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What is the Eggshell Rule and How Does It Apply to Personal Injury Cases?

— April 13, 2021

Hiring the right personal injury attorney can improve your chances of resolving your claim for maximum compensation, especially when you are an eggshell plaintiff.

If you are the claimant in a personal injury case, it’s good to familiarize yourself with some vital terminology that can impact your claim. One of these is the eggshell rule, which basically means the defendant in your case must take the plaintiff “as they find them.” Defendants can be legally responsible for your injuries in some situations, even if you have pre-existing conditions or injuries. Insurance companies for the at-fault party will try any means necessary to reduce or eliminate the amount of money they have to pay for your damages. To ensure you get the compensation you are owed, it’s best to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer.

Meaning of Eggshell Rule

Under the eggshell rule, at-fault defendants will be responsible for reimbursing you for your injuries even if you already had pre-existing conditions that were made worse or your current health issues make you more susceptible to injuries. Eggshell refers to the example used in many law schools where a plaintiff has a rare condition that leaves them with a fragile skull. Their skull is thin and delicate, like an eggshell. If someone’s negligence results in the victim fracturing their head, the defendant can’t argue they shouldn’t be responsible just because a younger or healthier person wouldn’t have suffered the same fate.

Depending on the circumstances and the state where your case is, the eggshell rule could apply to both physical and emotional injuries. For example, someone who has pre-existing mental health conditions or a veteran with PTSD could experience a different level of emotional distress in an accident.

Fragile Condition vs. Pre-existing Injuries

There are two key circumstances where the eggshell rule may apply. The first is where a plaintiff’s fragile condition leaves them susceptible to injury. The second where the plaintiff has a pre-existing injury that is made worse by the defendant’s negligence. At Stanger Stanfield Law, we have represented numerous eggshell plaintiffs struggling to get fair compensation from the defendant’s insurance company.

Image of a Doctor Looking at an X-Ray
Doctor Looking at an X-Ray; image courtesy of via Unsplash,

If a plaintiff has a back injury that is made worse by a car accident, then the defendant is responsible for the worsening of the condition. For example, consider a plaintiff who had a mild back injury that was almost healed. While driving to the store, the plaintiff was hit from behind by the defendant’s vehicle, suffering more severe back injuries. Rather than conservative physical therapy as previously required, the plaintiff now needs back surgery right away. The defendant cannot argue they aren’t responsible for these additional injuries or the surgery because their actions are what led to further injuring the plaintiff.

How the Eggshell Rule Applies in Personal Injury Cases

As the injured victim, you have the right to argue the eggshell rule to get the defendant’s insurance company to pay you fair compensation. This rule applies even if the payout would be less for a completely different plaintiff with an identical set of facts. Personal injury claims can be very complicated, which is why you should have a legal advocate on your side. Consider hiring a personal injury attorney who has experience handling cases similar to yours.

Personal injury is a broad area of the law. If your claim involves medical malpractice or product liability, you want an attorney who has tried similar cases, not a lawyer who has handled only car accident cases. Hiring the right personal injury attorney can improve your chances of resolving your claim for maximum compensation, especially when you are an eggshell plaintiff.

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