The Eggshell Rule protects a victim with a pre-existing condition that makes him or her more susceptible to injury than a person in good health. Also called the “Eggshell Skull” Rule, the theory is that a person with an especially fragile skull who suffers a blow to the head should be able to recover for the full extent of the injury even if someone with a thicker skull might not have been so badly injured.
Personal injury attorneys invoke the eggshell rule to rebut arguments that pre-existing vulnerability of the victim is not the problem of the negligent party. The rule ensures that the negligent party is responsible for the full extent of the injury caused.
Let Us Paint a Picture for You
Spring is in the air in Lewiston and you have your window rolled down to enjoy the soft breezes. At the Main and Bates Street intersection, you see a red light, bring the car to a stop, and wait for the light to turn green.
Suddenly you hear a screeching of tires and feel a sudden impact to the rear of the vehicle. You’ve been rear-ended. Fortunately, your head did not strike the steering wheel because your seatbelt held you in place, but the force of the collision gave you a severe case of whiplash and a concussion.
The concussion is especially alarming because you experienced a prior concussion, also known as a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Naturally, you’re worried that your prior injury has left you susceptible to an even more serious injury this time.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 1.7 million people experience a TBI in the United States each year.
When your head hurts and you go to the hospital to get checked out, diagnostic imaging tests confirm that you’ve experienced cranial nerve damage. This second TBI leaves you with intense pain near your right eye and facial tics and twitches.
The Big Question
Is the driver who rear-ended you responsible for all of your injuries even though your earlier TBI made your more susceptible to a serious head injury than a person with no prior head injuries?
The insurance company for the driver who rear-ended you may try to minimize responsibility by holding your pre-accident condition against you. Thanks to an established legal doctrine known as the eggshell rule, the insurance company is not likely to succeed.
Maine Case Law and the Eggshell Rule
Maine case law adopts the eggshell rule in personal injury cases.
In Packard v. Whitten, one of the plaintiffs was injured in Lewiston after a car struck the taxi she was riding in. She claimed that in the aftermath her already-delicate health deteriorated rapidly. The jury awarded significant damages after her doctors testified that the accident made her health worse and the Maine Supreme Court upheld the verdict, noting,
“…that a Defendant takes a Plaintiff as he finds her and is responsible for her damages resulting from his negligent conduct even though because of the Plaintiff’s pre-existing frailty of health they proved to be more severe than they would have been in a normal person.”
What’s the Bottom Line?
If you are injured due to someone else’s negligence and you have a pre-existing condition that makes you more susceptible to injury, contact Fales & Fales, P.A. We understand that events like traumatic brain injury can change your life forever, especially if you are more susceptible to the injury. To schedule a confidential consultation and case review, call 1-888-526-9408 today.