One common defense against personal injury claims is that the plaintiff has pre-existing injuries and is trying to get compensation for injuries that happened in the past but were not caused by the accident in question. However, just because a person has been previously injured or has a pre-existing condition that makes them more susceptible to injury doesn’t mean they aren’t entitled to full compensation. One reason for this is due to the “eggshell plaintiff” rule.

What is an Eggshell Plaintiff?

The eggshell plaintiff doctrine, also called the eggshell skull rule, is a legal theory that “makes a defendant liable for the plaintiff’s unforeseeable and uncommon reactions to the defendant’s negligence.” It also applies to the aggravation of pre-existing injuries. The name comes from the analogy of a plaintiff having a skull as thin as an eggshell: even though the defendant would have no way of knowing the plaintiff was so fragile, they are still liable for the plaintiff’s injuries caused by their negligence. It is important to note that the burden of proof for negligence still belongs to the plaintiff.

Examples and Applications

The eggshell plaintiff rule often applies to car accident cases in which a plaintiff suffers severe injuries from a seemingly minor crash, due to either a pre-existing health condition or previous injury that becomes aggravated. For example, if a plaintiff has a knee injury from a previous car accident that gets exacerbated by a subsequent rear-end accident, the plaintiff is entitled to recover full damages from the exacerbation that happened during the rear-end accident. However, the defendant is not liable for any damages from the initial accident.

This is a general example; however, it is important to discuss the specifics of your case with an experienced, local personal injury lawyer due to the level of nuance involved in this aspect of personal injury law.

The Importance of Revealing Pre-Existing Injuries

When you talk to your lawyer, be sure to be upfront and honest about any pre-existing health conditions or prior injuries you have. Non-disclosure can jeopardize a victim’s claim. The insurance company or defending attorney will likely look into the plaintiff’s history to try to find evidence of prior injuries, so they can argue that the plaintiff was actually injured in the past. If you provide your personal injury lawyer with relevant medical records, they can study your history and be prepared to explain how the recent injury is connected to previous or ongoing medical issues.

How a Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help

If you try to make a claim without the help of a skilled personal injury attorney, you will have to deal with any fair or unfair tactics the insurance company uses to try to reduce your payout. A qualified lawyer will fight for you using all the evidence available to make a strong case for you. Prepared with their deep knowledge of personal injury law and doctrines like the eggshell plaintiff rule, your lawyer will help you recover the compensation you deserve.