Court Addresses Whether “Failure to Mitigate” Instruction was Appropriate in Indiana Truck Accident Lawsuit
Recently, the state’s supreme court issued an opinion stemming from an Indiana tractor-trailer accident. According to the opinion, the plaintiff was traveling from Georgia to Iowa to begin a new job. While he was driving, a tractor-trailer hit the plaintiff’s car, causing the plaintiff to slam his head against his window. The tractor-trailer driver continued to drive after the collision; however, the plaintiff could flag him down and motion him to stop. When police arrived, the plaintiff advised them that he was not hurt and did not need assistance. However, at some point during his trip, he felt something irritate his eye. After arriving in Iowa, he washed out his eye and pulled out a piece of glass. He went to the hospital and was referred to an ophthalmologist who recommended an MRI. The MRI showed a tumor, and the doctor warned him that he should have the tumor removed or risk going blind.
A few months later, the plaintiff sought treatment from a neurosurgeon who told him that he was experiencing a pituitary apoplexy, often triggered by a sudden event caused by bleeding into the tumor. The plaintiff underwent surgery and removed the tumor. Following the surgery, the plaintiff met with an endocrinologist, who diagnosed him with a hormonal imbalance. The doctor advised him to start testosterone injections, but the plaintiff waited a year before beginning treatment.
The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the truck driver and his employer, claiming that the accident caused a pre-existing tumor to swell. The parties admitted fault, but disputed damages, arguing that the plaintiff failed to mitigate them. The defendants argued that the plaintiff did not take the medication his doctor prescribed, failed to follow-up with alternative medicine, and did not fill his eyeglasses prescription. The defendant asked the court to provide the jury with a failure to mitigate damages instruction. The plaintiff argued that there was not enough evidence for the instruction.
Under Indiana law, a plaintiff must use reasonable care to mitigate their damages after suffering an injury. A plaintiff may not recover for any item of damage that they could have avoided through reasonable care. In these cases, the defendant bears the burden of proof by the greater weight of the evidence that the plaintiff failed to mitigate their damages. This evidence does not prove fault, but instead reduces the plaintiff’s damages.
In this case, the court found that a failure to mitigate instruction is appropriate if the evidence supports a finding that the plaintiff’s actions or omissions failed to mitigate his harm, by any “quantifiable amount.” Defendants do not need to prescribe a specific numerical value to the plaintiff’s harm. Just as the plaintiff does not need to provide an exact mathematically precise claim for damages, neither does the defendant. Therefore, the court found that the trial court did not err in providing the instruction.
Have You Suffered Injuries in an Indiana Car Accident?
If you or someone you know has suffered injuries in an Indiana accident, contact Padove Law. Attorney Burton A. Padove has a long history of successfully representing clients in their personal injury cases. He provides vigorous representation in many areas of personal injury, including Indiana car accidents, defective products, worker’s compensation, wrongful death, and medical malpractice. Through his dedicated and compassionate representation, clients have recovered significant amounts of compensation for their losses. Contact Padove Law at 877-446-5294 to schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney at our law firm.