Pre-Existing Injuries & the Eggshell Plaintiff Doctrine By Montlick & Associates


February 17, 2013

While our Atlanta personal injury attorneys inform our clients that complete and full disclosure is imperative, a client occasionally will be afraid that certain facts that they believe might compromise their legal claim should be held back.

This can be a serious mistake because the information will frequentlly be exposed by investigators for the insurance company or the legal discovery process. Many car accident victims may suffer injuries that aggravate or worsen pre-existing conditions. Because those who suffer personal injury may fear that their recovery will be barred by the prior injury, they might be hesitant to disclose such pre-existing conditions.

Pre-existing injuries generally do not compromise car accident injury claims when a victim suffers aggravation of a prior injury or makes a prior injury more serious, unless the plaintiff lies or fails to disclose the injury during the discovery process. A well-established principle in personal injury law is that "a defendant must take a plaintiff as he finds him." This legal doctrine is referred to as the "eggshell skull rule." The notion is that a defendant may be held liable for the injuries he causes even if they are more severe than would have been anticipated.

The common example used in law schools to illustrate this notion involves a hypothetical victim with an abnormal skull that is as fragile as an eggshell. The victim is hit by a driver and suffers a fractured skull and traumatic brain injury. While an average person might have suffered no more than a bad bruise, the defendant must bear the risk of the particular vulnerability of the injury victim. When someone has a pre-existing condition, like a spinal disc injury that had been repaired, the injuries suffered in a rear-end collision may be far worse than someone with a spine that has not been adversely affected by a prior injury. If proper disclosure is made regarding the pre-existing injury, it may actually result in more significant compensation if the damage inflicted is more severe because of weakness caused by a prior accident.

Insurance companies will certainly inquire about prior accidents and seek medical records for a car accident victim when looking for pre-existing conditions or prior accidents that may explain your injuries. If you have suffered prior injury, you should presume that the insurance company will discover it so there is no trying to cover it up. If the information is actively concealed, it can have serious ramifications if the other driver's insurance company discovers the pre-existing injury. The best case scenario is that it will be used to embarrass you by making it appear that you are exaggerating or fabricating your symptoms or purported injury. The judge may even impose discovery sanctions so that you are required to pay attorney fees to the defendant, or you may be precluded from presenting certain evidence or raising certain issues.

The experienced Atlanta personal injury attorneys at Montlick and Associates are available to provide effective legal representation to clients throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state.

No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Personal Injury

Please Note:
Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.