What Is the Eggshell Plaintiff Rule and How Does It Affect Your Case?

By Peter DePaolis

Generally, a negligent party is responsible for injuries and damages their action causes another person. For example, if a driver causes a car crash in the District of Columbia, a DC personal injury attorney could help you recover compensation for your lost wages, pain and suffering, medical bills, and other losses. However, a question arises when the injured party has a pre-existing condition that makes them more prone to specific injuries. 

What Is a Pre-Existing Condition in a DC Personal Injury Case?

A pre-existing condition is any physical or mental condition a patient had before a specific incident or accident. It is a vulnerability the person has because of a prior injury, accident, or illness. Examples of pre-existing conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • Diabetes
  • Moderate to severe TBI (traumatic brain injury)
  • Broken bones and fractures
  • Concussions
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Neck injury, including whiplash
  • Internal organ damage
  • Back injuries
  • Dementia
  • High blood pressure
  • Vision or hearing loss
  • Heart conditions

Any health condition could be considered a pre-existing condition in a personal injury case. How the condition impacts your ability to recover damages depends on the facts of the case. 

What Is the Eggshell Plaintiff Rule?

The Eggshell Plaintiff Rule or Eggshell Skull Rule is a legal doctrine that applies in personal injury cases involving a pre-existing condition. The doctrine states that an at-fault party is liable for damages they cause even if the injured victim has an unforeseeable susceptibility to injury that existed before the accident. In other words, a person cannot escape liability for causing someone harm even if that person’s health would put them at a higher risk of injury compared to a person without the condition.

For example, suppose a person sustained a concussion a year ago playing football. The person is involved in a car accident that results in a severe TBI. The person who caused the car accident could not blame the current brain injury on the concussion, even though the concussion increased the risk of severe brain damage if the person sustained another TBI.

Another example might be a person who has a heart condition. They are injured in a car crash. However, they have a heart attack and die because of their heart condition. The driver who caused the accident would not escape liability for a wrongful death solely because the victim had a heart condition.

How Does the Eggshell Plaintiff Rule Impact My DC Personal Injury Case?

You can recover compensation for a personal injury or accident even though you have a pre-existing condition. However, you cannot receive compensation for the pre-existing condition.

Instead, your compensation is limited to any new injuries or conditions sustained because of the at-fault party’s conduct. You can also recover compensation if an accident causes a pre-existing condition to become worse.

Therefore, if a slip and fall accident causes paralysis, you could receive compensation for the paralysis even though you suffered from degenerative disc disease before the slip and fall accident. You are responsible for proving the damages you claim are directly related to the at-fault party’s conduct. Because obtaining proof to support your case could require hiring medical specialists and other expert witnesses, it is wise to work with an experienced personal injury lawyer in the District of Columbia. 

Schedule a Free Consultation With Our DC Personal Injury Attorneys 

Don’t let an insurance adjuster convince you that you do not deserve compensation for all damages because of a pre-existing condition. Contact Koonz McKenney Johnson DePaulis, LLP, to speak with an experienced DC personal injury attorney. We fight to recover the money you deserve after a personal injury or accident.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.