You’re shopping at your local grocery store when you slip and fall in puddled water that the owner should have known about and cleaned up earlier. Your injuries include a fractured wrist and severe bruising that makes it nearly impossible to do more than shuffle.
When someone else’s recklessness or negligent actions cause you to be injured, you have the right to seek compensation. In your case, the grocery store owner should reasonably have known that the puddle was in the store aisle. However, if you don’t take measures that improve the negative effects of the accident, the owner’s attorney could claim that you failed to mitigate damages and should be awarded less than what you’re seeking.
What does it mean to mitigate damages?
In a personal injury context, “mitigating” damages means that you take reasonable steps to reduce your compensable losses, such as lost income and medical bills. For example, if your doctor recommends surgical treatment for your broken wrist, then you won’t be expected to fly across the country to be operated on by a world-renowned surgeon, but you would be expected to visit an experienced New York surgeon.
In other words, you aren’t allowed to let your damages become excessive. If you do, then the store owner may not be ordered to compensate you for anything that results from your failure to mitigate.
Medical damage mitigation
You must mitigate medical damages by seeking treatment for your injuries within a reasonable amount of time after falling in the store. Any unreasonable delay that potentially causes your injury to worsen can be deemed a failure to mitigate damages.
Ignoring medical advice and unreasonably refusing medical treatment is also treated as failure to mitigate damages. If your doctor tells you not to use your wrist for a specified period of time and you use it anyway, thereby causing the injury to worsen, then your compensation may be reduced accordingly. It’s the same situation if your doctor recommends surgery for your wrist and you choose not to undergo the procedure. If the broken bones fail to improve, then you can’t recover damages that the operation could have alleviated or prevented.
Loss of income mitigation
If you are unable to work due to your wrist injury, then you may be able to recover lost income, but unless there are extenuating circumstances, you cannot just sit at home and accumulate lost income damages. You must make a reasonable attempt to find another form of employment if you cannot (for example) do your data entry job with your wrist in its current state.
Property damage mitigation
If you are in a car accident, then you have to get your vehicle repaired within a reasonable amount of time, so that additional damage doesn’t take place. For example, if your windshield is smashed and you don’t take care of it before a rainstorm damages the car interior, then you probably won’t be able to claim that cost. If you fail to mitigate damages in your case, then the liable party could successfully claim that you failed to take reasonable steps to minimize your losses, which will reduce the amount you receive. The message is clear: you are entitled to compensation for damages attributable to the accident, not any complications that arise from your failure to mitigate.
Jayson Lutzky is a Bronx accident and personal injury attorney. If you have questions regarding and accident and damage mitigation, call Mr. Lutzky’s office at 718-329-9500 to set up a free consultation. Visit www.MyNewYorkCityLawyer.com to learn more.