Mitigating Personal Injury Damages in Texas
Written by Greg on April 2, 2013
Mitigating damages means minimizing your damages, and it is a concept the law recognizes in certain circumstances. In personal injury cases, mitigation of damages can impact the bottom line.
What is Mitigation of Damages?
For personal injury victims, it means doing things to keep things from getting worse, including receiving necessary medical treatment before your condition deteriorates and is made worse.
In other words, defendants can seek to claim that a person failed to “mitigate” damages, which means he did not take reasonable steps to keep damages from getting worse. A defendant seeks to avoid paying those “additional” damages.
Texas Law and Mitigation
Generally, the mitigation of damages law is outlined in the Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code – Section 147.123 b, which states:
“The court shall instruct the finder of fact regarding a claimant’s duty to mitigate or avoid damages in a manner appropriate to the action”…
The finder of fact is generally the jury selected for the case, but it also can be the judge in a case that is tried to the bench. In other words, the persons determining the facts of the case will decide whether a person took the necessary steps to avoid increasing damages or to “mitigate” their damages. The theory under the law is that a defendant should have to be reasonable in how they act, and the victim should be reasonable in how they deal with their injuries and damages.
Mitigation of damages is not automatic but instead is an “affirmative” defense, which must be pled by the defendant. In effect, a personal injury victim is charged with the responsibility of reasonable care to minimize his or her damages if it can be done with a slight expense and reasonable effort Cotten v. Weatherford Bancshares, Inc., 187 S.W.3d 687, 708 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth 2006, pet. denied).
Situations Mitigation May Apply
The mitigation of damages issues can arise in situations where a plaintiff could have relatively easily obtained medical treatment but failed to do so. This could include where treatment was prescribed by his or her doctors. Still, they chose not to get that care, and the condition deteriorated, requiring additional medical, which was not previously necessary.
The duty to mitigate is an affirmative defense has to be proven by the defendant, once they have pleaded the defense. In other words, the burden of proof or such defense rests with the defendant. Car accident attorneys however can work to counteract the defence attorney on mitigation arguments.
Lost wages may be subject to a mitigation of damages defense
In the personal injury context, if a person loses their job because of the injuries they sustained in an accident, they may have a responsibility to seek other employment to mitigate their damages. Defense lawyers frequently plead failure to mitigate damages when someone claims lost wages for losing their job but does not seek alternative employment.
Another example is when someone’s car is wrecked, and they can’t get to work. Mitigating damages would require the person to find alternative transportation to get to work and could be used to disallow lost wages.
If you have questions about mitigating damages in Texas, call us to speak with a Texas personal injury lawyer.
Call (281) 587-1111!