Eggshell Plaintiffs: Why wrongdoers cannot hold your own health issues against you


June 29, 2017

When someone is injured as the result of an accident, sometimes legal disputes arise between the injured person and the person who was at fault for the injury. If a person is found legally liable for another person’s injuries, they can end up owing the injured person damages to cover the injured person’s medical bills, and other expenses, as well as damages for the person’s pain and suffering. But what if the injured person had a pre-existing injury? Can the person who was negligent get out of paying for damages because the injured person was more easily hurt than most people?

When someone is injured as the result of an accident, sometimes legal disputes arise between the injured person and the person who was at fault for the injury. If a person is found legally liable for another person’s injuries, they can end up owing the injured person damages to cover the injured person’s medical bills, and other expenses, as well as damages for the person’s pain and suffering. But what if the injured person had a pre-existing injury? Can the person who was negligent get out of paying for damages because the injured person was more easily hurt than most people?

What is an eggshell plaintiff?

The term “eggshell plaintiff” is used to describe a person who is for some reason, such as a medical condition, more susceptible to injuries than the average person. Imagine that a woman walks up the stairs to a shop. One of the steps is loose, and the woman trips. She falls, though not far or seriously, but because she has a disease that causes her bones to be abnormally brittle, she breaks her arm and her hip. The shop was aware of the broken step and had failed to fix it or even post a warning, so they could be liable for the injuries to someone harmed as a result. Several people saw the fall and said that it was not bad at all. Most people would have gotten up and walked away with nothing more than a scraped knee and a bruise or two. In fact, the woman’s own doctor admits that the fall would not have seriously injured most people and that the only reason her injuries were so serious was because of her medical condition.

The shop would likely want to claim that they should only be held liable for the injuries that the average person would have suffered in the same sort of fall, right? Not in Georgia! Unfortunately for the shop, under the eggshell plaintiff rule, the defendant is liable for the injuries caused to the plaintiff, and not for what the injuries would be if someone else had been in the same situation. So if your dog bites someone, and it only leaves a small cut, but the person has hemophilia, you could be liable for the full cost of the injuries to that specific person if that person has to spend several nights in the hospital.

What if the person’s condition would have resulted in the same injury eventually anyway?

There is a difference, however, when a person has a disease that inevitably will have the same negative outcome whether or not the accident occurred. So, for instance, imagine the example of the woman with the fall on the broken step. If the disease the woman had was degenerative, and it was likely that she would have soon been confined to a wheelchair even without the fall, then if the fact that she ended up in a wheelchair earlier as a result of the fall would not make the shop liable for her condition entirely. The difference here is that if the woman’s bones were brittle but stable, she might never have broken them without the loose step. If the woman was suffering from a degenerative disease, it is not seen as just to hold the defendant liable for what the disease would have done anyway. Here the defendant would still be liable for damages, but only for the worsening of the condition, not for the entire condition itself if the defendant can convince a jury that the same outcome would have occurred.

If you were injured in any type of accident involving someone else's negligence, contact an attorney Montlick & Associates, Attorneys at Law to learn about your legal rights as well as what steps are necessary to protect those rights.

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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.