The Egg-Shell Plaintiff Doctrine: What is it? And how might it affect your case?

Many injuries from car or truck accidents have no pre-existing symptoms—like traumatic brain injuries, broken bones, or torn ligaments and cartilage. But often when someone is hurt in a car or truck accident, they exacerbate or make worse an injury they had before the accident. For example, if a person has occasional back pain, being involved in a rear-end accident will almost certainly cause their back pain to worsen. If a person has mild shoulder pain, an impact from the side may cause more damage to the shoulder than before the accident. Just because they had pain before the accident, does not mean they do not have worse pain after the accident or that the driver who hit them did not cause them additional pain or injury.

In Georgia, the law takes the plaintiff or injured person as the negligent party finds her. In other words, the negligent party is responsible for whatever harm they cause no matter what the plaintiff suffered from prior to the negligent act. Playing off our plaintiff from earlier with back pain, the negligent driver is responsible to the plaintiff to the extent he made her back pain worse.

Tradition has called these plaintiffs with pre-existing injuries “eggshell plaintiffs”—meaning they are more fragile or susceptible to further injury than most. The rule is also known as the “thin-skull rule” or the “special-sensitivity rule.” If you are one of these “eggshell plaintiffs” it is important to hire a lawyer who can differentiate between the injury you had before the accident and the injury you have after.

There are many ways in which a pre-existing injury can be exacerbated. Obviously, an injury can be exacerbated to the extent it causes more pain after an accident than it did before. With more pain, a post-accident injury can limit someone’s day-to-day activities whereas before it simply caused discomfort. Even worse, an accident can turn an injury from mild to requiring surgery depending on the severity.

What insurance companies argue about pre-existing injuries

Insurance companies usually ignore the egg-shell plaintiff rule and try to argue that a pre-existing injury bars recovery. In a personal injury lawsuit, lawyers for insurance companies try to find a pre-existing injury whenever and wherever they can. They argue that their insured drivers should not have to pay the extra costs for treatment because the plaintiff was already injured. As we know from above, this is not the law in Georgia. If the other driver was negligent in the accident, he is responsive for all the costs that stem from his negligence.

The best approach for fighting the insurance company about whether you should be compensated for worsened or exacerbating injuries is to be honest about your pre-existing ones. Rest assured that the at-fault driver’s insurance company will have to compensate you for all of the damages he caused you in the accident. If you are forward and up-front about the injuries you had in the past, you are more likely to get compensation for the injuries you suffer from now and will suffer from in the future.

What to do if you had a pre-existing injury before your accident

If you were involved in a crash which exacerbated a pre-existing injury, that does not mean you are barred from recovery. After an accident, you may suffer from additional pain, have limitations on your day-to-day life, or need treatment you otherwise would not have needed. You need to speak with an Atlanta personal injury lawyer familiar with the egg-shell plaintiff rule and how it works to get you a recovery.

Call us, the lawyers at Rafi Law Firm, today at 404-800-9933 (or by clicking here) for a free consultation to hear how we can help you recover for injuries worsened or aggravated by an accident.

2019-06-14T14:23:36-04:00