What Is The Eggshell Plaintiff Doctrine?
As a general rule, a negligent defendant is liable for the injuries that are caused by the defendant’s negligence. Causation becomes a big issue in personal injury cases, and many defendants argue that although they were in fact careless, their carelessness did not cause the victim’s injuries.
What is a Defendant Responsible For?
But how much injury is a defendant responsible for? There may be people who seem to get “more injured” than anybody else. Or, people who, because of a disability or condition, are more susceptible or prone to an injury. Sometimes the injury suffered can even seem disproportionate with the accident.
Let’s take for example, someone who sustains a cut in an accident. Generally, minor lacerations are not considered very severe injuries in the eyes of the law. But what if the person who suffered the laceration is a hemophiliac, and suffers severe trauma when the “minor” laceration bleeds profusely without clotting?
Likewise, what if someone needs a minor surgery because of an accident? However, because the victim is diabetic, the minor surgery becomes a major surgery—perhaps one with serious complications?
Is a liable defendant responsible for all injuries—or only those that a reasonable person would suffer?
The Eggshell Plaintiff
The answer lies in what is known as the Eggshell Plaintiff doctrine. The doctrine says that a negligent defendant takes the victim as he or she finds the victim–even a victim that is as fragile or delicate as an eggshell.
In other words, a defendant may injure someone who is very sturdy, and who heals very quickly. Or, the victim may injure someone who has underlying conditions that make even a minor injury very serious.
Either way—the defendant is responsible for all injuries caused by the accident. The defendant cannot say that a “normal” person would only have sustained a lesser injury, or defend by saying that the victim is especially prone to injury, or that the victim is more susceptible to injury.
The eggshell doctrine is often confused with pre-existing injuries, and they are somewhat related. For example, let’s assume that you had a lumbar fusion 10 years ago and now you are in a car accident. Whereas you may normally suffer a sprain or strain, your injuries are now much more serious, because your lower back was previously injured and operated on.
Your lower back was certainly compromised because of the pre-existing injury. However, that is not a defense—the defendant takes the victim as he finds them. The fact that you may have suffered a more serious result because of the prior lumbar fusion does not make the lumbar injury “pre-existing.”
In fact, Tennessee jury instructions specifically allow a jury to award someone damages, where a part of their body had injuries or disease that predated the accident.
Call the Knoxville personal injury attorneys at Fox Willis Burnette, PLLC, for help no matter what your injury.