Court Refuses Defense Request for Instruction on Mitigation of Damages in Recent Truck Accident Case

Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a truck accident case raising an interesting issue that occasionally comes up in Maryland truck accident cases. Specifically, the court had to discuss whether it was an error for the lower court to refuse to instruct the jury on the plaintiff’s duty to mitigate damages. Ultimately, the court concluded that the trial court was acting within its discretion when it refused to give the requested jury instruction.

The Facts of the Case

A truck driver was involved in an accident when he rear-ended another truck that was traveling 15-18 miles per hour on the highway. After the collision, the man’s truck caught on fire. The man’s son happened to be passing by and recognized his father’s truck. The son attempted to rescue his father but was unable to do so. He was seriously burned as a result of his rescue efforts.

Later, the son told other members of his family about his father’s death. As may be suspected, the deceased driver’s wife suffered serious emotional distress as a result of hearing the news and had to be hospitalized. She was unable to return to work due to the severity of her depression.

The case proceeded to trial, where a jury verdict was rendered in favor of the plaintiffs. Prior to sending the jury out to deliberate, the trial court refused to give the defendant’s requested instruction on the son’s duty to mitigate damages by obtaining the proper medical care after the accident. The court did, however, explain to the jury that it could not find the defendant responsible for any injuries that were results of the plaintiff son’s decision not to obtain medical care.

The Court’s Decision

The court concluded that the trial court acted properly when it declined to give the requested instruction but gave a different version of the mitigation-of-damages instruction. The court explained that a trial judge has broad discretion when it comes to how to instruct the jury, and generally a judge’s decisions are respected on appeal unless there was an abuse of discretion.

Here, the court found that the trial court acted appropriately by giving the jury the instruction it did. The court explained that the instruction telling the jurors that the defendant cannot be held liable for injuries occurring as a result of the son’s failure to obtain medical treatment was essentially exactly what the defense was seeking. The court held that there is no error in choosing one appropriate instruction over another. As a result, the jury’s verdict was affirmed.

Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Truck Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Maryland truck accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated Maryland injury attorneys at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have extensive experience representing victims and their families in truck accident cases. We handle cases across Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., and we offer free consultations to accident victims and their families to discuss how we may be able to help. Call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Truck Driver Claims Faulty Brakes Were Responsible for Serious Multi-Vehicle Accident, Maryland Trucking Accident Lawyer Blog, published February 19, 2018.

Major Truck Accident on Snowy Road Sends 29 to the Hospital, Maryland Trucking Accident Lawyer Blog, published March 5, 2018.

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