Learn How to Fulfill Your Duty to Mitigate Your Damages and Receive the Compensation You Deserve After a Southern California Car Accident
You could suffer devastating injuries, such as a traumatic brain injury, spinal injury, fractured bones, or internal organ damage if a negligent driver causes your car crash in San Diego or Southern California. Under California law, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries from the at-fault motorist's insurance company.
However, you must fulfill your duty to mitigate your damages to obtain the compensation you deserve. An experienced San Diego car accident lawyer at The Law Offices of Mark C. Blane, APC, can help you understand your obligations and guide you through the mitigation of damages process. I will also fight with the at-fault motorist's insurance company so that you receive the maximum amount you are entitled to in your settlement.
What Is the Duty to Mitigate Damages in a San Diego Car Accident?
The duty to mitigate damages refers to the legal obligation of a personal injury victim to take reasonable steps to limit the seriousness of their injuries and the amount of financial losses following an accident. In the context of an auto crash claim, it means taking responsible actions to decrease the severity of your injuries and the compensation you need. You cannot sit back and let your damages increase without taking reasonable steps to reduce your losses.
Steps You Should Take to Mitigate Your Damages
You can fulfill your obligation to minimize losses after an auto crash in many ways. Retaining a skilled car accident lawyer after the collision who can advise you on what you must do should be your first step. Here are the top actions I recommend auto collision victims take.
Seek Prompt Medical Care
Seeking immediate medical attention is pivotal after a car accident. A doctor should examine you within 72 hours of the wreck, even if you do not believe you were injured. You could have suffered a hidden injury and may not have experienced any symptoms for days or longer after the crash. If you delay getting medical care, your injuries could get much worse or become a life-threatening emergency.
A physician's examination also establishes a crucial link between the car accident and your injuries. This can help you avoid disputes with the insurance adjuster about the cause of your injuries.
Follow Your Doctor's Treatment Plan
Sticking to the prescribed treatment plan is essential. This includes attending follow-up appointments, therapy sessions, or any recommended medical procedures. Failure to do so can cause your injuries to worsen or slow your recovery. This can be construed as a failure to mitigate your damages and might weaken your claim.
Avoid Gaps in Your Medical Treatment
It is also crucial to show that you do not have any gaps in your medical treatment. You do not want to consistently miss doctor or physical therapy appointments or fail to complete diagnostic tests or medical procedures when your physician recommends them.
If you have significant gaps in your medical care, you are giving the insurance company ammunition to argue that your injuries are not as severe as you claim. They may also dispute how long you had to remain off work while you recovered from your injuries or the cost of your medical care, which could be more if you did not obtain regular medical care for your injuries.
Return to Work
You may have to take time off work while recovering from your injuries. You should not delay going back to work when you can. The insurance adjuster would perceive this as a failure to reduce your wage losses.
In addition, depending on your injuries and work duties, you may not be able to return to your former job but may be able to work in another field. In this situation, you need to actively seek suitable employment or obtain educational training to demonstrate your commitment to mitigating your financial losses.
Consequences of Failing to Mitigate Damages
Failing to fulfill the duty to mitigate damages can significantly affect your claim's outcome and the compensation a skilled injury lawyer can recover for you. Here are ways not meeting your obligation to lessen your losses can hurt your case.
A failure to mitigate damages can undermine your credibility in the eyes of the court, jury, and insurance adjuster. It may lead them to question your injuries' severity or the legitimacy of your claim, potentially resulting in a reduced settlement or trial verdict.
Settlement of Your Claim
Most car accident claims are settled out of court through negotiations with the insurance company. The settlement process could take much longer if there is an issue of whether you mitigated your damages. The insurer could argue harder that you do not deserve all the compensation you seek, and you may be forced to accept a lower settlement offer.
If the insurance adjuster does not offer a reasonable settlement or the statute of limitations to sue will expire soon, your lawyer will file a lawsuit and litigate your claim. The attorney for the insurance company would raise your failure to reduce your damages as a defense to your complaint. The jury would decide whether you met this duty and, if not, how much less compensation to award you in their verdict.
How the Duty to Mitigate Damages Differs From Comparative Negligence in a Southern California Car Collision Case
The duty to mitigate damages differs from the concept of comparative negligence. Mitigation focuses on a car accident victim's actions to reduce their losses after the crash.
Comparative negligence determines the degree of fault of each party involved in the car accident. If the victim were partially to blame for causing the wreck, their compensation would be reduced by their percentage of fault.
Proving You Fulfilled the Obligation to Reduce Your Losses After a San Diego Car Accident
If the insurance company disputes that you mitigated your damages, you must prove this. You will need to collect evidence that shows your mitigation efforts. Here are the types of evidence a knowledgeable car accident lawyer can obtain to help you show this.
Thorough and detailed medical records are one of the most critical pieces of evidence if your duty to mitigate damages is an issue in your case. These records should document the extent of your injuries, the treatments you received, and your adherence to prescribed medical plans, validating your efforts to recover as quickly as possible.
Accurate and comprehensive medical bills are another way to show that you received the medical treatments recommended by your doctor and that there were no gaps in your medical care. They also will help your car accident lawyer determine the compensation you should recover for your medical expenses.
Paystubs and Job Search Documentation
Save your paystubs to establish the wages you lost while you were off work and the date you returned to work. If you had to find new employment because of your injuries, keep records of your job search efforts or rehabilitation programs you participated in. They can be compelling evidence to showcase your proactive approach to mitigate the financial impact of the auto accident.
You may need to retain expert witnesses, such as medical professionals, to prove the seriousness of your injuries, the medical treatments you needed, and your compliance with your doctor's advice. A physician or vocational expert may be necessary to establish how long you had to remain off work or the types of jobs you can perform if your injuries prevented you from returning to your former employment. Your injury lawyer can help you decide if hiring an expert witness is necessary and will have a network of qualified expert witnesses to assist you.
Navigating the duty to mitigate damages can be complex, especially when dealing with the trauma of a car accident and coping with your injuries. An experienced car accident lawyer can provide you with valuable guidance, ensuring you meet this duty and maximize your potential compensation.