If you've been in an accident and have found that health problems you already had have gotten worse, you may find that the other party or your insurance company is trying to reduce the settlement or reimbursement amount you can get. It's not unusual for the other parties involved to try this by claiming that you wouldn't have been affected as badly had you not had the preexisting health problems, and that the other parties shouldn't have to pay you as much because of that. However, you may be able to fight back due to something called the eggshell plaintiff rule. Take a look at three considerations regarding use of the rule and how it might help you.
Previous Health Doesn't Have to Scuttle Your Case
The eggshell plaintiff rule, also known as the eggshell skull law, essentially states that the injured person starts the case as is, and is entitled to adequate compensation regardless of how preexisting conditions might have affected how the injured person responded to the injury. In other words, if you have a damaged hip from previous falls, for example, and you're then in a car accident (that is not your fault) that worsens your hip and creates a real problem for you, compensation would be based on your condition now, not your condition now minus previous damage from the falls.
This means that if you required a lot of therapy and hospitalization because of your hip as a result of the accident, you would be treated legally as if all of the damage were due to the accident. It is possible for the other parties to counter with what the Columbia Center for Occupational and Forensic Psychiatry calls the crumbling skull rule, which states that your previous health was so fragile that it was only a matter of time until you would have needed that therapy and hospitalization anyway.
Despite the existence of the crumbling skull rule, though, it is possible to win a case or get a bigger settlement by using the eggshell plaintiff rule. Your previous state of health does not mean you can't get properly compensated. You just need a knowledgeable attorney to help you through the case.
But You Still Have to Show a Change
All that being said, you do have to show that there was a change linked to the accident. It would likely be difficult to use the eggshell plaintiff rule if your hip, to use the previous example, really didn't hurt or require therapy or hospitalization after the accident. The eggshell plaintiff rule isn't really made for potential future problems, unless you could maybe show somehow that your health has been placed in a more precarious state. But that would be a case-by-case issue that only a skilled personal injury attorney could answer.
Weight Can Complicate the Issue
One area where the eggshell and skull rules become quite complicated is weight. Because excessive body weight can have such an impact on how your body moves and responds to outside influences, it can be harder to get compensated fully for post-accident costs. For example, if you have medical records that state that your weight makes it difficult for you to walk, and your case involves stumbling or slipping, it could be very difficult to prove that the other party was negligent in ensuring the surface you were on was stable or not slippery.
No matter the case, though, using the eggshell plaintiff rule requires a great understanding of how previous health can affect the outcome of an accident. If you think the eggshell laws may apply to your case in one form or another, talk to a personal injury attorney like one from Conway Pauley & Johnson PC Attys to find out how best to approach your case.
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