Insurance companies are notorious for denying and minimizing payments to people injured in car accidents, especially to those with pre-existing injuries. That is not fair. This is another reason you need a good injury lawyer fighting for your rights if you have been crashed into.
After all, hardly any Americans are in perfect health. So how can an insurance company refuse to pay fair compensation to someone who
- has been in a previous wreck or hurt his body after falling down, lifting a heavy object, or playing sports — often many years ago?
- has a previous injury that had totally healed?
- has had surgery to a different part of his body, say his neck, and has now only injured his back?
- has a medical condition that results in much worse damage than the defendant could have expected?
The defendant in court must pay for these damages. This important legal concept is referred to as the eggshell skull rule.
What is the rule?
Tort law has always held that the defendant takes the plaintiff as he finds him, including all hidden symptoms, fragile conditions, and unforeseeable medical problems. You should not be punished for being injured or weak before the crash, unless the damages you are claiming were not caused by it.
Imagine that a fictional plaintiff has a skull that is as thin as an eggshell. What if the injured person is elderly or frail? A fender-bender that might cause a mere bruise to a normal person’s head could potentially crack open the plaintiff’s extremely fragile skull. The defendant can’t possibly know this of course. However the defendant is liable for killing the plaintiff even though he could not have foreseen that the minor accident would be deadly.
The eggshell skull rule illustrates the most extreme example. But in real life, this doctrine applies to such medical conditions as previous herniated disks, osteoporosis, torn rotator cuffs, concussions, or use of blood-thinning medications to treat blood clots. Continue reading