Understanding the Eggshell Skull Rule in Texas

January 17, 2024 | By Francis Firm Injury Attorneys
Understanding the Eggshell Skull Rule in Texas
Eggshell Skull Rule in Texas

The "eggshell skull rule" is a legal principle often referred to in personal injury law as the eggshell skull doctrine, eggshell doctrine, and sometimes the eggshell plaintiff rule. The eggshell skull rule states that a defendant in a personal injury case must take the victim as they find them, regardless of any pre-existing physical or medical conditions that the victim may have had.

You should speak with an injury lawyer as soon as possible to find out whether the eggshell rule applies to your case.

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In other words, if the victim had a particularly fragile or "eggshell-thin" skull (metaphorically speaking) and the defendant's actions caused harm to the victim, the defendant is liable for the full extent of the harm, even if the harm is greater than what would be expected for an average person.

While the term "eggshell skull" may evoke imagery of a fragile skull, the rule itself is not limited to head injuries. Instead, it applies to all types of injuries and damages suffered by a victim with pre-existing vulnerabilities or conditions, regardless of the specific body part affected. This includes head injuries, spinal cord injuries, and even emotional injuries.

What Defines the Eggshell Skull Rule in a Personal Injury Claim?

There are some key points about the eggshell doctrine:

  • Pre-Existing Conditions: The doctrine applies when a victim has a pre-existing medical condition, physical limitation, or vulnerability that makes them more susceptible to harm. It doesn't matter if the victim's condition was known or unknown to the defendant.
  • Full Liability: The defendant is held responsible for all the damages and injuries caused to the victim, including those that are a result of the pre-existing condition being aggravated or worsened due to the defendant's actions.
  • No Mitigation of Damages: The defendant cannot use the victim's pre-existing condition as a defense to limit their liability. They are obligated to compensate the victim for the harm suffered, regardless of the victim's vulnerabilities.
  • Fair Compensation: The purpose of the doctrine is to ensure that the victim is fairly compensated for their injuries and damages, rather than allowing the defendant to escape liability by arguing that the damages were greater than anticipated.

The eggshell doctrine is an important legal concept that helps protect the rights of individuals with pre-existing conditions who are injured due to the negligence or wrongful actions of others. It ensures that these victims receive compensation for their injuries based on their unique circumstances, even if those circumstances make them more vulnerable to harm.

Although it may seem straightforward, the eggshell skull rule's application can become complicated.

You should speak with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to find out whether the eggshell rule applies to your case.

What Is the Eggshell Skull Doctrine and How Does It Apply?

The eggshell skull rule holds the negligent party responsible for all of the victim's damages resulting from an accident.

This legal doctrine means that even though you had a previous injury or even if you were actively undergoing treatment at the time of the collision or injury event, you may still be entitled to compensation for any degree of harm suffered in that occurrence that aggravated your already existing injury or condition.

This rule also includes circumstances when your injuries are worse than expected because of the pre-existing injury or condition.

The eggshell skull rule even applies when someone suffers injuries and damages from an event due to pre-existing conditions when a healthy individual involved in this same occurrence would be extremely unlikely to suffer harm.

At-fault parties cannot use the victims' pre-existing injuries as a defense to limit their liability in personal injury claims.

The eggshell rule obligates the defendant responsible to accept the injury victim as they are.

For example, a man with a prior leg injury re-injures his leg in a car accident. The accident caused a more severe injury to his leg and he now requires medical care that would not have been necessary if not for the collision.

This results in higher or additional medical expenses to treat his injuries. The defendant here is liable for all the victim's additional damages, including additional pain and suffering, physical impairment, lost earning capacity, and medical expenses.

The purpose of the eggshell doctrine is to fairly compensate the injured plaintiff for the harm they suffered rather than allow the negligent party to escape liability by arguing the damages were greater than anticipated due to the victim's preexisting injury.

What Are Some Complications Surrounding the Eggshell Skull Rule?

Two circumstances make the application of the eggshell skull rule complicated: intervening causes and comparative negligence.

