The “Eggshell Plaintiff” Rule and What it Means for Your Injury Case

Serious lawyer make a closing statement.In any personal injury case, you might expect a person to be responsible for the damage caused by their behavior. Whether it is reckless driving or negligent care over a premises, there are a lot of risks involved with daily life. Just as there are common outside factors, however, there are also times when individuals may be more vulnerable than others. In such cases, plaintiffs can suffer increased damages due to their vulnerable state or can suffer from aggravated injuries as a result of preexisting conditions. In such situations, a rule known as the “eggshell plaintiff” rule would apply. While it might seem like a fairly simple rule, the eggshell plaintiff rule can have serious implications for any injury case.

The Rule

Most people are familiar with the concept behind a personal injury case. In such cases, an individual is injured due to the negligence or recklessness of another party and seeks compensation through the court. While each case is different and depends on the facts, it is a well-known legal tenet that a defendant takes the plaintiff as he finds him. This is, in essence, the eggshell plaintiff rule. What this means is that a defendant is liable for any injuries caused by the defendant’s actions, regardless of how unforeseeable or uncommon the plaintiff’s reactions to the defendant’s actions are. While this can create a broader range of damages that are available to a plaintiff, it does not change the fact that a defendant is only responsible for injuries or damages that are caused by his actions. Under this rule, there are generally two types of plaintiff that are covered, each with its own considerations. The first is the “eggshell plaintiff,” whereas the second is the plaintiff with preexisting conditions.

Eggshell Plaintiffs

When you think of the average, everyday person, you tend to think of someone who is able to handle a few bumps and bruises without suffering too much damage. As most people know, however, not all people are the same. In some cases, a plaintiff may be more susceptible to harm or injury as a result of their condition.

A common example that most law practitioners and students are familiar with, is that of the plaintiff who, by some way or another, turns out to have an eggshell-thin skull that is much more susceptible to fracturing than the average person’s. As a result, even a gentle bump on the head could prove to be disastrous. If the plaintiff with the eggshell-thin skull is injured by the negligence of another person, then that person would be liable for any and all injuries resulting from his actions.

Interestingly enough, while the defendant must accept the plaintiff as he finds him, he does not have to show a higher duty of care to the eggshell plaintiff. A defendant must only have violated an ordinary standard of care in order to be found responsible for damages. In addition to this, however, under tort law, a plaintiff does not even have to have a natural condition that creates aggravated injuries, and may also have preexisting conditions that are aggravated as a result of the injury.

Preexisting Conditions

While the eggshell plaintiff is a person who suffers from some kind of physical difference that makes them more susceptible to injury, there is also the matter of a plaintiff with a preexisting condition. While it is widely recognized that a defendant will only be responsible for injuries or damages caused by her negligent behavior, it is also recognized that a defendant will be responsible for any damages resulting from the aggravation of a preexisting injury or condition. For example, if a plaintiff involved in an automobile accident previously suffered from a torn rotator cuff, the defendant would be responsible for any injuries resulting from the accident, but would not be responsible for any injuries that the plaintiff would have suffered as a result of having a preexisting condition. Naturally, this can lead to some complex cases, especially if the plaintiff were already recovering from prior injuries.

Limits and Complications

While it is widely accepted that a defendant is responsible for injuries to a plaintiff, regardless of how unpredictable or unforeseeable the injuries might be, one of the biggest issues, especially with preexisting conditions, is identifying where the line is drawn when it comes to damages. Not only will a preexisting condition create confusion as to how much a defendant might be responsible for, but it may also have resulted in a separate matter. This can have an effect on the damages presented to the court, since each case would need to be presented with the appropriate damages, and the opposition in either case could simply try to argue that the injury was the result of the other accident, and that it was not a result of the current defendant’s actions.