Imagine driving down the road on a beautiful sunny day with not a cloud in the sky. You bring your car to a stop at a red light. Then, out of nowhere, you feel a sudden impact from the rear of your vehicle. You’ve been rear-ended. Luckily, the seatbelt lock engaged and held you in place, so you did not hit your head on the steering wheel or the back of your seat.
If this were to happen to most people, they might experience some whiplash or other temporary discomfort. But you have brittle bone syndrome, and that slight rear-end impact caused several broken bones, excruciating pain, extensive medical treatment, and lost wages.
Is the driver who caused the car accident responsible for all of your injuries, even though you were hurt so badly in part because you’re more susceptible to injuries than a “normal person?” The answer is yes, because of an established legal doctrine known as the “eggshell skull rule.”
The Eggshell Skull Rule Protects People With Pre-Existing Vulnerabilities
The eggshell skull rule, also known as the thin skull rule, says that the frailty, weakness, sensitivity, or feebleness of a victim cannot be used as a defense in a personal injury claim. Attorneys often use the eggshell skull rule when an at-fault driver’s negligence aggravates a victim’s pre-existing injury or condition.
In a negligence claim, you must convince the judge or jury of four essential facts:
- The at-fault party owed you a duty of care, like the duty to look out for pedestrians and other drivers
- The at-fault person violated this duty of care by running a red light, texting while driving, or engaging in other reckless activities
- The reckless conduct caused your injuries
- You suffered damages, like wage loss, medical bills, and pain and suffering
When you have a pre-existing condition or injury, the third step, “causation,” can become complicated. Without the eggshell skull rule, insurance companies could argue that your condition was there beforehand and then use that argument to deny you compensation. However, the centuries-old rule protects victims when the crash aggravated or worsened their injuries.
Suppose your skull is especially fragile, like the shell of an egg, and another person negligently drops something on your head. While a “normal person” might only experience headaches and some bruising, the impact fractures your delicate skull. You end up in the ICU and suffer permanent disabilities. Even though your pre-existing condition contributed to your injuries, the at-fault party will still be liable for your damages.
In simple terms, the rule says you must “take the victim as you find them” and cannot speculate about what might have happened if the victim did not have a condition that predisposed them to a severe injury. This rule protects victims from their own vulnerability, something over which they have no control. The eggshell skull rule says the plaintiff bears no fault for their condition and that the defendant must take full responsibility for the injuries he or she caused.
How the Eggshell Skull Rule Applies in Personal Injury Claims
If a car crash or another accident aggravates your pre-existing injury or condition (or leads to a more severe injury than the typical person would suffer), you should immediately contact a personal injury lawyer. While you may be able to apply the eggshell skull rule to your claims, the insurance company is going to put up a fight. They may argue that the crash didn’t aggravate your condition at all. They may even try to intimidate you or scare you, hoping you’ll give up your legal claims or accept an unreasonably low settlement. Without an attorney’s legal expertise and guidance, you probably won’t know how to fight back.
At Crosley Law, we’ve helped people across Texas with their injury claims and lawsuits. Many of these claims involved pre-existing injuries and conditions, from degenerative disc disease and arthritis to autism. Our legal team knows how to apply courtroom experience and legal expertise to combat the insurer’s unfair tactics.
“At Crosley Law, we’ve helped people across Texas with their injury claims and lawsuits. Many of these claims involved pre-existing injuries and conditions, from degenerative disc disease and arthritis to autism. Our legal team knows how to apply courtroom experience and legal expertise to combat the insurer’s unfair tactics.”
Medical Evidence Is Essential When You Have a Pre-Existing Condition
Sometimes, it’s relatively simple to prove that a car crash worsened your condition. Let’s return to our crash victim with brittle bone syndrome. The impact of the collision clearly caused their fractures. However, most eggshell skull cases are murkier and require insight from medical experts.
For example, suppose you have degenerative disc disease. A pre-crash MRI showed a tiny disc bulge in your low back. While you’re at a red light, a distracted driver rear-ends your vehicle. A couple of days after the collision, you start to feel horrible pain that shoots down your leg.
Why the Insurance Company Denied Your Car Accident Claim (and What to Do Next)Read More
You call your doctor, and they schedule an MRI. This scan shows that the bulging disc is now pushing on your spinal nerves. Your doctor says you need a fusion surgery and will be unable to work for at least a couple of months. However, when you file an insurance claim, the adjuster argues that your disc was already herniated and denies compensation.
You’ll need to respond to this denial with testimony from medical and accident reconstruction experts who can evaluate your MRI images and explain how the impact worsened the herniated disc. You’ll need to collect all your medical records and imaging studies, retain the right experts, and carefully build your trial presentation to educate the jury. That’s a lot to handle on your own, and it’s why many crash victims turn to Crosley Law for help.
How Do Lawyers Address the Eggshell Skull Rule at Trial?
If your personal injury case goes to trial, the judge or jury will base their decision on the evidence and the attorneys’ arguments. Texas’ Pattern Jury Charges, which help educate juries about our laws and rules, includes instructions about the eggshell skull doctrine.
First, your lawyer will present your evidence, including witnesses, and explain the science and facts behind your case to the jury. Then, the judge will instruct the jury on their deliberations., including information about the eggshell skull rule. Finally, if the jury decides that the defendant’s negligence aggravated your condition, you will receive damages.
