If you suffer a loss that's not your fault or is mostly someone else's fault, you have rights and obligations, and understanding what your obligations are and reasonably performing your obligations can be a significant help towards protecting your rights. In other words, even when you haven't done anything wrong, you may have new obligations you didn't even think about, and more importantly, if you don't follow through, you may not recover your loss from either the party at fault, and/or an insurance company for all or some of your loss.
So what are your obligations? The first and often the most important concept to know if the duty and obligation to mitigate your loss.
What does mitigate your loss mean? It means after an accident and/or loss, you take reasonable steps to limit the amount of loss you incur. For example, let's say your next door neighbor's tree crashes though part of your roof and side of you house or apartment during a storm. As a result, water from rain is now coming in your house and ruining your "stuff" (property) in your home or apartment.
You have an obligation to move as much stuff as you "reasonably" can away from the water that's coming in. It's a mistake to have an attitude that it's not your fault and so you're not going to do anything about keeping your stuff safe because the neighbor and/or insurance company will pay for all the damages.
You'll notice in this post I use the word "reasonably" and "reasonable" often. That's because these rules are not set in stone other than given a set of facts and situation, each party must act reasonable. In other words, in the same situation if you remain in the basement because you reasonably believe your safety is at stake, you're under no obligation to put your health or life in danger to mitigate your loss/damages and protect and/or move your personal property from damage.
However, if you have tickets to a baseball game and you don't want to take the time to protect your belongings because you'll miss out on the fun, you may have a tough time collecting damages for the items that were ruined that you could have reasonably saved if you didn't go to the ballgame. The good news is that you can likely collect as part of your damages the cost of the tickets to the game while you take the time to protect your property from further harm.
That doesn't mean you have to miss the ball game to perform clean-up detail if cleaning the mess doesn't help protect your property. Again using your neighbor's tree as the cause of the damage, you may be able to hire a service to clean and repair your house/apartment and bill them for the cost.
If you have more questions about mitigating damages, give us a call or call your insurance agent. You're also highly advised to consult with an attorney as a lawyer is able to provide legal advice, especially in regards to your specific situation and/or questions.
Robert Weinstein is a husband, dad, stock market junkie, real estate broker, and of course…Insurance agent. Interests include my family, economics, marketing, technology, real estate, finance/investing, history, and Asia.
Robert’s insurance expertise includes having the designation of Certified in Long-Term Care (CLTC) and assist in asset protection for families with members entering retirement.
Robert is also an accomplished syndicated writer whose work can be found in TheStreet, MainStreet, CNBC, Forbes, Yahoo Finance, Seeking Alpha, MSN Money, The Money Show, Stock Saints, Motley Fool, Fidelity, Minyanville, RealMoney Pro, and many national and international newspapers.