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What Is the Eggshell Skull Rule?

Colburn Law

Under Washington state law, you have the right to collect compensation for your damages if you suffer injuries in an accident that you did not cause. These damages can include past and future medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and more depending on the circumstances of your case – and they can be very high, depending on the accident’s severity.

You may have a pre-existing medical condition that could make a minor accident very damaging, which could increase your settlement amount. The eggshell skull rule protects your right to compensation in these situations.

The Eggshell Skull Rule, Explained

Accidents, whether someone else causes them or not, can lead to serious injury and loss for the victim. Under the civil justice system, you have the right to claim compensation for your injuries if someone else’s negligence led to the accident. You have the right to recover damages for the losses you personally suffered in the accident – regardless of the amount or value.

However, the same accident can lead to different consequences for different people. For example, a car accident may lead to scrapes, bruising, and fractures for one victim, but if you have hemophilia, any cut can be life-threatening. Does the at-fault party have to pay for your injuries if they are more severe than he or she expects them to be?

Under the eggshell skull rule, the answer is yes. This doctrine mandates that if one person causes injury to another, he or she has to pay for whatever damages the victim sustains in the accident. These damages may be larger than what the at-fault party expects, but he or she is liable for them anyway.

Where Does the Eggshell Skull Rule Get Its Name?

The eggshell skull rule comes from an example often used to explain the concept to law students. For example, say that someone has a very thin and fragile skull – like an eggshell. One day, this person gets into an altercation with another person, who punches him or her in the head.

While a normal person might suffer bruising or a concussion under the same circumstances, the person with the eggshell skull dies. Is the at-fault party who punched the victim liable for wrongful death, even though he or she did not expect the punch to kill?

The answer is yes. The at-fault party is still liable for the damages he or she caused to the victim, regardless of the expected outcome of the injury.

Can You Claim the Eggshell Skull Rule?

If you are filing a claim against another person for injuries sustained in an accident, you may wonder if you can use the eggshell skull rule to prove your claim. In order for your attorney to apply this doctrine, you have to satisfy a number of conditions.

  • First, you must prove that the at-fault party owed you a duty of care. However, the at-fault party does not owe you a higher duty of care if you have a medical condition. The duty must apply equally to you and other people around you; for example, drivers have a duty to follow traffic laws, while landlords must maintain safe premises.
  • Next, you will need to prove that the at-fault party breached his or her duty of care. Again, this breach must not depend on whether or not you have a medical condition. For example, a driver speeding through a red light would be a breach of care.
  • Then, you will need to prove that the breach of care led to the injuries you suffered. A car speeding through a red light and hitting you could prove this causation. A landlord who failed to repair broken stairs, leading to you falling down them, can also satisfy this element.
  • Finally, you must prove that you suffered damages as a result of the breach of care. As long as you can prove that the at-fault party is liable for the injuries you sustained, the severity of the damages would not affect your ability to collect compensation. You may suffer greater damages than the average person, but under the eggshell skull rule, you have the same right to claim compensation.

Under the eggshell skull rule, any person responsible for an injury must pay for your damages – even if your injuries were far more severe than expected. However, many negligent parties may try to combat this doctrine in court, claiming that your potential settlement is unfair.

In these situations, you need an experienced personal injury attorney on your side to build a compelling argument in your favor. As soon as possible after the accident, contact a lawyer to discuss your case.