Let’s return to our car accident example — the one in which you’re a driver with brittle bone syndrome. Your lawyer would likely present experts and evidence that explains your rare medical condition and how the crash caused your injuries. (The defense attorney would then try to counter or undermine those arguments.) After the lawyers finished their presentations, the judge would give the jury instructions about the law. These instructions would include the following:
Do not include any amount for any condition existing before the occurrence in question, except to the extent, if any, that such other condition was aggravated by any injuries that resulted from the occurrence in question.
Then, the jury would consider all of this information and issue a verdict.
Does the Eggshell Skull Rule Apply to Emotional Injuries and Mental Health Conditions?
Car accidents can cause or worsen emotional trauma or distress. It’s easier to apply the eggshell skull rule to physical injuries that can be identified on MRIs and x-rays. It’s much harder to explain how the emotional trauma of a crash worsened your anxiety or depression.
The emotional impacts of traumatic events are undeniably real and severe. But with emotional and invisible injuries, there is no straightforward way to objectively measure the amount of pain an individual experiences and equate it to the trauma associated with a physical injury. The field of neuroscience and its associated technology isn’t yet advanced enough to quantify emotional pain and trauma. As technology evolves, though, it may force a reexamination of how we interact with, distinguish between, and evaluate emotional and physical pain.
Crosley Law: Cutting-Edge Tactics for Accident Victims
Request Your Free Consultation
Here at Crosley Law, we understand the ins and outs of car accidents and the complexities of personal injury cases, including considerations like the eggshell skull rule. We’re ready to fight for your interests in settlement negotiations and the courtroom. Our dedicated and knowledgeable team of personal injury attorneys will work to get you the justice and compensation you deserve.
If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident or otherwise hurt by someone else’s negligence, please schedule your free, no-risk consultation by calling 210-LAW-3000 | 210-529-3000 or completing this brief online contact form.
Tex. P.J.C. 28.9. Retrieved from https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth639249/m1/375/
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.
Related ArticlesView All Blog Articles
What Happens if You Get in an Accident With a Delivery Truck Driver?Nov 01, 2022
If your neighborhood is anything like ours, chances are you see a steady stream of delivery trucks, vans, and other vehicles pass by your house or apartment on a daily basis. The trend really took off at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it certainly shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. Nowadays, […]
How to Prepare for a Deposition in a Texas Personal Injury CaseOct 24, 2022
If you’ve suffered a personal injury that wasn’t your fault and you need to file a civil lawsuit to get the compensation you deserve, sooner or later you will likely have to provide your personal testimony in a deposition. Although depositions are not given before a judge, the things that you say will be considered […]
The Dangers of 15-Passenger Vans (and What to Do After a Passenger Van Accident)Oct 10, 2022
Traffic safety experts and auto manufacturers have known for decades that large passenger vans are especially likely to be involved in certain kinds of serious crashes. While these vans are a convenient way to transport groups of people, larger vehicles require a greater degree of driving skill to operate safely—particularly when fully loaded with passengers […]
U-Turn Laws in Texas: Who’s at Fault After a Crash?Aug 24, 2022
There’s a lot of confusion about Texas’ U-turn laws. While U-turns are generally legal in Texas and a convenient way to quickly change direction, they’re also known for leading to numerous car accidents. If you’ve been involved in a U-turn accident, it might not be immediately clear who is at fault. First, although the driver […]
Considering a New Braunfels Car Accident Lawyer? Here’s What You Need to KnowJul 07, 2022
New Braunfels, TX has come a long way in just a few decades. Comal County remains one of the fastest growing in the country, and new developments continue to be built throughout the region. One negative consequence of all this growth? An increase in car accidents. There were 2,715 recorded crashes in the county in […]
How Much Is a Good Settlement for Nerve Damage After a Car Accident?May 27, 2022
Nerve damage is common after auto accidents. Nerves are sensitive, fragile tissues that can easily be pinched, compressed, crushed, or even severed in a serious accident—potentially leading to serious and lifelong physical and emotional distress. Unfortunately, pinched nerves and other injuries are not always immediately apparent following a crash, which can prevent car accident victims […]
Car vs. Pedestrian: Who Is at Fault for the Accident?May 10, 2022
No amount of money will erase the emotional trauma of being in a car crash as a pedestrian. However, fair compensation for your suffering and financial costs is one way you can begin to rebuild your life and find some closure. Securing that fair compensation might be more complicated than you’d expect, however—especially when you’re […]
Texas Personal Injury Law Changes: Texas Tort ReformApr 19, 2022
Unexpected accidents happen more frequently than most of us like to admit. Car wrecks, workplace injuries, even major trucking crashes occur every day. Often, these unexpected tragedies were preventable, if only someone had put down their phone while driving, promptly addressed a workplace safety issue, or performed their required duties. In the eyes of the […]
Can You Tear a Meniscus in a Car Accident?Feb 28, 2022
The knee is a fragile and complex part of the body that is prone to many different forms of injury during the sudden and powerful impact of a car accident. One of the many fragile parts of the knee is the meniscus, which commonly tears when suddenly twisted. Meniscus tears during car accidents are common […]
What Does a San Antonio Car Accident Lawyer Do?Feb 23, 2022
We have thousands of car accident lawyers across the country, yet many car accident victims, unfortunately, do not know what these lawyers actually do. As a result, victims go without help too often and end up cheated out of compensation by insurance companies. Hiring an attorney after an accident could make a huge difference between […]
Do you or a family member
need legal advice?
Crosley Law Firm, PC is a professional corporation of trial lawyers focused on representing individuals and families who have suffered serious personal injuries or wrongful death. If you’ve been injured, fill out the form for a free consultation, or call 210-LAW-3000.