Additionally, it is often necessary and sometimes difficult to present medical evidence regarding the extent of injuries and damages caused by an event, particularly when the victim was already treated for the same or similar injuries

Intervening Causes

An intervening or subsequent cause is an event that occurs after the initial act of negligence and breaks the chain of causation. The law applies intervening cause in the same fashion as the eggshell skull rule.

You may only recover for damages resulting from your motor vehicle collision or injury event. When an intervening event causes a new injury that re-aggravates the victim's prior injuries, it may become difficult to show what damages, if any, after that event relate to the injury that makes the basis of your claim

A judge or jury may find that those damages were unforeseeable. Depending upon your doctor, it may also be difficult to obtain medical evidence or testimony establishing the extent of your claim.

As a result, the original defendant may not be responsible for the victim's additional damages.

For example, a person suffers a mild concussion in a car accident. While being transported to the hospital in an ambulance, the victim suffers a more severe concussion when the ambulance is involved in an accident with another driver.

The eggshell rule does not apply here because the party at fault for causing the first accident did not cause the second accident. Only the second driver is liable for the victim's medical expenses relating to the second concussion.

Comparative Negligence

Comparative negligence arises when the victim is partially at fault for causing the accident. In Texas, victim's percentage of fault reduces their recovery. Depending on your percentage of fault, you may not be able to recover the full amount of your damages, even if you are an eggshell plaintiff.

In Texas, the law of comparative negligence is called proportionate responsibility. If you were 50% at fault or less, your recovery is reduced by your percentage of fault.

For example, if you were 40% at fault for causing your accident and suffered $100,000 in damages, you may only recover $60,000. But if your percentage of fault is 51% or greater, Texas law prohibits you from recovering any damages.

How Do These Scenarios Affect My Case?

Both intervening causes and comparative negligence are important to consider when understanding the eggshell skull rule. Both can reduce the amount of compensation you may be able to recover.

Since your case is unique, it's recommended that you consult with a personal injury attorney. You can schedule a free consultation with The Francis Firm today to find out whether these scenarios could complicate your case and decrease your compensation

Who Decides Whether the Eggshell Rule Applies to My Case?

Experienced lawyers can explain how the eggshell rule is likely to apply in your particular case. If the facts are in your favor, insurance companies are likely to offer a higher settlement.

If your case goes to trial, the judge will make the final decision as to whether the eggshell skull rule applies to your case. If the eggshell rule does apply, the judge will instruct the jury to consider the entire amount of damages you should be awarded.

Medical Experts

In some cases where the cause of any injury may be unclear, the victim may have the burden of offering medical evidence or testimony regarding the extent to which injuries or damages resulted from the motor vehicle collision or another injury event rather than a continuation of treatment from a pre-existing injury or condition.

This is why it is also critical for claims purposes that the doctor providing treatment is willing to offer a medical opinion about the cause of your injuries and damages.

Many medical providers in the Dallas/Fort Worth area are unwilling to provide testimony in personal injury cases and some actively attempt to minimize the significance of an accident or its relationship to injuries in your records, in an effort to ensure that your attorney will not seek to have that doctor testify on your behalf.

If you are having trouble finding a doctor willing to treat you for a motor vehicle accident or personal injury case or do not believe your current medical provider is doing everything possible to treat you and document your injuries and damages, call the Francis Firm today.

Get Help with Your Personal Injury Case

Personal injury claims are about protecting your rights and holding parties responsible when their negligent behavior causes you injury and adversely impacts your life.

The personal injury attorneys at The Francis Firm are experts in Texas law governing accidents. We have an excellent personal injury case track record, having recovered a number of six- and seven-figure settlements and verdicts for our clients.

Additionally, Michael Francis is Board Certified in Personal Injury by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

We will evaluate your case and help you understand the eggshell skull rule. If it applies to your case, we will fight to get you the medical care you need and the compensation you deserve. or call our firm at (817) 396-7954 today to schedule a free and completely confidential personal injury consultation.