Mitigating circumstances refer to any factors or circumstances that can reduce the severity of the damages caused by a personal injury or accident. In the legal context, mitigating circumstances may be used to reduce the amount of compensation a plaintiff can recover for their injuries. There are several types of mitigating circumstances that can be relevant in personal injury cases.
- Contributory negligence: One of the most common mitigating circumstances is contributory negligence occurs when the injured party’s own actions or negligence contributed to the accident. For example, if a pedestrian is hit by a car while crossing the street outside of a crosswalk, the driver may argue that the pedestrian’s contributory negligence contributed to the accident. If the court finds that the pedestrian was partially responsible for the accident, they may reduce the compensation amount accordingly.
- Assumption of Risk: Assumption of risk occurs when the plaintiff knowingly and voluntarily takes on a risk of injury or harm. For example, if a person participates in a dangerous sport like skydiving or rock climbing, they are assuming the risk of injury or harm. If the person is injured while participating in the activity, they may not be entitled to compensation for their injuries because they assumed the risk.
- Pre-existing conditions: This refers to any medical conditions that existed prior to the accident and may have contributed to the injuries suffered. For example, if a person with a pre-existing back injury is involved in a car accident that exacerbates the injury, the court may reduce the compensation amount to account for the pre-existing condition.
In some cases, mitigating circumstances can have a significant impact on the compensation amount that a plaintiff is entitled to receive. For example, if a plaintiff is found to be 50% responsible for an accident, they may only be entitled to 50% of the damages they would have received if they were not at fault. In other cases, mitigating circumstances may have a minimal impact on the compensation amount.
How Mitigating Circumstances Work in Texas:
There are some things to keep in mind around how mitigating circumstances are handled in personal injury cases in Texas compared to other states. One significant difference is Texas’s use of proportionate responsibility, also known as comparative fault. Under Texas law, if the plaintiff is found to be partially at fault for the accident, their compensation amount is reduced proportionally. For example, if the plaintiff is found to be 30% at fault, their compensation amount is reduced by 30%. This is different from some other states that use a system of contributory negligence, where the plaintiff may be barred from recovery entirely if they are found to be even partially at fault.
Another consideration is Texas’s use of the “seat belt defense.” Under Texas law, if the plaintiff was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident, the defendant may use this as a mitigating circumstance to argue that the plaintiff’s injuries were partially caused by their failure to wear a seat belt. This can reduce the plaintiff’s compensation amount.
Overall, while there are some differences in how mitigating circumstances are handled in Texas compared to other states, the basic principles remain the same. Mitigating circumstances can impact the compensation amount a plaintiff is entitled to receive, and it’s essential to work with an experienced attorney who can help you navigate the legal system and fight for the compensation you deserve.