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Eggshell Skulls: When Accidents Make Medical Conditions Worse

Posted on behalf of Goldberg Finnegan, LLC on Dec 02, 2014 in Personal Injury

a cracked egg

Many people go through daily life with serious injuries or medical conditions. Since no one can live life in a protective bubble, sometimes car crashes or other accidents happen to people with pre-existing conditions.

When your illness or injury is aggravated or made worse by someone else's negligence, can you hold that person responsible for the additional injuries you suffered as a result of your pre-existing condition?

Accidents & Previous Injuries

Lets say that a man named Patrick has just had major heart surgery. During his recovery, his sister drives him to a doctors appointment across town. On the way, Patrick's vehicle is struck from behind by a car driven by Dorothy.

The accident is a relatively minor fender-bender; had Dorothy hit any other vehicle, there would likely be no injuries. However, the stress of the accident and the pressure of the seat belt are too much for Patrick's fragile heart, and he has a major cardiac event.

Patrick is now facing serious medical bills and a long recovery. Will Dorothy be responsible for his additional medical bills, even though she only caused a minor accident? Will Patrick be able to recover compensation for his heart complications, or should he have stayed home until his condition completely healed?

The Eggshell Skull Rule

In the example above, it is obviously not Dorothy's fault that Patrick had a weak heart. However, it is Dorothy's fault that she rear-ended Patrick's car. Dorothy is still responsible for all of Patrick's injuries, even though the average person would not have been so severely injured.

The eggshell skull rule, also known as the thin skull rule, is a legal doctrine that says that a tortfeasor (the person who causes an injury) must take their victims in the condition that they find them. While Dorothy did not cause the pre-existing condition, she did cause the situation that exacerbated his problem, and is therefore responsible for all of his medical bills related to the heart complications he suffered in the accident. She is not off the hook just because a healthy person would not have been as injured in the accident.

The eggshell skull rule has been a part of American law for over a hundred years, and originated in English common law. The name of the doctrine comes from the legal theory that if you cause a person to bump their head, and unbeknownst to you, they have a thin (or eggshell-like) skull, you are legally responsible if the slight bump results in a serious skull fracture or death because of an unknown medical condition.

What this means for people with pre-existing conditions is that if you are ever in an auto accident, or are the victim of someone else's negligence, any additional injuries that you suffer as a result of your medical condition will still be the negligent person's fault. You don't recover less compensation for your injuries because you were already injured.

Goldberg Finnegan Represent All Injured People

The attorneys at Goldberg Finnegan understand that accidents and injuries can make your pre-existing health problems worse. We believe that you should receive compensation for all of the damage you suffer, even if you were not perfectly healthy before your accident.

If you or your loved one has been injured by someone else's negligence, Goldberg Finnegan is here for you. Call (888) 213-8140 or use our case evaluation form to have your claim reviewed for free.

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