Have You Mitigated Your Personal Injuries?

A lot of law blogs and websites speak of the compensation that personal injury victims can recover following an accident caused by the carelessness or recklessness of another. These resources, while generally helpful, may leave a personal injury victim with the impression that once an injury is caused by another the victim is automatically entitled to full compensation regardless of the actions he or she takes subsequent to the accident. This belief (unfortunately for victims) is false and can end up costing injury victims significant amounts of compensation.

Your Duty to Mitigate Your Damages

The law requires any injury victim – regardless of whether your "injury" is from a car crash, a tour bus accident, or a breached contract – to take steps after the injury has occurred that mitigate, or limit, the extent of your damages. While you do not generally need to go to great lengths, you are usually required to take those actions and measures that would be considered reasonable under the circumstances. For example, it would be considered reasonable to be evaluated by a doctor or qualified medical professional following a serious car accident. If you refuse medical treatment on scene and do not go to a hospital or doctor's office soon after your accident, you can be considered to have failed in mitigating your damages.

How Does Failing to Mitigate Your Damages Affect Your Compensation Award?

In Nevada and other states, your own negligence and carelessness can be taken into account when determining your compensation award for a personal injury accident. For example, if your compensation award is determined to be $100,000 but a jury finds you are 25 percent responsible for causing your injuries, your compensation award would be reduced to $75,000. Failing to take steps to mitigate your losses after a personal injury accident is a form of negligent behavior and can reduce the overall compensation you receive from a successful personal injury lawsuit.

Suppose, for example, that you are involved in a serious truck crash. Despite this, you "feel fine" after the crash and refuse to be taken to the hospital by emergency personnel. You also refuse to be examined by EMTs on scene. After the crash, you do not go to the doctor's office but instead go home to "sleep it off." You return to your manual labor job for the next week despite some pain and stiffness in your neck and back. About a week after the accident, your neck and back pain become so unbearable that you are forced to see a doctor. After being examined, it is discovered that you are suffering from serious nerve damage that was exacerbated by your manual labor job. In this instance, your failure to take the reasonable step of seeking immediate medical attention after your truck accident can be seen as negligence on your part. This will reduce your overall compensation award.

In Nevada, if you are determined to be the primary contributor to your injuries (i.e., 51 percent or more responsible for your injuries) you may not be able to recover any compensation at all.

What Should I Do to Mitigate My Damages?

With so much at stake, it makes sense to attempt to mitigate your damages after a personal injury accident has occurred. What constitutes "reasonable steps" in any given circumstance will depend on the specific facts of the case; however, injury victims should consider:

  • Seeking immediate medical attention or evaluation. Even if you do not believe you have been seriously injured, you should take advantage of the opportunity to have a qualified medical professional evaluate your condition. You may be suffering from serious internal injuries that have not yet manifested.
  • Being careful about returning to work too soon after an accident. You should not rush yourself and return to work too soon lest you aggravate any injuries you suffered in your accident. If you are in doubt about whether you should return to work, consult with your doctor.
  • Following your doctor's orders and recommendations. If you see a doctor or medical professional after your accident and he or she gives you prescriptions and/or recommends additional treatment, follow up on your doctor's advice. Take your pills as prescribed and, if financially possible, follow his or her treatment recommendations for you.
  • Consulting with your personal injury attorney. If you are ever in doubt about what steps you should be taking, consult with your personal injury attorney and follow his or her recommendations. He or she is working toward getting you the most compensation possible for your injuries, so he or she will know what actions you should be engaging in.

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