When a person claims a right to recover damages, the law imposes a duty upon the claimant to mitigate those damages.  This means that someone who has suffered a loss or injury must take advantage of reasonable opportunities to decrease the amount of damages suffered.  While this principle applies in a variety of civil cases, there are a few notable situations where the mitigation of damages principle arises in a personal injury case.

 If you have been in a car accident, your first introduction to the mitigation of damages principle often arises with your property damage claim.  If your car has been towed from the accident scene, it will most likely be towed to a lot that incurs daily storage fees.   The mitigation of damages principle arises in this scenario to require you to resolve your property damage claim without any unnecessary delays such that you are mitigating the amount of storage fees incurred. 

At this stage you may receive a letter from the liability insurance carrier informing you of your duty to mitigate your damages.  The mitigation of damages letter will advise you that your vehicle needs to be moved to a storage free facility and will most likely state that the insurance carrier has a storage free lot where your car can be moved.  If you do not take advantage of the insurance carrier’s offer to move your car to the storage free lot, you will most likely end up with a dispute regarding the amount of storage fees the insurance company is willing to pay. 

Similarly, insurance carriers often assert the mitigation of damages principle as a defense to compensating for reimbursement of rental car fees.  Disputes often arise with reimbursement of rental car fees where the insurance company will not agree to compensate the claimant for keeping a rental car longer than necessary.     

 The next area in my personal injury practice where I find myself discussing the mitigation of damages principle with clients is with a lost wage claim.  If you are unable to work because of the injuries sustained in a car accident or other incident, you are entitled to recover for your lost wages.  However, the mitigation of damages principle applies so that if you are able to work in some capacity, the law imposes a duty upon you to continue to earn wages. 

One scenario where this issue arises is when a doctor places a limitation on the number of hours that the injured claimant can work.  Although you may no longer be able to work full-time, the mitigation of damages principle applies to impose a duty on you to find suitable part-time employment to mitigate your wage losses. 

Another scenario where we see mitigation of damages principle arising with a wage loss claim is when an injured claimant has physical limitations.  In this scenario, a claimant who was working a strenuous job pre-accident is no longer able to perform the job requirements due to the injuries sustained in the accident.  In this scenario, if the claimant has not found alternative employment, it is common for the insurance carrier to hire a vocational expert who will perform an assessment and identify jobs that would be alternative forms of employment. 

These are just a few examples of how the mitigation of damages principle may apply to your motor vehicle or personal injury case.  Personal injury attorneys are experienced with handling disputes when the mitigation of damages principle is asserted as a defense and advise their clients so that they are not negatively impacted by the mitigation of damages principle.  If you have been injured in a motor vehicle collision and have concerns regarding how the mitigation of damages principle will apply in your case, you should consult a personal injury attorney who will assess your situation and guide you in asserting your claim for damages.    

Tiffany is a partner at MacElree Harvey, a full-service law firm serving Delaware and Pennsylvania.  Licensed to practice law in Delaware and Pennsylvania, Tiffany represents clients in a variety of civil litigation matters, including personal injury, trust and estate litigation, real estate litigation, and corporate disputes.  She joined MacElree Harvey in the summer of 2016 and spends her time in the Delaware office located in the Village of Centreville and the Kennett Square office.  Contact Tiffany at (302) 654-4454 or [email protected] to discuss your car accident or other civil litigation matter. 

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