigate Damages," accessed Jan. 05, 2018

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