What does Mitigation mean?
Mitigation is the act of limiting damages. If a claimant is injured due to the negligent actions of another person or entity and they do not take all reasonable and necessary steps to mitigate or minimize their loss or damages their compensation may be lowered.
Legal cases where the court will expect claimants to mitigate damages include civil cases such as employment cases, medical malpractice, housing claims, bicycle accidents, and premise liability claims.
Examples of mitigating injuries
If you are injured in a car accident you have the legal obligation to seek medical care immediately and follow the doctor's recommended treatment suggestions. If you refuse to get medical help and this failure increases your injuries the defendant in the civil claim may not be held liable for injuries the court determines could have prevented if you had sought proper medical care.
Another example of mitigating loss can occur if you break your lease agreement or file an unlawful termination case. For instance, if you leave your apartment before the lease expires, the courts will expect the landlord to attempt to mitigate their loss by seeking another tenant. If you are fired from your job and file a claim against your employer for unlawful termination, the court will expect that you make a good faith effort to reduce your losses by seeking a new job.
What if the court decides I did not mitigate damages?
If you file a civil claim but the court is not convinced you attempted to mitigate your losses, it is possible to still win your case, but the court may only award you one dollar, which is called nominal damages. Courts will not, however, always expect the claimant to have success at mitigating damages (i.e. you may look for work but not find it), but they will expect that you made a reasonable effort.
How can I prove I attempted to mitigate damages?
If you have filed a civil case be prepared to show that you made a reasonable effort to mitigate damages. Regardless of the type of case, this means you may need a written record.
If you are involved in an employment case, for instance, keep copies of any letters, resumes, and any newspaper or magazine advertisements for jobs in which you have applied. Keep your unemployment documents and a list of employers you contacted. Other records should include the date of each activity, the position you applied for, contacts within the company who you have met, and the outcome of all work activity.
If you have been involved in a car accident claim you will need to document the types of medical care you received, medications taken, date and times of doctor's appointments, treatment options, and treatment received. Medical records can also be a good source of proof that you have received all recommended and proper treatments to mitigate your injuries.