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
Who is at fault in a T-bone accident in Texas?Feb 02, 2024
If you have been involved in a T-bone car accident, read this blog to learn who could be at-fault and how Crosley Law can help.
Delayed Symptoms After a Car Accident Could Be a Sign of Serious InjuriesJan 26, 2024
Delayed injuries and delayed symptoms are extremely common after car accidents. Time after time, we’ve heard variations on the same story from our clients: “I thought I was doing okay in the hours after the crash, but the next morning I could hardly move due to my back and neck pain.” Later medical exams might […]
What Are Some Typical Car Accident Injury Settlement Amounts in Texas?Jan 24, 2024
One of the first questions most car accident victims ask is, “How much should I expect from my car accident settlement?” After a crash, you may be dealing with significant medical bills and lost wages—not to mention physical pain, emotional trauma, and stress about managing your personal affairs and relationships. Considering that the average car […]
Does Health Insurance Cover Car Accidents in Texas?Dec 13, 2023
After an auto accident, medical bills start to pile up quickly. Even if all you need is a quick trip to the emergency room and a couple follow-up appointments with a specialist, your medical expenses could still be enough to cause economic hardship. You may have heard that, in Texas, the at-fault driver is supposed […]
Quick Guide to Car Accident Face Injuries and Your Personal Injury ClaimDec 07, 2023
Facial trauma is an all-too-common yet often overlooked injury in San Antonio auto collisions. The head, face, and neck are all incredibly vulnerable in high-impact motor vehicle collisions. Whether from the initial impact, shattered glass, deployment of airbags, or being thrust into the interior of the vehicle, drivers and passengers frequently sustain painful and serious […]
Delayed Concussion Symptoms and Post-Concussion Syndrome Following a Motor Vehicle Crash: The Lingering ImpactJul 12, 2023
Concussions are among the most frequent injuries brought on by car accidents. Unfortunately, sometimes even “mild” concussions can have disastrous effects. While many people fully recover from their concussion, a significant percentage (roughly 15 to 20 percent) still experience persistent post-concussion symptoms months or even years after the initial head injury. And because concussion symptoms […]
How to Deal With a Private Investigator After a Car AccidentApr 21, 2023
After a car wreck, you may feel like your every move is being scrutinized. Unfortunately, it may not be just your imagination. If you notice an unfamiliar car parked in front of your home, school, or workplace; or if you receive a strange friend request on social media, a private investigator might be tracking your […]
What Is the Average Payout for a Rear-End Collision?Mar 13, 2023
You were stopped at a red light, minding your own business. Suddenly, a truck rear-ends you, pushing your car into the middle of an intersection. Now, you’re living with severe back pain and your doctors are suggesting surgery. Your car accident case is worth a lot of money, right? Maybe. The reality is, there’s no […]
Who Is at Fault in a Multi-Car Accident in Texas?Mar 09, 2023
After a multi-car accident, drivers and insurance companies often point fingers at each other, trying to shift blame to someone else. But if you suffered life-changing injuries, you deserve to know exactly what happened, which driver (or drivers) were responsible, and which liability insurance will pay for your medical bills and other damages. But getting […]
I’m Being Blamed for a Car Accident That Wasn’t My Fault—What Should I Do?Feb 22, 2023
“My word against your word” scenarios happen all the time after auto accidents, especially when there are few other witnesses at the scene. Being accused of causing a car crash that wasn’t your fault can make you feel helpless and angry, especially when no one else is around to support your story. Getting blamed for […]
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.