How is the Eggshell Skull Rule Applied in Personal Injury Cases?
As the claimant in a personal injury case, you may or may not encounter the eggshell skull rule during your claim. The eggshell rule is a legal doctrine that involves the condition of the victim at the time of the accident in terms of the defendant’s liability. It is an important rule to understand if you are a claimant working with a Boston personal injury lawyer, and have a pre-existing condition, especially if you are claiming the accident aggravated or exacerbated your condition.
What Does the Eggshell Skull Rule Mean?
The eggshell skull rule states that a defendant will be liable for the damages afflicted on a victim as-is, even if that victim had a pre-existing condition that made the injuries worse than they likely would have been for someone else. The rule obtains its name from a common example used in law school. If a victim has a rare condition in which his or her skull is as weak as an eggshell, and an accident causes a catastrophic brain injury for that victim, the defendant will be liable for the brain injury as-is. It is not a defense to assert that a typical person with a stronger skull reasonably would not have had the same injuries.
With the eggshell skull doctrine, a defendant has to take the victim as-is – pre-existing injuries and health conditions included. Even if the victim had a condition that put him or her at an unusually high level of risk, this will not reduce that victim’s ability to recover compensation from an at-fault party for the full extent of damages. You might need to use the eggshell skull rule if an insurance company tries to use your pre-existing condition against you during settlement negotiations. You or your lawyer may need to argue that your pre-existing injury does not bar you from recovery based on this rule.
Does the Eggshell Skull Rule Apply to Emotional Injuries?
The eggshell skull rule may apply to emotional injuries as well as physical injuries depending on the case. Some states specifically do not allow the application of the eggshell skull doctrine to emotional injuries, however. These states hold that the only emotional or mental damages recoverable are those that an ordinary person would be expected to have under similar circumstances. Other states have permitted the eggshell skull rule to give victims increased recoveries based on pre-existing mental health conditions.
A family history of anxiety disorder or depression, for example, could make an accident more traumatic and damaging to a victim compared to a typical person. Other examples include mental health conditions, substance use disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A war veteran with PTSD, for instance, might experience greater emotional distress than the average person from a car accident. Whether this victim would be able to use the eggshell skull rule to increase his or her financial recovery for emotional distress will depend on the state, the case and the courts.
How Does it Apply in Massachusetts?
During a personal injury claim in Massachusetts, a plaintiff might need to apply the eggshell skull rule to obtain an amount of compensation that is appropriate for his or her losses – even if these losses are greater than they would have been for a different plaintiff. If you have grounds for a personal injury claim in Boston and wish to demand compensation for any additional pain, suffering, immobility, lost wages or medical bills due to the accident exacerbating a condition or injury you already had, you will most likely use the eggshell skull doctrine.
Insurance companies often try to use a claimant’s pre-existing conditions against him or her to diminish the value of the claim. The insurer might argue that you already had the injuries you are claiming and that they did not arise from the accident, for example. Work with an attorney to argue your eligibility for damages under the eggshell skull rule. A lawyer can help you prove an accident exacerbated your pre-existing condition. Hiring the best personal injury lawyer in Boston can improve your chances of obtaining maximum compensation for your physical and emotional injuries.