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The Eggshell Skull Rule & Victims with Pre-Existing Conditions

The eggshell skull rule, or “eggshell doctrine” to some, applies to accident victims who have either pre-existing medical conditions or physical limitations. According to this rule, the at-fault person in an accident is liable even when a pre-existing condition makes the victim more susceptible to harm. 

At first glance, this might seem straightforward. However, applying this rule often complicates cases. If you have a pre-existing condition and fall victim to another person’s negligence, it’s important to work with a team of Houston personal injury lawyers

Contact a Houston law firm as soon as possible to learn more about your claim and whether the eggshell rule applies. 

What Is the Eggshell Doctrine? 

Under the eggshell rule, the negligent party is responsible for all of the damages a victim sustains from an accident

That means that even when the victim has a previous injury or is in the middle of a treatment at the time of the car accident (or another incident), they may still be entitled to compensation. This applies to any degree of harm the victim suffers that aggravates an existing condition or injury. 

Additionally, the rule includes situations where the injuries that result from an accident are worse than average due to a pre-existing condition or injury. 

Furthermore, this applies to someone who sustains injuries from an incident when an otherwise healthy individual might not suffer any harm at all. 

Essentially, this boils down to one thing. The negligent party cannot use the pre-existing condition of a victim as a defense to limit liability. Under the eggshell rule, the negligent party has to accept the victim as they are.

Applied Example

A man with a previous leg injury re-injures the leg in a truck accident. Now, the leg injury is more severe and requires care that would not be necessary if not for the collision. 

As a result, the medical bills are far more substantial for the man’s treatment. In this situation, the negligent party is liable for the man’s damages. This includes added medical expenses, pain and suffering, reduced earning capacity, and physical impairment. 

With the eggshell doctrine, the man sees fair compensation for the harm he suffers. Moreover, it prevents the at-fault party from escaping liability with an argument that the damages are more than expected. 

Complications that Arise from the Eggshell Rule

When a personal injury lawyer wants to apply the eggshell rule, there are two situations that complicate it. 

  • Intervening causes 
  • Comparative negligence

Moreover, it often requires the presentation of medical evidence that shows the extent of injuries and damages caused by the incident. This is particularly difficult when a victim received treatment for the same injuries or a similar one. 

Intervening Causes

An intervening cause is an event that happens after the initial act of negligence. This breaks the chain of causation that ties injuries to the accident. Typically, the law applies this in the same manner as the eggshell doctrine. 

When this applies, the victim might only recover damages that result directly from the incident. This is because an intervening event that aggravates an existing injury or causes a new injury complicates the connection. It becomes more difficult to show what damages relate to the injury that made the basis of your personal injury claim. 

For instance, the judge or jury might find these damages to be unforeseeable. Alternatively, it may be difficult to obtain evidence or testimony from your doctor that establishes the extent of the claim. 

When this happens, the original defendant might not be liable for any additional damages. 

For instance, let’s say a person sustains a mild concussion from a motor vehicle accident. During the transport to a hospital, the ambulance collides with another vehicle. The victim sustains a more severe concussion. 

In this instance, the eggshell rule does not apply. This is because the negligent party in the first accident did not cause the second accident. As such, the second driver is liable for the medical expenses related to the second concussion. 

Comparative Negligence

Comparative negligence applies to the claim when the victim shares fault for causing an accident. This reduces the compensation of the victim by the percentage of fault they share. Depending on the percentage, the victim might not recover the full amount of damages. 

This is true even when the eggshell skull rule applies to the plaintiff. 

Under Texas law, we refer to comparative negligence as “proportionate responsibility.” When you are under 50% at fault, your recovery amount reduces according to your percentage of fault.  

For instance, someone shares 40% of the fault in an auto accident. They suffered $100,000 in damages. However, they only recover $60,000. 

However, when your percentage of fault rises to 51% or higher, Texas law prohibits you from recovering any damages whatsoever. 

How Do These Impact My Case?

When you want to file a personal injury claim, it’s important to consider both comparative negligence and intervening causes. This is especially true when your case involves the eggshell skull rule. Both of these have the potential to reduce your settlement amount. 

However, every case is unique. That’s why it’s a good idea to consult with legal experts at a Houston personal injury law firm. Schedule a free consultation with our legal team today to learn more about your case. 

As your advocates, we work to guide you through the process. Moreover, we strive to maximize your settlement amount. 

Who Decides Whether the Eggshell Doctrine Applies to My Case?

With an experienced attorney on your side, you have someone to explain whether the eggshell skull rule applies to your particular case. When the facts are in your favor, the insurance companies tend to offer a higher settlement. 

If a case goes to trial, the judge decides whether to apply the eggshell doctrine to the case. When it does apply, the judge instructs the jury to consider the full amount of damages to award to the victim. 

Medical Experts: Evidence & Testimony

In some cases, the cause of an injury is unclear. Then, the burden of proof falls to the victim. Oftentimes, this comes in the form of medical evidence or a testimony from a doctor. 

The medical expert explains the extent of the connection between the injuries and an accident or another injury event. In many personal injury claims, it is crucial for the doctor who provides treatment to be willing to offer their opinion about the cause. 

At times, some medical providers in the Greater Houston Area are not willing to offer testimony. When you have trouble finding a doctor willing to treat you after a car accident with a potential case, call the legal team at Nguyen & Chen. 

Help With Personal Injury Claims

As personal injury lawyers, we seek to protect your rights and hold the negligent parties accountable. When careless or intentional acts cause you harm, we are your advocates. 

The attorneys at Nguyen & Chen are expert problem solvers with extensive experience in personal injury law. When you need an advocate on your side, we evaluate your case and help you understand your claim. 

If the eggshell skull rule applies, we fight to build a strong foundation with evidence to back it up. Moreover, we fight to ensure you receive the medical care you need as well as the compensation you deserve. 

Contact our firm today to schedule a confidential and free case evaluation.