BCCA Addresses Burden of Proof of "Failure to Mitigate" Defence in Injury Claims
If you’re injured through the fault of another and successfully sue you are entitled to be compensated for your losses and damages. However, if you ignore medical advice or otherwise fail to take reasonable steps to minimize your losses your damages may be reduced. This principle in personal injury law is called “failure to mitigate“.
The Defendant has the burden to prove that a Plaintiff failed to mitigate their damages. If the evidence does not establish that absent the alleged ‘failure‘ the injuries would have appreciably improved then no reduction in damages will be made. Today the BC Court of Appeal released reasons for judgement upholding a trial verdict addressing this.
In today’s case (Mattu v. Fust) the Plaintiff suffered reasonably serious injuries in a 2004 BC motor vehicle collision. These included symptomatic disc herniations in his back. At trial the Plaintiff succeeded and was awarded just over $170,000 for his damages. (You can click here to read my summary of the trial verdict).
The Defendant appealed arguing the Judge should have reduced this award because the Plaintiff did not take reasonable steps to rehabilitate his injuries. The BC Court of Appeal disagreed and concluded that the trial judge appropriately applied the law. In reaching this verdict the BC High Court provided the following useful comments about mitigation in personal injury lawsuits:
 I am not prepared to assume the judge ignored the evidence, nor can I say that the evidence was so important that it required specific mention. The judge concluded the respondent was well motivated in seeking recovery from his accident injuries and that conclusion is reasonably based on the record. The judge was not, in my opinion, looking for absolute proof of a failure to mitigate. The fact of the matter is that on the civil standard the appellant failed to establish that the respondent’s less than full compliance with medical recommendations would have made any difference to his continuing disability. The respondent never took the case on mitigation beyond generalities, such as: it is always preferable to follow your doctor’s advice. The judge drew an inference from the evidence that the respondent did not fail to mitigate. On the palpable and overriding error standard, I can see no basis for interfering with her finding in this regard.
When faced with an argument from ICBC or another defendant that you ‘failed to mitigate‘ your injuries keep in mind that they need to prove this allegation with evidence. If you’re looking for more information about the law of mitigation in injury claims you can click here to access my archived posts.